Web Accessibility Initiative

Launched in 1997, W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) aims to improve the accessibility of the World Wide Web for people with disabilities though a series of recommendations that web developers should adhere to when designing and creating websites for public use.

The guidelines encourage web designers to consider that many users may be operating in contexts very different to their own.  For example:

  • They may not be able to see, hear, move, or may not be able to process some types of information easily or at all.
  • They may have difficulty reading or comprehending text.
  • They may not have or be able to use a keyboard or mouse.
  • They may have a text-only screen, a small screen, or a slow Internet connection.
  • They may not speak or understand fluently the language in which the document is written.
  • They may be in a situation where their eyes, ears, or hands are busy or interfered with (e.g., driving to work, working in a loud environment, etc.).
  • They may have an early version of a browser, a different browser entirely, a voice browser, or a different operating system.

These considerations will result in standard working practises for a designer when developing a website, such as:

  • Always adding meaningful narrative to images by using “alt” tags.  These are of benefit to visually impaired users who use a screen-reader.
  • Using stylesheets that are consistent across all pages so that users can alter font sizes, colors etc where necessary
  • Assigning a font size to <body> tag and having all child elements of body assigned relative font sizes (using ems as percentages).  This way, visually impaired users can alter all font sizes by simple adjusting the font size in the <body> tag
  • Ensuring use of color of important / essential information on the page does not have the potential  to be ambiguous for colour blind users, or altered display settings on the user’s monitor

Themes covered by WAI

  • Ensuring Graceful Transformation
    • Separate content from structure – ensure site is still meaningful if HTML page only is viewed without styling
    • Always provide text and text equivalents
    • Create documents that work even if the user cannot see and/or hear
    • Create documents that do not rely on one type of hardware
  • Make Content Understandable and Navigable
    • This includes not only making the language clear and simple, but also providing understandable mechanisms for navigating within and between pages



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