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What is Web Accessibility


https://www.w3.org/WAI/bcase/soc

Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web. Web accessibility also benefits others, including older people with changing abilities due to aging.
Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. The document “How People with Disabilities Use the Web” describes how different disabilities affect Web use and includes scenarios of people with disabilities using the Web. when done, link to intro doc

Millions of people have disabilities that affect their use of the Web. Currently most Web sites and Web software have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible for many people with disabilities to use the Web. As more accessible Web sites and software become available, people with disabilities are able to use and contribute to the Web more effectively.

Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities. For example, a key principle of Web accessibility is designing Web sites and software that are flexible to meet different user needs, preferences, and situations. This flexibility also benefits people without disabilities in certain situations, such as people using a slow Internet connection, people with “temporary disabilities” such as a broken arm, and people with changing abilities due to aging. The document “Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization” describes many different benefits of Web accessibility, including benefits for organizations.


Why Web Accessibility is Important


The Web is an increasingly important resource in many aspects of life: education, employment, government, commerce, health care, recreation, and more. It is essential that the Web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities. An accessible Web can also help people with disabilities more actively participate in society.
The Web offers the possibility of unprecedented access to information and interaction for many people with disabilities. That is, the accessibility barriers to print, audio, and visual media can be much more easily overcome through Web technologies.
The document “Social Factors in Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization” discusses how the Web impacts the lives of people with disabilities, the overlap with digital divide issues, and Web accessibility as an aspect of corporate social responsibility.
Another important consideration for organizations is that Web accessibility is required by laws and policies in some cases. WAI Web Accessibility Policy Resources links to resources for addressing legal and policy factors within organizations, including a list of relevant laws and policies around the world.


Web Accessibility is Essential for Equal Opportunity
Use of the Web is spreading rapidly into most areas of society and daily life. In many countries the Web is increasingly used for government information and services, education and training, commerce, news, workplace interaction, civic participation, health care, recreation, entertainment, and more. In some cases, the Web is replacing traditional resources and service delivery.
The Web is an important medium for receiving information as well as for providing information and interacting with society. Therefore, it is essential that the Web is accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities. This basic human right is recognized in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which specifically mentions the Internet and other accessible information and communications technologies (ICT). An accessible Web can also help people with disabilities and older people more actively participate in society.
The Web is an opportunity for unprecedented access to information for people with disabilities. That is, the accessibility barriers to print, audio, and visual media can be much more easily overcome through web technologies. For example, when the primary way to get certain information was go to a library and read it on paper, there were significant barriers for many people with disabilities, including getting to the library, physically getting the resource, and reading the resource.
When that same information is also available on the Web in an accessible format, it is significantly easier for many people to access the information. Therefore, people with disabilities can have more effective and efficient access to information through accessible websites — in some cases, where there was essentially no access to it before.
The Web is an opportunity for unprecedented interaction for people with disabilities. For example, some disabilities limit the type of work a person can do and an accessible Web can increase their employment options. An accessible Web also expands opportunities for communication, social interaction, and community participation for people with disabilities and older people with age-related impairments.


