Website Accessibility Overview
Websites should be designed and developed so that all people can access them, no matter what their circumstances. This page provides an introduction to planning and developing accessible websites. It also provides links to more in-depth content for people wishing to learn more.
The first step in creating accessible sites is to consider the types of users. Some will use websites in different ways than most users would. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines these user groups as having at least one of following characteristics:
- They may not be able to see, hear, move, or may not be able to process some types of information easily or at all
- They may have difficulty reading or comprehending text
- They may not have or be able to use a keyboard or mouse
- They may have a text-only screen, a small screen, or a slow Internet connection
- They may not speak or understand fluently the language in which the document is written
- They may be in a situation where their eyes, ears, or hands are busy or interfered with (e.g., driving to work, working in a loud environment, etc.)
- They may have an early version of a browser, a different browser entirely, a voice browser, or a different operating system than the site was designed for
In 1999 W3C launched the first set of guidelines for site designers and developers to help them better meet the needs of all website users.
The most recent version was released in December 2008.
Priorities for Accessible Web Design
The W3C guidelines define 3 sets of priorities for accessible website design:
Priority 1 or 'A' level accessibility
Achieving this level is a basic requirement for some groups to be able to access information and use Web documents. A web content developer must satisfy this level.
Priority 2 or 'AA' level accessibility if this and priority 1 are satisfied
Achieving this level will remove significant barriers to accessing information in web documents. A web content developer should satisfy this level.
Priority 3 or 'AAA' level accessibility if this and priority 1 and 2 are satisfied
Achieving this level will improve access to web documents. A web content developer may address this level, otherwise, one or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access information in the document.
Designing and developing accessible websites not only ensures that all users have the best possible experience, if a website is built to satisfy W3C standards, it is also likely to perform much better on search engines, work across multiple browsers, be quicker to load and work across multiple devices. These are all very important in today's connected world.