Accessibility

Introductory articles

  • Business benefits of accessible web design
    "This document is one of several resources created to assist the preparation of a business case for the implementation of web accessibility. It describes the many business, technical and other benefits to the organisation above and beyond the straightforward benefits to people with disabilities that can be realised by applying the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to websites."
    (Andrew Arch & Chuck Letourneau, W3C)

  • Introduction to web accessibility
    "Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that the Web is designed so that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with it effectively, as well as create and contribute content to the Web."
    (Shawn Lawton Henry, W3C)

  • Introduction to web accessibility
    "Despite the Web's great potential for people with disabilities, this potential is still largely unrealized. Where can you find Web-based video or multimedia content that has been fully captioned for the deaf? What if the Internet content is only accessible by using a mouse? What do people do if they can't use a mouse? And what if Web developers use all graphics instead of text? If screen readers can only read text, how would they read the graphics to people who are blind? As soon as you start asking these types of questions, you begin to see that there are a few potential glitches in the accessibility of the Internet to people with disabilities. The Internet has the potential to revolutionize disability access to information, but if we're not careful, we can place obstacles along the way that destroy that potential, and which leave people with disabilities just as discouraged and dependent upon others as before."
    (Paul Bohman, WebAIM)

  • WAI resources on introducing web accessibility
    A collection of resources from the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative aimed at those with no former experience of accessible design.
    (Web Accessibility Initiative, W3C)

Discussion articles

  • 10 accessibility blunders of the big players
    "More and more countries have passed laws stating that websites must be accessible to blind and disabled people. With this kind of legal pressure, and the many benefits of accessibility, the big players on the web must surely have accessible Websites, right? Wrong."
    (Trenton Moss, Sitepoint)

  • 10 reasons clients don't care about accessibility
    "Working as an accessibility consultant in an IT company is a very frustrating job right now. Highly publicized lawsuits and deep-rooted accessibility myths leave us with a lot to explain when the final product does not really help visitors. Our clients simply don't care about accessibility as much as we'd like them to, and there are several reasons for that."
    (Christian Heilmann, Digital Web Magazine)

  • Accessibility as part of the search engine marketing strategy
    "Most search engine optimisation consultants won't admit it, but creating usable and accessible web sites is probably the most effective element of a long term SEO strategy."
    (Big Mouth Media)

  • Accessibility from the ground up
    "You've seen it at all the design conferences. It's showing up on contracts and RFPs. They're asking for it on your résumé. This accessibility thing sure is catching on. And it's ready for prime time."
    (Matt May, Digital Web Magazine)

  • Accessibility is just another language
    Although typically we think of accessibility in terms of visual, hearing, dexterity, cognitive disabilities and so on, this concept of disability is very limiting in terms of the need for accessible technology. More than 50 million Americans have some sort of disability, and the numbers are increasing as the population ages. Tens of millions of people in the European Union (EU) and half a million worldwide have a disability. Disability knows no boundaries, languages or borders.
    (Ultan Ó Broin, Multilingual)

  • Accessibility is not enough
    "When you want to improve your website for users with disabilities, remember the real goal: to help them better use the site. Accessibility is a necessary, but not nearly sufficient, objective. Your main focus should be on the site's usability for disabled users, with an emphasis on how well the design helps them accomplish typical tasks."
    (Jakob Nielsen, Alertbox)

  • Accessibility issues make a difference
    "I'm a big proponent of high-contrast color schemes: colors that stand out from each other (i.e. black text on a white background) and are easy to differentiate. The widely accepted reasons to have a high-contrast color scheme include an ageing population who can't see like they used to and older, lower-resolution monitors that may still be in use. However, an even more compelling reason to think about a high-contrast color scheme is the fact that there are more laptops being used than ever before. Most of the ultra-cool flat monitors use technology similar to laptop screens and display fewer colors in lower contrast when compared to a CRT monitor."
    (Scotty Claiborn, Web Pro News)

