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What we mean by an Accessible Website

An accessible website is one which has all of the following elements:

It is easy to use

Users have no difficulty in finding the information they are looking for.  A good test is how many clicks it takes to find contact details for the organisation.

It is easy to read

Most users access a web page by reading the content on screen.  Attention needs to be paid to the size of text, the contrast between text and background, and the layout.  Following SAIF General Guidelines will help you to produce a website that most people will find easy to follow and understand.

It has a logical structure

A logical structure can be achieved by applying Headings coherently.  Therefore, Heading 2 is a Sub-Heading of Heading 1 and Heading 3 is a Sub-Heading of Heading 2.  See www.saifscotland.org.uk/information-and-advice for further information.

(Also see section: Why Accessibility is Important)

It is flexible

It is impossible to make a web page completely visually accessible to all potential users. For example, some people need low contrast between text and background, while others need high contrast.  The answer is to separate the structure of a web page from its content.  This is achieved at the design stage by structuring the website using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).  These are formatting sheets that can be applied across all pages in a website.  Users can then create their own CSS according to their visual preferences and apply them to any website that has been created using CSS.

Beginner’s guide to CSS: www.htmldog.com/guides/css/beginner

It uses unique text for links

One of the benefits of a website is that more in-depth information can be given using Links (Hyperlinks).  However, if the Links are not identified by a meaningful and unique text it can make it difficult for users who rely on a Links List. (See section: Why Accessibility is Important: Visual Impairment)

All non-text elements have been given an alternative text

Websites are essentially a visual medium and non-text elements (photos, drawings, graphs) can add to their usability and attractiveness.  However, they need to be given an alternative text so that they can be accessible to visually impaired users.

Similarly, a transcript of the content should be available for audio clips and video clips should have captions (subtitles) to make them accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people.

It uses validated (X)HTML

Websites are written using HTML (Hyper Text Mark-up Language) or X (Extensible) HTML.  XHTML is stricter than HTML.  Validating the (X)HTML at the design stage and on a regular basis helps to ensure that a website is and remains accessible. Validation also applies to the Cascading Style Sheets.

Beginner’s Guide to HTML: www.htmldog.com/guides/html/beginner

It can be viewed on all web browsers and devices

There are numerous ways to access the Internet, using:

  • different web browsers, for example, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Spartan, Safari, Windows Edge and,
  • different devices, for example, computer, television, tablet, mobile phone.

A web page will not necessarily look the same on all of these platforms. This should not affect the structural accessibility of a well-designed site but can affect its visual accessibility and usability.  (See section: Checking Accessibility)

It follows Good Practice Guidelines

The best way to achieve an accessible website is to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – www.w3.org – and the British Standards Institute BS8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice.  www.access8878.co.uk

We recommend that you aim for (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA.  www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20


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