Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to, websites on the World Wide Web by people with disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, generally all users have equal access to information and functionality.
For example, when a site is coded with semantically meaningful HTML, with textual equivalents provided for images and with links named meaningfully, this helps blind users using text-to-speech software and/or text-to-Braille hardware. When text and images are large and/or enlargeable, it is easier for users with poor sight to read and understand the content. When links are underlined (or otherwise differentiated) as well as colored, this ensures that color blind users will be able to notice them. When clickable links and areas are large, this helps users who cannot control a mouse with precision. When pages are not coded in a way that hinders navigation by means of the keyboard alone, or a single switch access device alone, this helps users who cannot use a mouse or even a standard keyboard. When videos are closed captioned or a sign language version is available, deaf and hard-of-hearing users can understand the video. When flashing effects are avoided or made optional, users prone to seizures caused by these effects are not put at risk. And when content is written in plain language and illustrated with instructional diagrams and animations, users with dyslexia and learning difficulties are better able to understand the content. When sites are correctly built and maintained, all of these users can be accommodated without decreasing the usability of the site for non-disabled users.
The needs that Web accessibility aims to address include:
Individuals living with a disability use assistive technologies such as the following to enable and assist web browsing:
On 11 December 2008, the WAI released the WCAG 2.0 as a Recommendation. WCAG 2.0 aims to be up to date and more technology neutral. Though web designers can choose either standard to follow, the WCAG 2.0 have been widely accepted as the definitive guidelines on how to create accessible websites. Governments are steadily adopting the WCAG 2.0 as the accessibility standard for their own websites. In 2012, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were also published as an ISO/IEC standard: "ISO/IEC 40500:2012: Information technology -- W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0".
There has been some criticism of the W3C process, claiming that it does not sufficiently put the user at the heart of the process. There was a formal objection to WCAG's original claim that WCAG 2.0 will address requirements for people with learning disabilities and cognitive limitations headed by Lisa Seeman and signed by 40 organizations and people. In articles such as "WCAG 2.0: The new W3C guidelines evaluated", "To Hell with WCAG 2.0" and "Testability Costs Too Much", the WAI has been criticised for allowing WCAG 1.0 to get increasingly out of step with today's technologies and techniques for creating and consuming web content, for the slow pace of development of WCAG 2.0, for making the new guidelines difficult to navigate and understand, and other argued failings.
The accessibility of websites relies on the cooperation of nine components:
These components interact with each other to create an environment that is accessible to people with disabilities.
Web developers usually use authoring tools and evaluation tools to create Web content.
People ("users") use Web browsers, media players, assistive technologies or other "user agents" to get and interact with the content.
Because of the growth in internet usage and its growing importance in everyday life, countries around the world are addressing digital access issues through legislation. One approach is to protect access to websites for people with disabilities by using existing human or civil rights legislation. Some countries, like the U.S., protect access for people with disabilities through the technology procurement process. It is common for nations to support and adopt the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 by referring to the guidelines in their legislation.
In 2000, an Australian blind man won a $20,000 court case against the Sydney Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (SOCOG). This was the first successful case under Disability Discrimination Act 1992 because SOCOG had failed to make their official website, Sydney Olympic Games, adequately accessible to blind users. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) also published World Wide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes. All Governments in Australia also have policies and guidelines that require accessible public websites; Vision Australia maintain a complete list of Australian web accessibility policies.
In Brazil, the federal government published a paper with guidelines for accessibility on 18 January 2005, for public reviewing. On 14 December of the same year, the second version was published, including suggestions made to the first version of the paper. On 7 May 2007, the accessibility guidelines of the paper became compulsory to all federal websites. The current version of the paper, which follows the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, is named e-MAG, Modelo de Acessibilidade de Governo Eletrônico (Electronic Government Accessibility Model), and is maintained by Brazilian Ministry of Planning, Budget, and Management.
The paper can be viewed and downloaded at its official website.
In 2011, the Government of Canada began phasing in the implementation of a new set of web standards that are aimed at ensuring government websites are accessible, usable, interoperable and optimized for mobile devices. These standards replace Common Look and Feel 2.0 (CLF 2.0) Standards for the Internet.
The first of these four standards, Standard on Web Accessibility came into full effect on July 31, 2013. The Standard on Web Accessibility follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA, and contains a list of exclusions that is updated annually. It is accompanied by an explicit Assessment Methodology that helps government departments comply. The government also developed the Web Experience Toolkit (WET), a set of reusable web components for building innovative websites. The WET helps government departments build innovative websites that are accessible, usable and interoperable and therefore comply with the government's standards. The WET is open source and available for anyone to use.
