• Author: Ricky Onsman
  • Date: 10 Dec 2012
  • Access: Free

Quick facts

Before the arrival of WCAG 2.0, it was possible for a web developer to take the position that web accessibility was chiefly the realm of designers and content managers.

Before the arrival of WCAG 2.0, it was possible for a web developer to take the position that web accessibility was chiefly the realm of designers — in creating the structures that display web content — and content managers — who author, edit and manage web content.

Since WCAG 2.0 adopted its broad, principle-based approach in combination with detailed, testable success criteria and techniques covering a range of very specific situations, it has become abundantly clear that accessibility must inform every step in the creation and management of a web presence.

It is especially true that web developers are critical to the process of implementing web accessibility as so much of the basis for WCAG 2.0 revolves around making content programatically determinable and thereby accessible to assistive technology used by people with disabilities.

programmatically determined (programmatically determinable)

determined by software from author-supplied data provided in a way that different user agents, including assistive technologies, can extract and present this information to users in different modalities

Example 1: Determined in a markup language from elements and attributes that are accessed directly by commonly available assistive technology.

Example 2: Determined from technology-specific data structures in a non-markup language and exposed to assistive technology via an accessibility API that is supported by commonly available assistive technology.

(WCAG 2.0 glossary)

Furthermore, web developers are essential to ensuring that the tools used to author and manage web content produce accessible web content, and that the tools are themselves accessible to people with disabilities. This is also true of the tools used to assess and evaluate websites for accessibility.

As both client-side and server-side technologies must be be used in accordance with accessibility principles, there is a great deal of opportunity for web developers to understand and implement accessibility not only in their own coding and programming, but also in the way they collaborate with designers and content producers to achieve conformance with WCAG 2.0 and maintain it over time.

Web accessibility should inform every aspect of web development.

When the developer is implementing a web design, it makes sense to take all the needs of the user group into account. No matter who the intended audience is, that will include people with some type and level of disability.

What WCAG 2.0 does for web developers is provide advice on what to consider, how to implement accessibility to a sufficient degree and how to test that conformance has been achieved.

Much of WCAG 2.0 focuses not on paying special attention to the needs of people with disabilities but rather on not ignoring them.

That requires some thought about what might present a barrier to access for some people and applying a means to provide access for them, perhaps by removing the barrier, or modifying it, or letting the user control it, or supplementing it with an alternative means to access the content.

These are principles, challenges and solutions that are part and parcel of what a web developer does.