Designing to Web Standards and Web Accessibility Standards

What are Web Standards?

Web standards are rules and guidelines established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed to promote consistency in the design code which makes up a web page. Without getting technical, simply it's the guideline for the mark-up language which determines how a web page. displays in a visitor's browser window.

The advantages in adhering to these standards are many:

  • Web pages will display in a wide variety of browsers and computers, including new technology like iPhones, Droids, iPads, PDA devices, mobile phones, which greatly increases the viewing audience.
  • W3C Standards promote the use of "Cascading Style Sheets" (CSS) or design code which is attached to the web page. rather than embedded in the page. The use of style sheets significantly reduces the page file size which means not only a faster page loading time but lower hosting costs for frequently visited sites due to using less bandwidth.
  • Design features such as colors and fonts can be easily changed by just modifying one style sheet instead of editing every individual page in a web site, reducing the costs to modify your site.
  • Search Engines are able to access and index pages designed to web standards with greater efficiency.

What are Web Accessibility Standards?

508 Law

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an individual's ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. ' 794d), agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others.

508 Standards for Web sites, § 1194.22 Web-based intranet and internet information and applications.

WebAIM - Web Accessibility

Why the concern about Web Accessibility Standards?

Even if your business is a private operation and not legally required to have a 508 Law Compliant web site, you may want to consider these statistics:

  • More than 750 million people worldwide have some type of disability, including an estimated 55 million Americans. [McNeil 2001]. These numbers are increasing as the population ages.
  • The aggregate income in the United States of people with disabilities exceeds $1 trillion [Gingold 2002]

Show me an example

To see a simple example of the use of web accessibility, change the text size of this page. If you are using MS Internet Explorer, click VIEW -->TEXT SIZE --> then change the text size to a smaller or larger size and see the difference in this page. People with vision impairment may find a larger text size easier to read.


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