Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)

When developing web sites, making them as accessible as possible is crucial, both to people with different kinds of disabilities as well as to all kinds of different devices, web browsers and screen readers etc.
Why? Out of respect for the user, while making the web site available to as many users as possible.

You need to be aware of the fact that the web site will not look the same to all visitors, not all UAs handle CSS and other things. The solution isn’t to code in HTML 3.2 and avoid using CSS and JavaScript, since that’s just plain dumb. The most important thing is to code semantically correct, and use HTML 4 Strict or XHTML Strict. If you use JavaScript, make sure that there’s some option for those who have it turned off or a web browser that doesn’t support it.

Edward Clarke has written two things that I liked: Why your business benefits from adhering to the web standards and the Why WAI-AAA and W3 code validation don’t equal accessibility post at webdeveloper.com.

W3C‘s WAI group released in 1999 the 1.0 guidelines for creating accessible web sites (version 2.0 is still a working draft). They consist of three priorities:

  • Priority 1
    Things the web content developer must satisfy. Fulfilling this leads to the Conformance Level “A”.
  • Priority 2
    Things the web content developer should satisfy. Fulfilling this leads to the Conformance Level “AA”.
  • Priority 3
    Things the web content developer may address. Fulfilling this leads to the Conformance Level “AAA”.


There are certain checkpoints for helping you know what to live up to. There are also HTML Techniques, CSS Techniques and information about the accessibility features of CSS available at the W3C web site, as well as information about the accessibility improvements in HTML 4.
There are also links and information about alternate web browsers there.

Amongst others, Joe Clark thinks the WCAG 1.0 guidelines have too little bearing in the real world, and he is eager to get people involved in the WCAG 2.0 guidelines in his How to Save Web Accessibility from Itself.
Matt May has written a short and concise piece about Accessibility From The Ground Up.


Eager to test you code now? You can check color contrasts with this tool that Roger gave me a tip about, there’s a colorblind filter service available, but most of all I recommend the excellent tool for checking accessibility: Bobby.


  • Nice summary of pointers to good accessibility resources. I'd just like to throw in a little bit of a warning about Bobby. You can use it for a basic overview of a site's accessibility, but it is far from perfect. It is unable to find many accessibility issues and reports problems that aren't actually problems. So be careful when you use it.

  • Robert says:


    Thank you!

    I haven't used Bobby extensively, so it was good to hear someone else's comment about it.

    Do you have any specific flaws/features you'd like to mention, or is it just a general warning?

  • Tommy Olsson says:

    An automatic accessibility checker like Bobby or Cynthia Says can only check so much. There are many aspects of the WCAG checkpoints that needs a human being verifying them.

    The reports from these tools will usually tell you what you must test manually, but the problem is that many authors overlook that part and see only the AAA conformance icon. 🙂

  • Robert says:


    Well, it's a marketing deal for them with AAA, isn't it?

    Maybe I should've pointed out the human testing and verification factor as well.

    I just wanted to point people in the right discussion by start using these kinds of tools. Then, of course, more measures must be taken to achieve true accessibility.

  • Tommy Olsson says:

    I agree: it's about marketing. The unfortunate side-effect is that it tricks designers and developers into thinking that AAA is easy; it isn't. AA is no problem, but AAA takes skills and resources.

    I'm not criticising your article, which is very good. I just tried to elaborate on what Roger mentioned, in an attempt to explain why it's dangerous to rely on automatic validation for accessibility.

  • Robert says:


    No problem at all.

    I should correct what I wrote in the previous comment:

    I just want people to start focusing on creating accessible web sites.

    And, as you did, it's good to point out that one shouldn't rely a 100% on the tools available, but that they might be good to use as pointers at least.

  • […] on the market now, be it for computers, cell phones or PDAs, the initiative and responsibility to make the web accessible for everyone has to be taken […]

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