  • Accessibility tips for website construction
    "This paper provides ten key tips to help improve the accessibility of any website, or intranet. It's not intended to be an introduction to web accessibility."
    (Patrick Kennedy, Step Two Designs)

  • Accessible by design
    "The demand for accessible sites is growing, but web workers, like you, are often unclear how to make sites more accessible. Designing an accessible site isn't necessarily harder, but it involves unique limitations that make you approach design from a different perspective."
    (Anitra Pavka, Digital Web Magazine)

  • Accountability of accessibility and usability
    "Lawsuits make me nervous. Even if I'm not involved, precedents may be set that affect me or my life. As a person who makes my living off of the web, it concerns me that Access Now, Inc. and Robert Gumson have sued Southwest and American airlines because Southwest's site is allegedly 'inaccessible'. "
    (Anitra Pavka, Digital Web Magazine)

  • A journey through accessibility
    "From 'tag generation' to the 'WYSIWOYS (What You See Is What Only You See) generation'. Roberto Scano identifies web accessibility problems throughout the web generations, and summarises where we are now, and what we can expect for the future."
    (Robert Scano, Juicy Studio)

  • Alternative interfaces for accessibility
    "The key difference between user interfaces for sighted users and blind users is not that between graphics and text; it's the difference between 2-D and 1-D. Optimal usability for users with disabilities requires new approaches and new user interfaces."
    (Jakob Nielsen, Alertbox)

  • Assessing assessments: the inequality of electronic testing
    "Computer and Internet based tests are used for a variety of purposes. From entering education or employment, to improving basic learning, people everywhere are taking electronically formatted tests. With the advancement of testing from traditional paper-based tests to technologically advanced electronic tests, people reap the benefits of easier access to tests, faster response times, and greater reliability and validity of tests. However, persons with disabilities are being left out of the picture and out of many typically-administered tests."
    (Michael Lyman, Cyndi Rowland & Paul Bohman, WebAIM)

  • Attitudes to web accessibility
    "During the summer of 2003, we ran an online questionnaire, conducted interviews and carried out a literature review on Web accessibility. One hundred and seventeen respondents participated and they included designers, information officers and accessibility advocates. This initial set of results are intended to encourage debate on the subject."
    (John Knight, UsabilityNews.com)

  • Attractive, accessible websites (aka disproving the myth of ugly)
    "Web accessibility is not the sexiest subject in the world. Let's be realistic. And selling the concept is never all that easy as a result. Sure, you can harp on about all the 'business benefits' (potential increased audienced, reduced bandwidth costs, good PR), but what you really need to be able to do is show that it's possible to do this without compromising on the design, and that's often where the problems begin."
    (Ian Lloyd, Accessify)

  • Benefits of an accessible website: part 1, increase in reach
    "Some organisations are making accessibility improvements to their websites, but many are seemingly not making the accessibility adjustments. Disabled people don't access their website, they say, so why should they care?"
    (Trenton Moss, UI Garden)

  • Benefits of an accessible website: part 2, the business case
    "Some organisations are making accessibility improvements to their websites, but many are seemingly not making the accessibility adjustments. Disabled people don't access their website, they say, so why should they care?"
    (Trenton Moss, UI Garden)

  • Building a barrier-free web
    "Architects call the concept of making choices that work best for the greatest number of people 'barrier-free design'. While no Web site--or building, for that matter--can be equally accessible to everyone, the intellectual shift from thinking of accessibility as an add-on can be liberating. There are plenty of good reasons for constructing your sites with as few barriers as possible."
    (Susan Kuchinskas, Dr Dobb's Portal)

  • Captcha usability revisited: Google inaccessible to blind people
    "An online petition is being circulated to all Internet users for the purpose of collecting signatures showing support for Google to make its word verification scheme accessible to the blind and visually impaired."
    (Jesper Rønn-Jensen, Justaddwater.dk)

  • Considering the user perspective: a summary of design issues
    A useful summary of accessible design challenges and solutions.
    (Paul Bohman, WebAIM)

  • Constructing a POUR web site
    "Web developers can create Web sites that are possible for people with disabilities to access, but only with great difficulty. The technical standards are important, but they may be insufficient on their own. Developers need to learn when and how to go beyond the technical standards when necessary."
    (Paul Bohman, WebAIM)

  • Developing and publishing a workable accessibility strategy
    "This article looks at the increasing need for developers of institutional and educational websites to develop and follow a strategy for ensuring optimal accessibility of online content. In particular the need is stressed for careful thought about the aims of such a strategy, and to ensure that the strategy meets a balance between ambition, legal responsibility and equitable access to learning and teaching. As an example, the need for a well written public online accessibility statement is discussed, not only as a demonstration of awareness and proactivity, but also as an important factor in its own right in optimising access."
    (Lawrie Phipps, Sue Harrison, David Sloan & Betty Willder, Ariadne)

  • Do accessible websites have to be boring?
    "All too often, designers think that accessibility means boring. That's usually because they think that accessible websites have to be all text or mostly text. If that were the case, then sure, accessible websites would be boring. Fortunately for all of us, graphics are perfectly acceptable in accessible web design. In fact, they're encouraged."
    (Paul Bohman, WebAIM)

  • Essential components of web accessibility
    "This document shows how Web accessibility depends on several components working together and how improvements in specific components could substantially improve Web accessibility. It also shows how the WAI guidelines address these components."
    (Shawn Lawton Henry, W3C)

  • Fast track to web accessibility in 5 steps
    "Sometimes you don't have the time to sit down and plan out the ideal website. Maybe you've just recently been appointed as your organisation's webmaster, or have recently been assigned to oversee accessibility operations at your organisation, and you discover that your website has gaping holes in its accessibility. Rather than panic, you should start with the biggest problems and work your way through the site until you have fixed all of the accessibility errors. After you've 'plugged the holes', then you can start thinking about a new design, but not until then. This workshop presents a 'fast track to accessibility' that prioritises your tasks of sorting through and fixing your site's accessibility problems."
    (Paul Bohman, WebAIM)

  • High accessibility is effective search engine optimisation
    "I have been a search engine optimizer for several years, but only recently have become infatuated with web accessibility. After reading for weeks and painstakingly editing my personal website to comply with most W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, I have come to a startling revelation: high accessibility overlaps heavily with effective white hat SEO."
    (Andy Hagans, A List Apart)

  • How to save web accessibility from itself
    "A new revision of the international guidelines for web accessibility, WCAG 2.0, is being written. The development process is going slowly and is in danger of recapitulating many of the errors of WCAG 1.0--unrealistic guidelines divorced from real-world web development that are at once too vague and too specific. In order to prevent this, developers are urged to invest a small period of time in one of a few limited areas that may interest you. Instead of working on the entire WCAG, we need you to focus on topics in which you may have expertise or experience."
    (Joe Clark, A List Apart)

  • How will the new Disability Standards for Education affect what universities do on the web?
    "On August 18, 2005 new Disability Standards for Education came into effect in Australia. Questions have been raised about they may impact on the way we publish resources on the web. In this article, I provide an overview of the new Standards, their general impact, and conclude that if organisations are already following the advice of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (on how to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 in relation to the web), the introduction of the Standards should make no appreciable difference."
    (Dey Alexander, Dey Alexander Consulting)

  • Inaccessible website demonstration
    "When people consider disability and web use they often only think of blind people. But of course there are many types of disability which need to be considered when designing web pages. In this demonstration we try to give you a flavour of the kind of difficulties a range of disabled visitors can face."
    (Disability Rights Commission)

  • Innovative design inspired by accessibility
    "To design innovative Web applications that create opportunities rather than barriers, study the variety of characteristics of people, situations, and devices in your audience--it will give you new perspective from which to approach your design."
    (Wendy Chisholm, Digital Web Magazine)

