The WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) and XHTML standards are technical guidelines set by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), an internationally recognised internet body. These guidelines ensure that a website can be accessed by people in as many different situations as possible, for example, people using screen readers and people viewing websites through devices other than a computer such as tablets and mobile phones.
Here are the WAI guidelines 1.0 with suggestions about how to implement them:
- Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content - add descriptions to your images and make transcripts for audio files and videos. Graphics used for layout which are of no value to visually impaired users should have descriptions deliberately left blank.
- Don't rely on colour alone - if colour is used as a key, highlight it in another way as well, for example through layout or with formatting like bold or underline.
- Use markup and style sheets and do so properly - use HTML where appropriate, for example, use an ordered list for numbered text. Don't use in-line colours and font-faces - use the pre-defined CSS styles. Check your site using the W3C HTML validator and CSS validator.
- Clarify natural language usage - specify the language code of the language that the page is written in at the top of the HTML file. For example:
- Create tables that transform gracefully - tables were designed to display data in a grid style rather than for layout and alignment. Use them appropriately and highlight row and column headers in HTML.
- Ensure user control of time-sensitive content changes - make sure users can turn off any moving content. Even better, avoid flashing, blinking or scrolling text and images.
- Ensure direct accessibility of embedded user interfaces - embedded objects, for example, a video player with controls, should follow the same principles of accessibility.
- Design for device-independence - people navigate with many different devices such as PDA styluses, TV remote controls or screen readers. Do not design a web page to only work with mouse-specific actions such as "hovering".
- Use interim solutions - if you are supporting older browsers you may need to make further changes in order to make your site accessible.
- Use W3C technologies and guidelines - many technologies such as PDF and Flash do not follow W3C accessibility standards. If you do use them, apply W3C guidelines to ensure the content is accessible.
- Provide context and orientation information - the relationship between a question and an input box for the answer isn't obvious to screen readers. Don't rely on visual clues - use HTML to link related items.
- Provide clear navigation mechanisms - help people to navigate easily around your website. Display a navigation menu in the same position on each page - across the top or down the left side are familiar positions to web users. Provide a clear sitemap. Ensure that link text is meaningful and makes sense when taken out of context, not just "click here".
- Ensure that documents are clear and simple - does your web page make sense in terms of layout and language? People don't waste time on websites they don't understand! Spell-check the words on each page or if you are able, employ a copywriter.