What is web accessibility?
According to the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) “web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web”.
Access to the web is crucial as it is where many kinds of technologies converge
- Audiovisual content
- Communication among people
- Mobile services
- Electronic services
10 Web Accessibility Rules
The following are a set of non exhaustive general rules. For a more comprehensive understanding of web accessibility, consult the standards and resources available at the bottom of this page. Web content must be compatible with Assistive Technologies (AT) which include screen readers that use text-to-speech or braille to convey what it on the screen.
1. Add alternative text
When using non-text elements such as images or multimedia to convey information, always provide text equivalents that convey the same information or functionality so AT users can access relevant information.
Fill the alt-text field when uploading an image. You can also name the file so as to convey what it is instead of a generic name such as ‘DSC089’
2. Organise and structure
Divide the information into separate blocks and use semantic elements (‘paragraph’ ‘heading 1’ ‘heading 2’ in text editors) to mark each block so AT users can identify and navigate the document sections efficiently.
3. Do not depend on a single sense
When providing instructions do not rely on colours or other sensory characteristics such as shape, directions, tone, etc.
Avoid: Sentences like “mandatory field are marked in red” or “press the button on the left side of this text”
4. Keyboard access
Many people cannot use a mouse so it is important to ensure that all contents and functionalities are accessible using a keyboard.
Avoid: Drop-down menus that can only be opened moving the mouse over them, drag and drop without alternative, etc.
5. Give users enough time
People perform tasks and read at different speeds.
Avoid: Banners that change fast, or processes where the session expires before the user can complete the task in a reasonable time or that create interferences
6. Do not create content that interferes with access in other parts of the document
Avoid: Multimedia components that start automatically. If they are audio, they can interfere with the speech synthesis of a screen reader. If a new window is opened without warning, some users might feel disoriented.
7. Identify hyperlinks and content
Use short and description texts for headings and to clearly identify the purpose of links; this facilitates navigation and understanding of the structure of the documents and its whole website.
8. Use consistent Interfaces
Use visual design and internal structure consistently to create easier to use interfaces
9. Help users avoid mistakes
Minimise user mistakes by providing adequate labels for form fields and informing about any errors in the data entered, and how to correct them.
10. Test your content on assistive technologies
Use web standards according to the technical specifications, and always test content with AT.
Levels of web accessibility
The widely acknowledged tool to make websites accessible is the international standard developed by W3C called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. It can be used for all kinds of websites and is divided in three levels: A, AA, and AAA, the latter is the most complete one.
We call on website owners and policy makers for ensuring at least WCAG 2.0 Level AA but to strive for higher levels and innovative solutions including an accessible alternative when specific content on a website is not accessible.
Web accessibility resources
- W3C WCAG 2.1 – the latest standard | part of the Harmonised European Standard [EN 301 549] (pdf) on accessibility requirements suitable for of Information and Communication Technologies products and services. It includes a set of technical requirements to ensure accessibility of a wide range of technologies: websites, ticketing machines, computers, emails, digital documents, smartphones and other digital devices. We recommend its use by policy makers, public procurers and any organisation aiming at improving the accessibility of their ICT.
- Read our toolkit on the EN 301549 (doc)
- European Blind Union guidelines – Making information accessible for all
- Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 – Authoring tools are the software used by web “authors” to produce web content. These guidelines explain how to make this tools accessible, so persons with disabilities can work on websites as anybody else, and assist authors in creating accessible content, in other words, to comply with WCAG 2.0 requirements.
- EU funded study on monitoring methodologies for web accessibility
- Our compilation of resources on web accessibility in the European Internal Market (doc)
- General information on eAccessibility on the eAccess+ hub
It is a fundamental right indispensable to enable us to lead an independent life and fully participate in society. An inclusive web can be a gateway for persons with disabilities to education, employment, leisure, culture, and much more.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities specifically points at Internet in article 9 on Accessibility, requiring States Parties to “Promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet”.
Web accessibility is a continuous action. It is a quality aspect similar to how user-friendly a website is which must be understood by the web developers, designers, web managers and the staff working on a website.