  • Keys to access: accessibility conformance in VET (PDF)
    "In this research, we aimed to investigate what VET training providers have achieved in terms of accessibility conformance; to reveal and understand the obstacles that may be blocking conformance and suggest strategies that will speed conformance."
    (Reece Lamshed, Marsha Berry & Laurie Armstrong, Australian Flexible Learning Framework)

  • Let the buyer beware: the importance of procurement in accessibility policy
    "Most policies in education focus exclusively on the practices of in-house Web development professionals. Few institutions are looking at the Web content and Web-based applications that come to them from other sources (e.g., content management systems, finance systems, student information systems, healthcare or benefit systems, human resource systems). So, what is missing in current policy? A mechanism to procure accessible Web products and services is missing. Without procurement as part of the policy, true system-level accessibility can only be an illusion."
    (Cyndi Rowland, National Center on Disability and Access to Education)

  • Manchester United: top of the web accessibility league?
    Manchester United have received a lot of press coverage for the separate accessible version of their website. They've probably invested a lot of time and effort to make this separate website, which according to Trenton Moss is totally unnecessary.
    (Trenton Moss, Ecademy)

  • Screen readers and CSS layout
    "Current versions of the three leading screen readers speak page contents in the exact order the content is coded in the HTML source. CSS positioning is irrelevant."
    (Bob Easton, Access Matters)

  • Screen reader usability at a standards-compliant e-commerce site
    "It appears that mere standards compliance does not always translate into full accessibility for screen-reader users. First of all, the screen readers themselves fall down on the job of interpreting compliant HTML and CSS. Moreover, some site designs whose interfaces are understandable when viewed in a gestalt do not translate well into sequential viewing."
    (Joe Clark, Joe Clark.org)

  • Secret benefits of accessibility part 1: increased usability
    "Web accessibility has so many benefits that I really do wonder why such a large number of Websites have such diabolically bad accessibility. One of the main benefits is increased usability, which, according to usability guru, Jakob Nielsen, can increase the sales/conversion rate of a Website by 100%, and traffic by 150%."
    (Trenton Moss, Sitepoint)

  • Secret benefits of accessibility part 2: better search ranking
    "One of the main benefits of Web accessibility is that a Website that's more accessible to people is also usually more accessible to search engines. The more accessible your site is to search engines, the more confidently they can guess what the site's about, giving your site a better chance at the top spot in the search engine rankings."
    (Trenton Moss, Sitepoint)

  • Separate text-only version? No thanks
    "One of the myths of web accessibility is that accessibility is only about blind and disabled users. Accessibility is actually about everyone being able to access your website, both disabled and non-disabled, regardless of the browsing technology they're using."
    (Trenton Moss, Webcredible)

  • Seven accessibility mistakes, part 1
    "Here are some of the major mistakes I encountered during my years as a professional Web developer. If we keep an eye open for them in the future, we are a lot more likely to create accessible, beautiful Web products without much hassle--and make both clients and visitors happy."
    (Christian Heilman, Digital Web Magazine)

  • Seven accessibility mistakes, part 2
    "This two part-article discusses reasons why some projects fail to result in properly accessible products. Last week we discussed the first three of seven accessibility mistakes I've encountered in my work... This week we'll wrap up with four more scenarios to avoid. If budgets or client relationships constrain you, these ideas might at least inspire you to nudge the client in the direction of user-centric development or provide ammunition in meetings."
    (Christian Heilman, Digital Web Magazine)

  • Seven screen reader usability tips
    "Simply ensuring that your Website is accessible to screen reader users is, unfortunately, not enough to guarantee that these users can find what they're looking for in a reasonably quick and efficient manner. Its usability could be so poor that they needn't have bothered stopping by in the first place. The seven easy tips below will drastically improve a site's usability for screen reader users, as well as all other visitors."
    (Trenton Moss, Sitepoint)

