The Beginners Guide to Web Accessibility

The above picture shows a zoomed-in picture of a keyboard with words on the keys such as accessibility, user experience, consistency, and more.

Web accessibility is an essential aspect of modern website design and development. It ensures that all internet users, regardless of their abilities, can access, navigate, and interact with web content. This comprehensive guide will explore the fundamentals of web accessibility, why it's important, and how to implement it.

Understanding Web Accessibility

Web accessibility refers to the practice of creating websites, applications, and digital tools in a way that they're usable by all individuals, including those with disabilities. This includes people with visual and hearing loss and cognitive, neurological, and physical disabilities.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) describes the web as something designed to work for all people, regardless of their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. When the web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive abilities.

Note: The term "a11y" is often used as a numerical contraction for the word "accessibility". The number 11 represents the number of letters between the 'a' and the 'y' in the term accessibility.

The Importance of Web Accessibility

Web accessibility is not only about complying with legal requirements but also about providing an equal opportunity for all internet users. Here's why web accessibility is important:

  • Inclusivity: Web accessibility ensures everyone can access and interact with online content, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities.

  • Legal Requirement: In some countries, web accessibility is a legal requirement, especially for government and public sector websites.

  • Improves User Experience: Accessibility practices, such as clear navigation, use of alternative text, and keyboard-friendly design, enhance the overall user experience.

  • Wider Audience Reach: By making a website accessible, you cater to a larger audience, including the elderly, people with temporary disabilities, and people using mobile devices.

  • Brand Perception: An accessible website reflects positively on your brand, showing that you care about all users, enhancing brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.

  • SEO Benefits: Many web accessibility practices, such as providing alternative text for images and ensuring a clear heading structure, also improve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Web Accessibility Standards

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), are the most widely accepted web accessibility standards. These guidelines are organised around four key principles:

  • Perceivable: Users must be able to perceive the information being presented. It can't be invisible to all their senses.

  • Operable: Users must be able to operate the interface. The interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform.

  • Understandable: Users must be able to understand the information and the operation of the user interface.

  • Robust: Users must be able to access the content as technologies advance. As technology evolves, the content should remain accessible.

The WCAG guidelines are categorised into three levels of conformance: A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest). Compliance with these levels indicates that your website meets the associated accessibility requirements.

Implementing Web Accessibility

Creating an accessible website involves several key considerations:

  1. Responsive Design: Ensure your website is responsive and can be accessed on various devices, including mobile phones and tablets.

  2. Keyboard Navigation: The website should be fully navigable using a keyboard, benefiting those who cannot use a mouse.

  3. Colour Contrast: Maintain a suitable contrast ratio between the text and background colours to ensure readability.

  4. Alt Text for Images: Provide alternative text for images, which can be read by screen readers.

  5. Accessible Forms: Use clear label elements associated with form controls and provide error messages to guide users.

  6. Clear Content and Layout: Use clear headings, bullet points, and paragraphs. Avoid complex sentences and jargon.

  7. Captions and Transcriptions: Provide captions for audio and video content. Transcriptions can also be beneficial.

  8. Avoid Automatic Media and Navigation: Any media or navigation that starts automatically may be difficult for some users to handle.

  9. ARIA Landmarks: Use ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) landmarks to identify regions of a page (like navigation, main content, etc.).

  10. Testing: Regularly test your website for accessibility. Use various tools and techniques, including automated testing tools, manual testing, and user testing.

Web Accessibility Tools

Various tools can help you test and improve your website's accessibility:

  • Axe DevTools: A comprehensive set of accessibility testing tools that can help you detect and resolve accessibility issues.

  • AATT (Automated Accessibility Testing Tool): A node.js application that can scan single pages or entire sites.

  • An online SaaS that performs on-demand accessibility checks.

  • WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool): A free online tool that provides visual feedback about the accessibility of your web content.

Web Accessibility Examples

Various companies have been sued for lacking an accessible website. For example, in the case of Gil v. Winn-Dixie, a court ruled that websites may constitute "public accommodations" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In Domino's Pizza v. Guillermo Robles, the court ruled in favour of Robles, a blind man who could not order food through Domino's website and app despite using screen-reading software.

These cases highlight the importance of web accessibility and the potential legal repercussions of failing to make a website accessible.


Web accessibility is crucial in today's digital age. It ensures all users can access and interact with online content regardless of their abilities. By making your website accessible, you not only adhere to legal standards but also enhance user experience, reach a wider audience, and boost your brand's reputation. Utilising web accessibility tools and adhering to WCAG guidelines can help you create an inclusive online space for all users.

To start your accessibility journey, consider a free accessibility review of your digital platforms. You can find out more about your options by contacting specialist accessibility consultants such as HeX Productions.