On 26 October 2016, the European Parliament accepted a directive that requires that the websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies be accessible. The relevant accessibility requirements are described in the European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (published by ETSI). EU member states are expected to bring into force by 23 September 2018 laws and regulations that enforce the relevant accessibility requirements. Websites of public sector bodies should comply by 23 September 2018; mobile apps by 23 June 2021. Some categories of websites and apps are excepted from the directive, for example "websites and mobile applications of public service broadcasters and their subsidiaries".
The European Commission's "Rolling Plan for ICT Standardisation 2017" notes that ETSI standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 will need to be updated to add accessibility requirements for mobile applications and evaluation methodologies to test compliance with the standard.
In Ireland, the Disability Act 2005 requires that where a public body communicates in electronic form with one or more persons, the contents of the communication must be, as far as practicable, "accessible to persons with a visual impairment to whom adaptive technology is available" (Section 28(2)). The National Disability Authority has produced a Code of Practice giving guidance to public bodies on how to meet the obligations of the Act. This is an approved code of practice and its provisions have the force of legally binding statutory obligations. It states that a public body can achieve compliance with Section 28(2) by "reviewing existing practices for electronic communications in terms of accessibility against relevant guidelines and standards", giving the example of "Double A conformance with the Web Accessibility Initiative's (WAI) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)".
The Israeli Ministry of Justice recently published regulations requiring Internet websites to comply with Israeli standard 5568, which is based on the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. The main differences between the Israeli standard and the W3C standard concern the requirements to provide captions and texts for audio and video media. The Israeli standards are somewhat more lenient, reflecting the current technical difficulties in providing such captions and texts in Hebrew.
In Italy, web accessibility is ruled by the so-called "Legge Stanca" (Stanca Act), formally Act n.4 of 9 January 2004, officially published on the Gazzetta Ufficiale on 17 January 2004. The original Stanca Act was based on the WCAG 1.0. On 20 March 2013 the standards required by the Stanca Act were updated to the WCAG 2.0.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines in Japan were established in 2004 as JIS (Japanese Industrial Standards) X 8341-3. JIS X 8341-3 was revised in 2010 to adopt WCAG 2.0. The new version, published by the Web Accessibility Infrastructure Commission (WAIC), has the same four principles, 12 guidelines, and 61 success criteria as WCAG 2.0 has.
In Norway, web accessibility is a legal obligation under the Act June 20, 2008 No 42 relating to a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of disability, also known as the Anti-discrimination Accessibility Act. The Act went into force in 2009, and the Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs [Fornyings-, administrasjons- og kirkedepartementet] published the Regulations for universal design of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions [Forskrift om universell utforming av informasjons- og kommunikasjonsteknologiske (IKT)-løsninger] in 2013. The regulations require compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) / NS / ISO / IEC 40500: 2012, level A and AA with some exceptions. The Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi) is responsible for overseeing that ICT solutions aimed at the general public are in compliance with the legislative and regulatory requirements.
As part of the Web Accessibility Initiatives in the Philippines, the government through the National Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons (NCWDP) board approved the recommendation of forming an adhoc or core group of webmasters that will help in the implementation of the Biwako Millennium Framework set by the UNESCAP.
The Philippines was also the place where the Interregional Seminar and Regional Demonstration Workshop on Accessible Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to Persons with Disabilities was held where eleven countries from Asia - Pacific were represented. The Manila Accessible Information and Communications Technologies Design Recommendations was drafted and adopted in 2003.
In Spain, UNE 139803 is the norm entrusted to regulate web accessibility. This standard is based on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.
In Sweden, Verva, the Swedish Administrative Development Agency is responsible for a set of guidelines for Swedish public sector web sites. Through the guidelines, web accessibility is presented as an integral part of the overall development process and not as a separate issue. The Swedish guidelines contain criteria which cover the entire lifecycle of a website; from its conception to the publication of live web content. These criteria address several areas which should be considered, including:
An English translation was released in April 2008: Swedish National Guidelines for Public Sector Websites. The translation is based on the latest version of Guidelines which was released in 2006.
In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 does not refer explicitly to website accessibility, but makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. The Act applies to anyone providing a service; public, private and voluntary sectors. The Code of Practice: Rights of Access – Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises document published by the government's Equality and Human Rights Commission to accompany the Act does refer explicitly to websites as one of the "services to the public" which should be considered covered by the Act.
In December 2010 the UK released the standard BS 8878:2010 Web accessibility. Code of practice. This standard effectively supersedes PAS 78 (pub. 2006). PAS 78, produced by the Disability Rights Commission and sable by disabled people. The standard has been designed to introduce non-technical professionals to improved accessibility, usability and user experience for disabled and older people. It will be especially beneficial to anyone new to this subject as it gives guidance on process, rather than on technical and design issues. BS 8878 is consistent with the Equality Act 2010 and is referenced in the UK government’s e-Accessibility Action Plan as the basis of updated advice on developing accessible online services. It includes recommendations for:
BS 8878 is intended for anyone responsible for the policies covering web product creation within their organization, and governance against those policies. It additionally assists people responsible for promoting and supporting equality and inclusion initiatives within organizations and people involved in the procurement, creation or training of web products and content. A summary of BS 8878 is available to help organisations better understand how the standard can help them embed accessibility and inclusive design in their business-as-usual processes.
