The internet has the potential to be an exceedingly accessible space, since it does not include many of the barriers that exist in the physical world. But if websites are not designed with accessibility in mind, barriers can be created. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community committed to developing open standards to support the long-term growth of the Web. Its description of the “why,” “what,” and “how” of online accessibility is an introduction to the aims of its Web Accessibility Initiative, which develops guidelines and resources to make the Web accessible to people with a range of abilities and needs.
Why care about Web accessibility? The United Nations recognizes access to information and communications technologies as a basic human right. Accessibility supports social inclusion, including for those in rural areas and developing countries. It also makes good business sense for commercial websites to be accessible.
What does Web accessibility look like? For example, it can include alternative text for images, which helps those with low vision or low bandwidth. Accessible websites should navigable with only a keyboard, rather than a mouse, since some people have difficulty using mice and assistive technologies often function more like a keyboard. Transcripts should be available for audio information.
How can you make a website accessible? For developers, there exist authoring tools that support accessibility and there are many learning resources available. Even those who are not building a website can advocate for their favourite online resources to be more accessible, supporting their use by as many people as possible and the continuing development of inclusive technology.
To read more about the World Wide Web Consortium’s tips for web accessibility, visit the website here.