Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the Web and the Internet can help. Web accessibility also benefits others, including older people with changing capacity due to aging.
Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Internet, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological disorders. The document “How People with Disabilities Use the Web” describes how different disabilities affect Web use and includes scenarios of people with disabilities using the Internet.
Millions of people have disabilities that affect their use of the Web. Currently, most Web sites and software have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible, many people with disabilities use the web. Like most Web sites and software are available, people with disabilities can access and contribute to the Web more efficiently.
Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities. For example, a key principle of Web accessibility is designing Web sites and software that are flexible to meet the diverse needs of the users’ preferences, and situations. This flexibility also benefits people without disabilities in certain situations, such as people using a slow Internet connection, people are “temporary disabilities” such as broken arm, and people are changing abilities due to aging. The document “Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case organization,” describes many different benefits of Web accessibility, including benefits for organizations.
Why Web accessibility is important
The Web is a resource increasingly important in many aspects of life: education, employment, government, commerce, health, recreation and much more. It is important that the network is available to provide equal access and equal opportunities for disabled people. An accessible Web can also help people with disabilities to participate more actively in society.
The Web allows unprecedented access to information and interaction for many people with disabilities. This means that the accessibility barriers to print, audio and visual media can be more easily overcome through Web technologies.
The document “Social Factors in developing a business model for Web Accessibility for your organization,” explains how the Web impacts the lives of people with disabilities, to coincide with the digital divide and accessibility issues on the Web as an aspect of corporate social responsibility.
Another important consideration for organizations is that Web accessibility is required by the laws and policies in some cases. WAI Web Accessibility Policy Resources links to resources to address the legal and political factors within organizations, including a list of relevant laws and policies worldwide.
Making the web accessible
Much of the focus on web accessibility has been on the responsibilities of Web developers. However, Web software also has a key role in Web accessibility. The software should help developers produce and evaluate accessible Web sites, and used by people with disabilities.
One role of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is to develop guidelines and techniques that describe accessibility solutions for software and web developers. These WAI guidelines are considered the international standard for web accessibility.
The document “Essential Components of Web Accessibility” describes the different roles of web accessibility and how specific improvements could substantially advance Web accessibility.
Make your website accessible
Making a website accessible can be simple or complex, depending on many factors such as content type, size and complexity of the site, and development tools and the environment.
Many accessibility features are easily implemented if they are planned from the beginning of website development or redesign. Fixing inaccessible Web sites can require significant effort, especially those who were not originally “coded” properly with standard XHTML, and sites with certain types of content such as multimedia.
The document “Implementation Plan for Web Accessibility” lists basic steps for the web addresses of accessibility projects. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and techniques documents with detailed information for developers.
Assess the accessibility of a site
When developing or redesigning a site, evaluating accessibility early and throughout the development process can identify accessibility problems early when it is easier to address them. Simple techniques such as changing settings in a browser can determine whether a Web page meets certain accessibility standards. A comprehensive assessment to determine if a site meets the guidelines is much more complex.
There are assessment tools that aid in the evaluation. However, no tool can determine whether a site meets accessibility standards. Informed human evaluation is needed to determine if a site is accessible.
“Evaluating Web Site Accessibility” provides guidance on preliminary reviews using techniques to quickly assess some of the problems of accessibility of a site. It also provides general procedures and guidelines for assessing compliance with accessibility guidelines.