In the United States, Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires all Federal agencies' electronic and information technology to be accessible to those with disabilities. Both members of the public and federal employees have the right to access this technology, such as computer hardware and software, websites, phone systems, and copiers. Also, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability for entities receiving federal funds and has been cited in multiple lawsuits against organizations such as hospitals that receive federal funds through medicare/medicaid.
In addition, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. There is some debate on the matter, multiple courts and the U.S. Department of Justice have taken the position that the ADA requires website and app operators and owners to take affirmative steps to make their websites and apps accessible to disabled persons and compatible with common assistive technologies such as the JAWS screen reader, while other courts have taken the position that the ADA does not apply online. The U.S. Department of Justice has endorsed the WCAG2.0AA standard as an appropriate standard for accessibility in multiple settlement agreements.
A growing number of organizations, companies and consultants offer website accessibility audits. These audits, a type of system testing, identify accessibility problems that exist within a website, and provide advice and guidance on the steps that need to be taken to correct these problems.
A range of methods are used to audit websites for accessibility:
Each of these methods has its strengths and weaknesses:
Ideally, a combination of methods should be used to assess the accessibility of a website.
Once an accessibility audit has been conducted, and accessibility errors have been identified, the errors will need to be remediated in order to ensure the site is compliant with accessibility errors. The traditional way of correcting an inaccessible site is to go back into the source code, reprogram the error, and then test to make sure the bug was fixed. If the website is not scheduled to be revised in the near future, that error (and others) would remain on the site for a lengthy period of time, possibly violating accessibility guidelines. Because this is a complicated process, many website owners choose to build accessibility into a new site design or re-launch, as it can be more efficient to develop the site to comply with accessibility guidelines, rather than to remediate errors later.
In a web browser, an access key or accesskey allows a computer user to immediately jump to a specific part of a web page via the keyboard. They were introduced in 1999 and quickly achieved near-universal browser support.
In the summer of 2002, a Canadian Web Accessibility consultancy did an informal survey to see if implementing accesskeys caused issues for users of adaptive technology, especially screen reading technology used by blind and low vision users. These users require numerous keyboard shortcuts to access web pages, as “pointing and clicking” a mouse is not an option for them. Their research showed that most key stroke combinations did in fact present a conflict for one or more of these technologies, and their final recommendation was to avoid using accesskeys altogether.
In XHTML 2, a revised web authoring language, the HTML Working Group of the World Wide Web Consortium deprecated the accesskey attribute in favor of the XHTML Role Access Module. However, XHTML 2 has been retired in favor of HTML5, which (as of August 2009) continues to permit accesskeys.Accessibility
Accessibility is the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design and practice of accessible development ensures both "direct access" (i.e. unassisted) and "indirect access" meaning compatibility with a person's assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers).
Accessibility can be viewed as the "ability to access" and benefit from some system or entity. The concept focuses on enabling access for people with disabilities, or special needs, or enabling access through the use of assistive technology; however, research and development in accessibility brings benefits to everyone.Accessibility is not to be confused with usability, which is the extent to which a product (such as a device, service, or environment) can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.
Accessibility is strongly related to universal design which is the process of creating products that are usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities, operating within the widest possible range of situations. This is about making things accessible to all people (whether they have a disability or not).Air Transport Action Group
For one of the organisations of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative, see Authoring Tools Accessibility Guidelines.
The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) is a coalition of aviation industry experts focusing on sustainable development issues. Its board of directors is composed of senior representatives from trade associations like Airports Council International, Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation, International Air Transport Association, Airlines for America and Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, plus aircraft manufacturers like Airbus, ATR, Boeing, Bombardier Aerospace, CFM International, Embraer, Honeywell Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce plc and Safran.Alt attribute
The alt attribute is the HTML attribute used in HTML and XHTML documents to specify alternative text (alt text) that is to be rendered when the element to which it is applied cannot be rendered.