  • Speaking ALT text
    "I have a few late model screen readers and I also have simple audio recording tools. I'll use them to get you closer to what these screen readers actually say. I'll start a collection of recordings so you can hear for yourself what these tools say."
    (Bob Easton, Access Matters)

  • The convergence of the ageing workforce and accessible technology
    "This paper discusses the effects of America's ageing work force on business growth and productivity and illustrates how accessible technology can equip employers and mature workers to face the challenges posed by this demographic trend. As the work force ages, accessibility challenges and disabling conditions will escalate, increasing the need for employers to find ways to accommodate people with disabilities and age-related impairments. Changes in vision, hearing and manual dexterity will directly affect ageing workers' ability to use computing devices and the Internet, tools that have become fixtures in today's economy."
    (Ellen Mosner & Craig Spiezle, Microsoft)

  • The lifecycle of web accessibility
    "Nowadays, building a web site is a task that requires many different professional skills, each one with its own lifecycle. Development, as we learned in some software engineering class, has a lifecycle and so have usability, design and content. However, when we discuss web accessibility, it often seems that this discipline comes into play only when we develop templates or write content. This is rarely the case."
    (Antonio Volpon, Evolt.org)

  • Tools of inspiration
    "UTOPIA (Usable Technology for Older People: Inclusive and Appropriate) is a Scottish Higher Education Funding Council funded project, involving the Universities of Dundee, Napier, Glasgow and Abertay Dundee, researching the relationship between older people and technology. Newell and his team were charged with convincing industry that it is important to consider older people when developing new products, and to educate them in how to do so."
    (Ann Light, UI Garden)

  • University web accessibility policies: a bridge not quite far enough
    "Most university Web accessibility policies fall short of achieving their purpose. The Web sites of these universities often fail to meet minimum Web accessibility standards. Part of the problem lies with the policies themselves. Many of them fail to delineate a specific technical standard, fail to indicate whether compliance with the policy is required, fail to indicate a timeline or deadline for compliance, fail to define a system for evaluating or monitoring compliance, and fail to enumerate any consequences for failure to comply."
    (Paul Bohman, WebAIM)

  • WCAG and the myth of accessibility
    "It's become my firm belief that accessibility is little more than a myth. Why? Because the WCAG are designed to cater almost exclusively for those with a physical disability such as a visual impairment. Those web users with learning or perceptual disability are just as excluded as before. Indeed, I would argue that making a site 'accessible' by the terms outlined by WCAG 1.0 would actually increase the level of inaccessibility to a visitor with a learning or perceptual disability."
    (Kevin Leitch, Juicy Studio)

  • Web accessibility myths
    "With more and more countries around the world passing laws about blind and disabled access to the Internet, web accessibility has been thrown into the spotlight of the online community. This article attempts to put a stop to the misinformation that has been thrown around and tell you the truth behind web accessibility."
    (Trenton Moss, Webcredible)

Research articles

  • Research studies about accessible technology
    Microsoft commissioned Forrester Research to conduct a study to measure the current and potential market of accessible technology in the United States and understand how accessible technology is being used today. The key findings of that study were that 44% of computer users use some form of accessible technology and 57% of computer users are likely or very likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology.
    (Microsoft)

  • Web accessibility: a broader view
    "Web accessibility is an important goal. However, most approaches to its attainment are based on unrealistic economic models in which web content developers spend too much and receive too little. We believe this situation is due, in part, to the overly narrow definitions given both to those who stand to benefit from enhanced access to the web and what is meant by this enhanced access. In this paper, we take a broader view, discussing an approach that costs developers less and provides greater advantages to a larger community of users. While we have quite specific aims in our technical work, we hope it can also serve as an example of how the technical conversation regarding web accessibility can move beyond the narrow confines of limited adaptations for small populations."
    (John T Richards & Vicki L Hanson, IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center)