Barriers to Web Use
Currently there are significant barriers on the Web for many people with disabilities. Because most web developers do not make their web pages and web tools accessible, many people with accessibility needs have unnecessary difficulties using the Web, and in some cases, cannot effectively use the Web at all. For example, when developers require mouse interaction to use a website, people who cannot use a mouse can have great difficulty; and when developers do not include alternative text for important images, people who are blind cannot get the information from images. Many of these barriers also impact older users with accessibility needs due to ageing.
However, when websites are accessible, they enable people with disabilities to use the Web effectively. The document How People with Disabilities Use the Web includes scenarios that describe people with different disabilities successfully using the Web.
Number of People Affected (statistics)
Estimating how many people are affected by Web accessibility is difficult for several reasons. Countries define disability differently and use different methods to determine the number of people with disabilities. Some common conditions that do affect people’s use of the Web (such as color blindness) may not be considered disabilities in many countries. Not all disabilities affect access to the Web (for example, difficulty walking does not affect access to the Web, though difficulty moving one’s hands does). Additionally, some people do not want to disclose their disability, and some older people do not consider their impairments a disability.
The United Nations Human Functioning and Disability page includes links to data for different countries. Market research such as The Market for Accessible Technology – The Wide Range of Abilities and Its Impact on Computer Use and Accessible Technology in Computing – Examining Awareness, Use, and Future Potential illustrates a different approach to estimating the percentage of computer users who might benefit from Web accessibility. The Statistics on People with Disabilities and Web Use section of the Resources page links to additional statistics, including on ageing demographics and age-related impairments.
Overlap with Digital Divide Issues
The term “digital divide” is often used to refer to economic and social barriers to computer use for people without disabilities. Many people with disabilities are affected by the same economic and social factors, including very low rates of employment and consequently low income. Together with barriers in the physical environment and in computer technologies, these factors can result in:
  • lack of accessible mainstream web technologies (such as browsers and authoring tools)
  • lack of effective, up-to-date assistive technologies
  • lack of opportunities for training to become proficient with web technologies
  • limited access to a social environment that encourages web use
  • limited access to high-bandwidth connections, or even to regular Web access
An organization that is committed to reducing the digital divide can include in its business case a description of how Web accessibility can reduce the impact of economic and social barriers to web use for people with disabilities.
Overlap with Mobile Access
In some parts of the world, most people use the Web only through a mobile phone, because they do not have access to a desktop or laptop. The overlap between mobile design/development and accessbilty is introduced in Web Content Accessibility and Mobile Web.
Overlap with Older Users’ Needs
As more people live longer and older people use the Web more, making the Web work well for older users is becoming an increasingly important social factor. Many older people have age-related impairments that can affect how they use the Web, including declining:
  • vision – including reduced contrast sensitivity, color perception, and near-focus, making it difficult to read web pages
  • physical ability – including reduced dexterity and fine motor control, making it difficult to use a mouse and click small targets
  • hearing – including difficulty hearing higher-pitched sounds and separating sounds, making it difficult to hear podcasts and other audio, especially when there is background music
  • cognitive ability – including reduced short-term memory, difficulty concentrating, and being easily distracted, making it difficult to follow navigation and complete online tasks
These issues overlap with the accessibility needs of people with disabilities. Thus, websites and tools that are accessible to people with disabilities are more accessible to older users as well. Specific examples are listed in the Access for Older People section below.
For detailed research on ageing age-related impairments and Web accessibility, see Web Accessibility for Older Users: A Literature Review.
Web Accessibility Benefits People With and Without Disabilities
While the main focus of Web accessibility is people with disabilities, accessibility also benefits people without disabilities, including:
  • older people
  • people with low literacy or not fluent in the language
  • people with low bandwidth connections or using older technologies
  • new and infrequent users
  • mobile phone users
The Increased Website Use section of Financial Factors lists aspects of Web accessibility that increase usability, thus also benefiting people without disabilities. People with temporary disabilities, for example from an accident or illness, also benefit from Web accessibility.
Below are examples of how Web accessibility benefits others. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview has information about the WCAG references.
Access for Older People
The accessibility provisions that make the Web accessible provide many benefits for people with age-related impairments, even though they may not be regarded as having a disability. For example:
Older people with deteriorating vision benefit from:
  • sufficient contrast between foreground and background colors 
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.4.3, 1.4.6; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 2.2)
  • text that can be increased in size so that it can be read directly by people with mild visual impairment without requiring assistive technology such as a screen magnifier; along with easy to read fonts and increased line spacing
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.4.4, 1.4.8; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 3.4)
  • styled text instead of bitmap images of text to convey information enables better browser-based enlargement
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.4.5, 1.4.9; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 3.1)
  • text and other elements that do not blink, flash or move in a way that distract users or cause seizures 
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 2.2.2, 2.3.1, 2.3.2; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 7.2, 7.3)
Older people with reduced dexterity or fine motor control benefit from:
  • an ability to increase the clickable area of targets
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.4.4, 1.4.5, 1.4.8; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 3.4)
  • being able to use the keyboard, rather than having to use the mouse, for all website interaction (device independence)
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.1.3, 2.4.7; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 6.4, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.4, 9.5)
Older people with hearing loss benefit from:
  • transcripts and captions for audio content 
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.1.1, 1.2.2, 1.2.4, 1.2.8; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 1.1, 1.4)
  • contrast between the audio foreground “information” and background “noise”
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.4.7)
Older people with cognitive decline benefit from many of the accessibility aspects list in the next section, Access for People with Low Literacy and People Not Fluent in the Language.
Additional aspects of Web accessibility that benefit older users are included in the analysis in the Web Accessibility for Older Users: A Literature Review.
Access for People with Low Literacy and People Not Fluent in the Language
Accessible websites benefit people with low literacy and people who are not fluent in the language of the website. Specifically, many of the aspects of Web accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities help people who do not know the language well, including:
  • clear and simple language
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 3.1.5; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 14.1)
  • supplemental illustrations 
  • (WCAG 2.0 Guideline 3.1; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 14.2)
  • clear and consistent design, navigation, and links 
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.3.1, 2.4.1, 2.4.2, 2.4.4, 2.4.5, 2.4.6, 2.4.9, 2.4.10, 3.2.3, 3.2.4, 3.3.2; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 13.1, 13.3, 13.4, 13.5, 13.6, 13.7, 13.8, 14.3)
  • blocks of information divided into groups 
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.3.1, 2.4.1, 2.4.10; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 12.3)
  • text that does not blink, flash or move too much
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 2.2.2; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 7.2, 7.3)
  • provide users enough time to read and use content
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 2.2.1, 2.2.2, 2.2.3; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 7.4, 7.5)
In addition, accessible sites can be read by screen readers so people who have difficulty reading can benefit from listening to sites.
Access for People with Low Bandwidth Connections to the Internet or Using Older Technologies
Some aspects of Web accessibility benefit people with low bandwidth connections. Low bandwidth can be due to:
  • location- for example, rural areas where high speed connections are not available or mobile phone reception is limited
  • bandwidth congestion
  • connection technology- for example, mobile phone or personal data assistant (PDA)
  • financial situation- that is, cannot afford high-speed connection
Some older technologies load pages very slowly and do not support features used on newer sites.
People with low bandwidth connections to the Internet and people with older technologies benefit from:
  • text alternatives for images, multimedia and other non-text objects – for people whose older technology or mobile technology cannot access multimedia formats, people whose connections are too slow to download multimedia files, or people who turn off images and multimedia to limit connection charges
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.1.1, 1.2.8; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 1.1)
  • redundant coding for information conveyed with color and sufficient contrast between foreground and background colors – for people who have older monitors or are viewing information outdoors where the sunlight makes it difficult to see the screen
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.4.1, 1.4.3, 1.4.6; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 2.1, 2.2)
  • text size defined as relative units – for older browsers that do not override absolute text sizes 
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.4.4, 1.4.8; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 3.4)
  • styled text instead of bitmap images of text to convey information, which can increase download speed 
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.4.5, 1.4.9; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 3.1)
  • style sheets used effectively to separate content from presentation, which can decrease file size and file download requirements thus increasing download speed 
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.3.1; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 3.3)
  • sites that are organized so they can be read and understood without style sheets, because some older technologies cannot handle style sheets (accessible pages can use style sheets and still be usable when style sheets are not supported)
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 1.3.1, 1.3.2; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 6.1)
  • sites that use valid W3C technologies and are more likely to work on older technologies 
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 4.1.1; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 11.1, 3.2)
  • clear and consistent design, navigation, and links, which helps users open the pages they want and helps save wasted page loading time from users going down the wrong path 
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 2.4.1, 2.4.4, 2.4.5, 2.4.6, 2.4.9, 3.2.3, 3.2.4; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 13.1, 13.3, 13.4, 13.5, 13.6, 13.7, 13.8, 14.3)
Access for New and Infrequent Web Users
Some people have little opportunity to use the Web because of the socioeconomic issues mentioned previously. Many older people are new users because the Web didn’t exist when they were younger. New and infrequent web users benefit from aspects of accessibility such as:
  • clear and consistent design, navigation, and links 
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 2.4.1, 2.4.4, 2.4.5, 2.4.6, 2.4.9, 3.2.3, 3.2.4; WCAG 1.0 checkpoints 13.1, 13.3, 13.4, 13.5, 13.6, 13.7, 13.8, 14.3)
  • providing redundant text links for image maps 
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 2.4.4; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 1.2)
  • informing users before new browser windows are opened
  • (WCAG 2.0 success criteria 3.2.1, 3.2.2, 3.2.5; WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 10.1)
Access for Mobile Device Users
For examples of how accessibility benefits people using mobile devices, along with links to WCAG success criteria, see Shared Web Experiences.


Web Accessibility is an Aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Web accessibility provides improved access, interaction, and social inclusion for the people described above, which is a primary aspect of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Corporate social responsibility, also called corporate citizenship, corporate responsibility, or responsible business, generally means conducting business ethically and operating an organization in such a way that treats internal and external stakeholders ethically, increases human development, and is good for society and the environment. Web accessibility can impact an organization’s employees, stockholders and board members, suppliers and vendors, partners and collaborators, customers, and others. Thus Web accessibility is an integral part of CSR in demonstrating an organization’s commitment to providing equal opportunities.
Just as an accessible website can demonstrate CSR, an inaccessible website can undermine an organization’s other CSR efforts.
The financial benefits of CSR are addressed in the Increases positive image section of the Financial Factors page.
Role of Organizations’ Websites
When an organization’s website is not accessible, it further excludes people with disabilities from society. When an organization’s website is accessible, it empowers people with disabilities to participate in society. Providing an accessible website is one way an organization can demonstrate that it strives to meet the access needs of a diverse society.
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https://www.w3.org/WAI/bcase/soc