The alt attribute is used by "screen reader" software so that a person who is listening to the content of a webpage (for instance, a person who is blind) can interact with this element. Every image should have an alt attribute to be accessible, but it need not contain text. It can be an empty or null attribute: alt=.The attribute was introduced in HTML 2 and in HTML 4.01 was required for the img and area tags. It is optional for the input tag and the deprecated applet tag.Assistive technology
Assistive technology is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities or elderly population while also including the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. People who have disabilities often have difficulty performing activities of daily living (ADLs) independently, or even with assistance. ADLs are self-care activities that include toileting, mobility (ambulation), eating, bathing, dressing and grooming. Assistive technology can ameliorate the effects of disabilities that limit the ability to perform ADLs. Assistive technology promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks. For example, wheelchairs provide independent mobility for those who cannot walk, while assistive eating devices can enable people who cannot feed themselves to do so. Due to assistive technology, people with disabilities have an opportunity of a more positive and easygoing lifestyle, with an increase in "social participation," "security and control," and a greater chance to "reduce institutional costs without significantly increasing household expenses."BrowseAloud
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (c 50) (informally, and hereafter, the DDA) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which has now been repealed and replaced by the Equality Act 2010, except in Northern Ireland where the Act still applies. Formerly, it made it unlawful to discriminate against people in respect of their disabilities in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, education and transport.
The DDA is a civil rights law. Other countries use constitutional, social rights or criminal law to make similar provisions. The Equality and Human Rights Commission combats discrimination. Equivalent legislation exists in Northern Ireland, which is enforced by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission.HTML Tidy
HTML Tidy is a console application for correcting invalid hypertext markup language (HTML), detecting potential web accessibility errors, and for improving the layout and indent style of the resulting markup. It is also a cross-platform library for computer applications that provides HTML Tidy's features.ICM Registry
ICM Registry operates the .xxx (pronounced "dot triple-X") sponsored top-level domain (sTLD) registry, which is designed for pornography. The ICM Registry operates from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. It is owned by Stuart Lawley.JAWS (screen reader)
JAWS ("Job Access With Speech") is a computer screen reader program for Microsoft Windows that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or by a refreshable Braille display. JAWS is produced by the Blind and Low Vision Group of Freedom Scientific.
An October 2017 screen reader user survey by WebAIM, a web accessibility company, found JAWS to be the most popular screen reader worldwide; 46.6% of survey participants used it as a primary screen reader, while 66.0% of participants used it often.JAWS supports all versions of Windows released since Windows Vista. There are two versions of the program: the Home edition for non-commercial use and the Professional edition for commercial environments. Before JAWS 16, the Home edition was called Standard, and only worked on home Windows operating systems. A DOS version, sometimes also known as JDOS, is free.
The JAWS Scripting Language allows the user to use programs without standard Windows controls, and programs that were not designed for accessibility.Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
In 1998 the US Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. § 794d), agencies must give employees with disabilities and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others.Tableless web design
Separation of functionality (the "behavior layer") from a Web page's structure/content and presentation
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) is a non-profit organization based at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. WebAIM has provided web accessibility solutions since 1999. WebAIM's mission is to expand the potential of the web for people with disabilities by providing the knowledge, technical skills, tools, organizational leadership strategies, and vision that empower organizations to make their own content accessible to people with disabilities.Web Accessibility Initiative
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)'s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is an effort to improve the accessibility of the World Wide Web (WWW or Web) for people with disabilities. People with disabilities may encounter difficulties when using computers generally, but also on the Web. Since people with disabilities often require non-standard devices and browsers, making websites more accessible also benefits a wide range of user agents and devices, including mobile devices, which have limited resources.
The W3C launched the Web Accessibility Initiative in 1997 with endorsement by The White House and W3C members. It has several working groups and interest groups that work on guidelines, technical reports, educational materials and other documents that relate to the several different components of web accessibility. These components include web content, web browsers and media players, authoring tools, and evaluation tools.Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are part of a series of web accessibility guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the Internet. They are a set of recommendations for making Web content more accessible, primarily for people with disabilities—but also for all user agents, including highly limited devices, such as mobile phones. WCAG 2.0, was published in December 2008 and became an ISO standard, ISO/IEC 40500:2012 in October 2012. WCAG 2.1 became a W3C Recommendation in June 2018.Web design
Web design encompasses many different skills and disciplines in the production and maintenance of websites. The different areas of web design include web graphic design; interface design; authoring, including standardised code and proprietary software; user experience design; and search engine optimization. Often many individuals will work in teams covering different aspects of the design process, although some designers will cover them all. The term web design is normally used to describe the design process relating to the front-end (client side) design of a website including writing markup. Web design partially overlaps web engineering in the broader scope of web development. Web designers are expected to have an awareness of usability and if their role involves creating markup then they are also expected to be up to date with web accessibility guidelines.ZAC Browser
ZAC Browser (Zone for Autistic Children) is a discontinued web browser designed specifically for children and teenagers with autism and autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) and PDD-NOS.Because autistic children display characteristics such as impairments in social interaction, impairments in communication, restricted interests and repetitive behavior, the standard browser experience can often be overwhelming. The ZAC browser reduces the number of user interface controls and removes access to much of the Web in order to simplify the experience for autistic children.
ZAC was available as a free download for Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista/7.