Summary of web accessibility standards

The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) set international standards for the web. Their Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) publishes comprehensive guidelines for making websites accessible. These guidelines are 31 pages long and use a lot of technical jargon so we have summarised the main points on this page.

Web accessibility initiative (WAI) accessibility guidelines

The WAI makes no restriction on the style and layout of your site as seen in a mainstream browser, but requires that the site is constructed in such a way as to allow people to view the site using a text based browser. The full text of their guidelines is available from Checklist of Checkpoints for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Their guidelines are catagorised in three levels summarised below:

Level A

This is the basic level which should be achievable with any website. If your site adheres to level A guidelines then it should work reasonably well in a text only browser, and hence most disabled people should be able to use your site.

Any images, videos, or sounds etc should have a text alternative for browsers that are not enabled for these media. It should be possible to see all links in a text only browser, so redundant text links should be added where a site uses image maps for navigation.

Level AA

The main recommendation for this level is to use html code correctly. Use style sheets to control layout and presentation of pages. Style sheets (referred to as CSS or Cascading Style Sheets) control font size, positioning, background, and boarders. A text based browser will ignore the style sheet, and if the page has been written correctly the page will still be readable.

Level AAA

The final level recommends many details that will make the page easier to use for disabled people. A speech reader might not be able to differentiate between two adjacent links, so some text should be included between the links (see the navigation bar at the bottom of this page).

The WAI recommends the use of navigation bars for clear navigation together with markers to show visitors where they are on the site. Other details include creating a logical order for links and forms to allow a visitor using the tab key to tab down the page, and the inclusion of place holding characters in forms.


VORD Web Design is committed to accessibility. We have written these pages to show why web site accessibility is important, how web sites can be checked for accessibility, and where to go for further information.

Web designers interested in accessibility should download the WAI guidelines and checkpoints and review their own sites. They may also be interested in the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) html and CSS guidelines.

It doesn't take much to achieve a basic level of accessibility, and doing so will also ensure your site is accessible to search engines, so you should profit both from the disabled customers that other sites have ignored, and from better search engine ranking.

Next: The UK Disability Discrimination Act


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