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Accessible Design: Best Practices

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About the Guidelines Referenced in this Tutorial.

This tutorial brings together a collection of accessibility and usability guidelines, standards, and best practices for web developers.

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Section 508 Guideline

Guideline from the "Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications (1194.22)" subsection of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. OSU requires web developers to meet or exceed the OSU Web Accessibility Policies and Standards, which are based on these standards.

Specific help for each guideline is referenced throughout the tutorial. For more help, see the Access Board's Guide to the Standards.

W.C.A.G. Priority 1  Guideline

Priority 1 issue from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), A Web content developer must satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it impossible to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint is a basic requirement for some groups to be able to use Web documents.

Specific help for each guideline is referenced throughout the tutorial. See the complete list of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.

W.C.A.G. Priority 2 Guidelines.

Priority 2 issue from Web Content Accessibility Guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), A Web content developer should satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will remove significant barriers to accessing Web documents.

Specific help for each guideline is referenced throughout the tutorial. See the complete list of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.

W.C.A.G. Priority 3 Guidelines

Priority 3 issue from Web Content Accessibility Guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), A Web content developer may address this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will improve access to Web documents.

Specific help for each guideline is referenced throughout the tutorial. See the complete list of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.

M.W.A.S. Logo

The OSU Minimum Web Accessibility Standards (MWAS) were developed using the U.S. Access Board’s Section 508 standards, supplemented by The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines developed by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as a benchmark for access to web based information and services. 

Specific help for each guideline is referenced throughout the tutorial. Resources to assist designers in understanding and meeting these standards can be found elsewhere on this site (including a detailed guide to the standards.

W.A.C. Best Practices: recommended guideline

Best Practice recommended by the W.A.C. Although not covered specifically by either Section 508 or the WCAG, WAC recommends web developers follow these guidelines to further usability for all users.

WAC usability guidelines are based on accepted best practices, as identified by, among others, noted experts Vincent Flanders and Jacob Nielsen.

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Section 508

OSU requires web developers to meet or exceed the OSU Web Accessibility Policies and Standards, which are based on Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 508 requires that certain guidelines or priorities are met to insure those with visual, auditory, physical, mental, or learning disabilities are able to access electronic information. Standards covered by Section 508 include:

For more help with Section 508 guidelines, see the WAC Tutorial: Understanding and Applying Section 508 Standards.

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Using the WAI's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Depending on its intended use and audience and the complexity of the site design, web designers may want to adhere to the stricter (more detailed) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), which cover not only basic web pages, but also use of dynamic content with scripting, plug-ins, multimedia, and other advance design features.

The WCAG are categorized by priority:

  • W.C.A.G. Priority 1[Priority 1]
    A Web content developer must satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it impossible to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint is a basic requirement for some groups to be able to use Web documents.
  • W.C.A.G. Priority 2[Priority 2]
    A Web content developer should satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will remove significant barriers to accessing Web documents.
  • W.C.A.G. Priority 3[Priority 3]
    A Web content developer may address this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will improve access to Web documents.

The WAI allows designers to certify their sites under three levels of compliance:

  • WAI-A iconConformance Level "A": all Priority 1 checkpoints are satisfied;
  • WAI-AA iconConformance Level "Double-A": all Priority 1 and 2 checkpoints are satisfied;
  • WAI-AAA iconConformance Level "Triple-A": all Priority 1, 2, and 3 checkpoints are satisfied.

Thus, a designer with a simpler site, may choose to make the site compliant to "Double-A" rating, while more advance sites may want to certify a "Triple-A" rating to insure all plug-in and scripting technologies are compliant as well.

quick tip The WAC recommends that designers in academic institutions who choose to use the WAI's WCAG for validation should certify to at least the "Double-A" rating.

Note: In addition to treating, in detail, methods for accessibility in complex web sites, the WAI also strives to lead the way in establishing accessible design practices as emerging technology and design trends enter the market. Thus, many of the recommendations, such as using Style Sheets for layout as well as formatting, represent design elements that will be, but are not yet, fully supported by existing browser technology. Designers who choose to become fully compliant to the WCAG Priority 1, 2, and 3 issues may need to require use of only the most current version of available browsers and further may only support one or two browser types.

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OSU Minimum Web Accessibility Standards (MWAS)

The current version of the OSU MWAS went into effect June 30, 2004. In addition to detailed standards, the new policy also includes a prioirty schedule for implemenation and retrofit and an annual reporting requirement. For complete information about the standards, visit the WAC's About the OSU Standards section.

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Organizing and Naming Your Site | Layout | Header Information | Navigation | Color | Style Sheets | Lists | Images and Multimedia | Image Maps | Tables | Forms | Frames | Scripts | Timed Response |

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