  • The Web: Access and Inclusion for Disabled People (PDF)
    A formal investigation conducted by the Disability Rights Commission in the United Kingdom revealed not only that most organisations breach guidelines on making sites accessible to disabled users and risk legal action under disability discrimination laws, but that the guidelines themselves may be inadequate.
    (Equality and Human Rights Commission)

Design guidelines

  • A comparison of WCAG and Section 508 standards
    "The intention here is to compare the Priority 1 Web Content Accessibility checkpoints with the Section 508 Web Accessibility standards."
    (Jim Thatcher)

  • Section 508 standards
    Section 508 requires that when US federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, Federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.
    (Section508.gov)

  • Web accessibility podguide
    An iPod-ready version of the W3C's international web accessibility standards (ATAG, UAAG, WCAG) along with the Section 508 standards that apply to Federal agencies in the United States.
    (Dey Alexander, Dey Alexander Consulting)

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0
    International standards for web accessibility.
    (Web Accessibility Initiative, W3C)

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0
    The next version of the international standards for web accessibility.
    (Web Accessibility Initiative, W3C)

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 quick reference
    "A summary of all WCAG 2.0 requirements (success criteria) and techniques sufficient to meet them using HTML, and any combination of CSS, Multimedia, Scripts and Applet technologies."
    (Web Accessibility Initiative, W3C)

Case studies

  • Accessites.org
    "We aim to prove that accessible, usable web sites built with universality and standards in mind need not be boring. We will show you artfully crafted sites made by some of today’s most progressive web developers."
    (accessites.org)

  • How Nationwide tackled accessibility - the whole story
    "Ian Lloyd describes how the Nationwide Building Society's web design team embraced the notion of web accessibility, the lessons learnt along the way and how these can be put to use in any organisation aiming to manage it into the project lifecycle."
    (Ian Lloyd, Usability News)

  • Working toward an accessible website
    "This article is written for those who already have a general knowledge about the reasons for, and the techniques of, designing accessible websites. In this article, I will share the steps that I have taken to work toward transforming a website that I manage to one that is accessible according to the W3C recommendations."
    (Kim McConnell, Usability Interface)

Presentations

  • A quick and dirty introduction to accessibility
    A presentation providing an overview of accessibility that discusses disabilities that affect use of the web, devices and technologies used by disabled users.
    (Russ Weakley, Max Design)

  • Page source order and accessibility
    In this presentation, the authors report on a survey and testing with screen reader users designed to determine how the placement of navigation in the source order (before or after content) affects accessibility.
    (Roger Hudson & Russ Weakley, OzeWAI 2005)

Books and book reviews

Resource collections

  • AWARE Centre
    A collection of accessible design resources and news.
    (HTML Writers Guild )

  • LD web
    LD Web is a website aimed at making the Internet a better place for people with learning disabilities. LD Web develops guidelines and practical 'how to' techniques to help web designers understand this underserviced community. LD Web is also meant to be an open discussion forum for dialogue, questions, and experiences in dealing with learning disabilities on the Web.
    (LD Web)

  • Skills for access: the comprehensive guide for creating accessible multimedia for e-learning
    "A comprehensive resource on issues relating to multimedia, e-learning and accessibility. Whether you're new to e-learning, want to know more about specific accessibility issues, or are an expert multimedia developer, we believe you'll find information relevant to your needs."
    (Skills for Access)

  • TechDis Web Accessibility and Usability Resource
    The TechDis Web Accessibility and Usability Resource has been produced for lecturers, students and Internet media professionals who work within education. The resource provides information on, the technical and practical aspects of accessibility (including usability issues) and its evaluation, information on how disabled users access the Internet.
    (JISC TechDis)

  • Web Accessibility Initiative resources
    The World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative maintains an extensive list of resources on all aspects of accessible design.
    (Web Accessibility Initiative, W3C)

  • Web design references on accessibility
    An extensive list of resources on web accessibility, including articles, tutorials, and tools covering topics from "alt" text to testing and validating accessible markup and just about everything in between.
    (University of Minnesota Duluth)