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Last Reviewed: June 01, 2022


How to extend your site's reach with accessibility planning, fixes, and reporting.

Web accessibility refers to building websites, tools, and technologies that are designed and developed to allow people with disabilities to use them.

Making your site accessible not only benefits those with disabilities, but it also improves overall user experience across different devices and situations. It can increase your market share, manage legal risk, improve access to public sector revenue, and protect your brand. In addition, teams that embrace web accessibility find that by designing with a more diverse group of people in mind, they increase the likelihood of innovation.

This guide will help you improve the experience for everyone who uses your site, future-proof its content, and build a sustainable accessibility practice across your teams. It will also help you identify areas where you may wish to use professional accessibility services and partners.

If web accessibility is new to you, the following concepts will help you on your journey.

Types of Disabilities

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA), defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity. Disabilities can be both permanent or temporary/situational.

Disabilities can be divided into the following categories:

  • Visual: color blindness, low vision, blindness
  • Cognitive, learning, and neurological: autism spectrum disorder, mental health, perceptual disabilities
  • Auditory: hard of hearing, deafness
  • Physical: amputation, paralysis, repetitive stress injury
  • Speech: muteness, stuttering

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You can find more details on each entry in this article by Yale University.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

The World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are an internationally accepted standard for website accessibility. WCAG documents provide detailed explanations and examples on how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. The current standard and drafts can be found in the WCAG 2 Overview.

Principles of Accessibility and Success Criteria

The WCAG principles that structure accessibility guidelines aim for information and user interface components to be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR). For each guideline, there are testable success criteria at three levels:

  • A (essential)
  • AA (ideal)
  • AAA (high-level support)

WAI-ARIA for Rich Internet Applications

[WAI-ARIA 1.1]( provides guidance for dynamic content and advanced user interface controls developed with HTML, JavaScript, and related technologies. It provides insights on ARIA roles, states, and properties to make custom widgets accessible, usable, and interoperable with assistive technologies and to those who rely on keyboard navigation.

Dequeue provides guidance on how to use ARIA effectively to improve the accessibility of web application controls, offering specific guidance for React and Angular development.

Inclusive Design

Inclusive Design is a methodology that considers the full range of human diversity, with respect to ability, language, culture, and more. Its intent is to create products whose experiences serve as many people as possible, including those with disabilities.


a11y stands for "accessibility". Use of this term on the internet helps to identify content related specifically to digital accessibility.