What is web accessibility?
Accessible web design is about making sure web pages are not constructed in ways that inadvertently create barriers within them, making it impossible or difficult for some people to access the pages’ useful content. These barriers can be the result of not using the features of the underlying html code as they are intended, or assuming that all people will ‘see’ our pages as we see them.
People view web pages on all kinds of different hardware and software: PCs, laptops and Macs; personal digital assistants and mobile phones; using various different browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and others), and not necessarily the very latest versions released. People with certain disabilities, such as dyslexia, blindness or partial sight, may use assistive software such as screenreaders or screen magnifiers to access web pages, or make adjustments to the settings on their browsers.
To accommodate this wide range of display methods, we need to make sure our pages are flexible enough to adapt to these differing requirements.
If you do nothing else to get to grips with web accessibility, we recommend you read the article on the Web Accessibility Initiative website which describes how people with disabilities use the web. This article helps to put the whole area into context by examining some of the practical realities.
If you would like a more wide-ranging introduction to web accessibility, the WebAim introduction to web accessibility is a good place to start.
For those who would like a deeper understanding of this area, the Web Accessibility Initiative has a wealth of resources and materials to help in both understanding and implementing accessibility. They also produce the international standard for web accessibility, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.