Accessible Web design involves developing Web pages and other Web-based media in ways that are accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities who use a variety of different assistive devices.
Guidance for accessible Web design can be found in two primary places.
- Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 defines a minimum level of Web accessibility for Web sites developed or used by the federal government. Projects funded by grants from the federal government (including Model Systems) are encouraged, but not required to meet Section 508. View Section 508 Guide in plain language here.
- The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG) are the official recommendations of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and international organization that addresses a wide range of issues related to the Web. Although WCAG 1.0 are the official recommendations, it should be noted that WCAG 2.0 guidelines have been in development for many years and, although not formally adopted by the W3C, are being used by many Web developers.
The Section 508 standards and the WCAG 1.0 guidelines overlap to a great extent, but not completely. Jim Thatcher, sponsored by the Association of Tech Act Projects conducted a side-by-side comparison that is available online.
The Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM) project has developed an excellent Introduction to Web Accessibility that presents a rationale and principles for accessible Web design. They also have developed a Section 508 Checklist that provides guidelines for compliance with the standards.