Websites must be accessible to individuals with disabilities to be compliant with established laws and guidelines.

Why do websites have to be accessible?

About 25% of U.S. adults, and over a billion people worldwide, live with a disability. The way many people access the web can be impacted by disability. Many will use assistive technology, for example, or make modifications that make web content usable to them.

In order for assistive technology, like screen readers, to work with a website, that website has to be made compatible through the implementation of accessibility best practices and specifications.

When websites are not built or fixed to be accessible, a large segment of the population cannot use them fully or independently, if at all. Excluding individuals with disabilities from accessing web content can have negative business and legal consequences. Equal access to websites can be essential for employment, education, independent living, and much more. In many instances, website accessibility is a legal requirement and failing to comply with accessibility standards can constitute discrimination.

How can websites be made accessible?

Most experts recommend that new websites are built and existing websites are fixed to comply with established standards, like those outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Technical specifications, content and design, and the devices and software that people use all work together to determine whether content can be independently used by many individuals with disabilities.

Websites can be made accessible by:

  • Designing and developing according to established standards;
  • Testing content and systems against established standards, with proven testing strategies and the proper assistive technology;
  • Fixing the issues and barriers identified during testing; and
  • Monitoring and maintaining new and existing content for changes that impact accessibility.

What are the accessibility considerations of a website?

Accessibility subject matter experts can look at all the individual elements of a website and the larger website as a whole to make determinations on how well all the pieces fit together to create accessible information and experiences. A lot of factors have to be considered when evaluating how usable a website might be for people with disabilities. These are just some of the key considerations of website accessibility:

  • Alt text: All images and non-text content, unless they are purely decorative, must have a text alternative.
  • Keyboard: All elements that can be reached, controlled, or activated with a mouse must be equally functional with a keyboard.
  • Colors: Colors must have sufficient contrast so that most people can read or interpret content.
  • Labels: Form fields, instructional content, important symbols, buttons, menus, and links all need clear labels available to everyone and any assistive technology they use.
  • Structure: Content must be structured with elements that have semantic value that create order and logic for everyone and any assistive technology they use.

What does it mean for content to be POUR?

WCAG is organized by four principles, which call on those responsible for a website to make content that is Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. Sometimes people will make reference to content needing to be "POUR," for short.

Read more about POUR content