Section 1 - Introduction to accessibility

The basics of web accessibility

Scroll down icon

Scroll down

As more businesses and organizations recognize the importance of web accessibility, the demand for basic accessibility knowledge grows.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility is a way of designing websites, tools, and technologies so that everyone, including people with disabilities, can use them as easily as possible. There are several different types of disabilities with a range of different needs to consider when building or enhancing a website’s accessibility:

Icon of an eye

Blindness and low vision

Icon of an ear

Deafness and hearing loss

Icon of an hand

Limited movement

Icon of a speech bubble

Speech disabilities

Icon of a human profile with neurological limitations

Neurological limitations

Icon of a gear

Cognitive limitations

Icon of a timer

Temporary disabilities

Icon of a target

Situational impairments

It is worth noting that while sight and hearing disabilities are talked about most when it comes to web accessibility, people with cognitive disabilities represent the largest number of internet users with disabilities, according to the National Center on Disability and Access to Education. Because these types of disabilities contain a wide range of nuanced conditions and an even wider range of severity, it is difficult to present a comprehensive set of accessibility standards. From a web development perspective, it is better to think about cognitive disorders from a purely functional standpoint and focus on removing barriers to improve the user experience.

What is assistive technology?

When optimizing your website for users with disabilities, it is important to understand what kind of issues they may encounter depending on the type of assistive technology they use. When talking about assistive devices that aid visitors with disabilities, the first device that comes to people’s mind is a screen reader. A screen reader is a software application that reads pages aloud to people with blindness, low vision, or severe dyslexia. While screen readers are a vital assistive device, they are by no means the only one.

Assistive technologies that support a wide range of disabilities include:

Icon of an eye and text lines

Screen readers

Icon of a magnifying glass and text lines

Zoom magnification

Icon of a speech bubble and a speech waveform

Dragon Voice command software

Icon of a computer and a person representing accessibility

Built-in Windows and Mac accessibility features

Icon of a half circle and an eye

Color contrast analyzers

Icon of a browser and a plug

Toolbars / extensions / plugins

Icon of a hand and a mobile device

Mobile devices

Assistive hardware that supports a wide range of disabilities includes:

Icon of a keyboard and a hand


icon of a browser and switches

Switch controls

Icon of an arrow and a pointing wand

Pointing wands

Icon of a switch and sip-and-puff device

Sip and puff switches

Icon of text lines and braille symbol

Braille translators

Which accessibility standards do I need to comply with?

Depending on where you are located, there may be various sets of accessibility standards you need to follow. Fortunately, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has a comprehensive list called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). They have been widely adopted around the world and are the base set of guidelines for most national standards. Here are a few examples of location-specific standards: