Introduction: accessibility for web writers, part 1

Comments Off Written on September 27th, 2010 by
Categories: Accessibility

Many are unaware of the impact writers can have on web accessibility. In this series of articles I discuss the parts of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 web writers need to be familiar with. If you’re trying to make your site accessible, or comply with government policy or legislation, I hope you’ll find this series helpful.


I’m going to assume that most web writers publish most content within a content management system or create content within web templates.  If you have more control over design, you will need to know much more about accessibility than I will discuss in this series.

I’ll be focusing on the things web writers do most often: write text, structure and format text, write links and page titles, and include images.  I’m not going to discuss video or audio content. Even if you regularly use multimedia, accessibility of this type of content should be considered during design and production, rather than waiting until it is published.

Guidelines relevant to web writers

Based on these assumptions, web writers need to be aware of 19 of the 61 guidelines (they’re actually called ‘success criteria’, but we’ll stick to the simpler ‘guidelines’) in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. The table below lists these guidelines and the type of content they apply to.

Guideline Summary Content affected
1.1.1 Non-text content Provide text alternatives (long, short or blank) for non-text content images
1.3.1 Info and relationships Use structural mark-up for headings (h1, h2), tables (th, td), lists (ol, ul, li). Use semantic mark-up (em, cite, blockquote) as needed. Use these elements properly and not for visual effect. headings, tables, lists, certain parts of text
1.3.3 Sensory characteristics Instructions should not rely on shape, size, visual location, orientation or sound instructional text
1.4.1 Use of colour Content should not lose meaning when the colours cannot be identified images
1.4.3 and 1.4.6 Contrast Use strong contrast between background and foreground colours images
1.4.5 and 1.4.9 Images of text Avoid using images of text except for logos images
2.4.2 Page titled Page titles should clearly describe the page content or purpose HTML title
2.4.4 and 2.4.9 Link purpose Links should be meaningful links
2.4.6 Headings and labels Headings and labels should be meaningful headings
2.4.10 Section headings Use headings to organise and show the structure of content text, headings
3.1.2 Language of parts Foreign language words and phrases are labelled with HTML markup text
3.1.3 Unusual words Define or explain non-literal phrasing or jargon text
3.1.4 Abbreviations Define or link to definitions of shortened forms text
3.1.5 Reading level Write at lower secondary level, supplement difficult text with other media, or provide an alternative version of content written at lower secondary level text
3.1.6 Pronunciation Provide a pronunciation for words that may be ambiguous otherwise text
3.2.4 Consistent identification Use icons consistently and with a consistent text alternative images

In the following articles I discuss and use examples to illustrate each guideline.

Articles in this series


To read more about the guidelines for web accessibility, see: