Designing for web accessibility is all about creating web sites that are accessible to the greatest extent possible to all users. But why should you bother to design an accessible web site? According to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative, providing an accessible web site can reap the following benefits:
- financial gains and cost savings from increased Web use due to increased potential market share, search engine visibility, and increased usability
- reducing risk of legal action resulting in high legal expenses and negative image
- the public relations benefits of demonstrating social responsibility
- long-term savings from improved server performance and decreased site maintenance efforts
Basically, by designing an accessible web site you can increase your market share, increase your web site’s traffic, and save money in site maintenance costs.
What Exactly is Web Site Accessibility?
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) formed the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to develop guidelines and techniques that describe accessibility solutions for Web software and Web developers. The WAI guidelines are considered the international standard for Web accessibility. They are organized into checkpoints that are further categorized into Priorities. Essentially, web site developers MUST satisfy Priority 1 checkpoints. They SHOULD satisfy Priority 2 checkpoints, and they MAY satisfy Priority 3 checkpoints.
Another consideration is the “Section 508” standards, which refer to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The law requires Federal agencies to purchase electronic and information technology that is accessible to employees with disabilities, and to the extent that those agencies provide information technology to the public, it too shall be accessible by persons with disabilities.
This article provides a clear, simple definition of the difference between W3C guidelines and the Section 508 Standards. If you want more clarification, Jim Thatcher’s web site provides a side-by-side comparison of W3C Guidelines and Section 508 Standards.
Accessibility Features on the ARISE Web Site
ARISE has worked to ensure our web site is accessible to people of all abilities. The site was tested using assistive technology – such as screen readers, screen enlargers, and alternative input devices. We consulted with accessibility experts during the site’s development, and people with disabilities tested our site for usability.