What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. Millions of people have disabilities that affect their use of the Web. Currently most Web sites and Web software have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible for many people with disabilities to use the Web. Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities. For example, a key principle of Web accessibility is designing Web sites and software that are flexible to meet different user needs, preferences, and situations. This flexibility also benefits people without disabilities in certain situations, such as people using a slow Internet connection, small portable wireless devices, people with "temporary disabilities" such as a broken arm, and people with changing abilities due to aging.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act, have established strategies, guidelines, and resources to help make the Web accessible to people with disabilities. These technologies, which are called "web standards," are carefully designed to deliver the greatest benefits to the greatest number of web users while ensuring the long-term viability of any document published on the Web. Designing and building Web sites with these standards simplifies and lowers the cost of production, while delivering sites that are accessible to more people and more types of Internet devices. Sites developed along these lines will continue to function correctly as traditional desktop browsers evolve, and as new Internet devices come to market.