Coding for accessibility
There are a number of coding methodologies that can help produce accessible web pages. These should be followed whether the page is hand–coded, generated by dynamic code or produced by a system such as a CMS.
Layout and structure
All HTML documents must have the doctype declared at the beginning of the document and the primary language identified. If there are any changes in the natural language of the document’s content the change must be identified using the
Every page must have a unique and meaningful title so that users can identify what page they are on. Pages with the same title can cause confusion.
The content on the page must be ordered in a logical manner so as to make sense to the user without any visual styling. Structural mark–up must never be used to provide visual effects and deprecated elements such as
<applet> must not be used, instead use the latest versions if supported. Always use consistent styling and positioning of key elements on each page eg elements appearing on multiple pages such as site search must appear in the same place.
Always add ARIA landmark roles to appropriate sections of the page.
Device and software independence
Do not target specific devices or software (such as browsers). Write code so as to meet standards and where it is necessary to produce allowances for certain technologies use techniques such as conditional comments or feature detection to work around issues.
Ensure that all pages and functionality can be navigated and used with any input device, do not rely on a user using a mouse.
Progressive enhancement is a strategy for web design that emphasizes accessibility, semantic mark up, and external style sheet and scripting technologies. Progressive enhancement uses web technologies in a layered fashion that allows everyone to access the basic content and functionality of a web page, using any browser or internet connection, while also providing those with better bandwidth or more advanced browser software an enhanced version of the page.
- basic content should be accessible to all browsers
- basic functionality should be accessible to all browsers
- sparse, semantic mark up contains all content
- enhanced layout is provided by externally linked CSS
- end user browser preferences are respected
Using the core principles of progressive enhancement techniques ensures that the web page will degrade gracefully, and that the fundamental browser functionality will not be lost. Graceful degradation is not to be used as a way to serve only the most advanced browsers with a web page. It should be used as an element of progressive enhancement, ensuring that content is not lost in less capable user agents.
Unobtrusive code refers to the separation of the behaviour, presentation and content layers.
This separation of technologies aids the maintenance of code, removing unnecessary, bloated code from your HTML and making it easier to find and modify. It re-purposes the developers HTML using it to describe a document’s structure, not its programmatic behaviour.
- Separation of presentation, behaviour and content.
- Best practices to avoid the problems of traditional browser inconsistencies and lack of scalability.
Any functionality provided by scripting must also have a version available that fulfills the user goals and provides equivalent content without it. If any images or graphs are updated dynamically the changes must also be reflected in the descriptive text.
<a href> element to mark up links, otherwise assistive technologies may not recognise them as links. Any scripting produced should also follow the same accessibility standards as HTML
Wherever possible ARIA states, properties and live regions should be used on scripted content to enhance their accessibility.
Showing and hiding of content
When visually hiding and showing content on a page care must be taken in the methods used. The following list describes the best method for each situation1.
- If you want to hide content visually but have it accessible to screen reader users then do not use
display:none. Instead use the off-screen technique or the clip method (both are described in ) to hide elements only visually.
- If the content you are hiding could also be useful to sighted keyboard only users, such as skip links, reconsider whether you really have to hide it. If you do hide it, make sure it becomes visible on focus.
- If you want to hide something temporarily and have it display as a result of user interaction then