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Accessibility: Design of Accessible Web Pages (1998)

Design Of Accessible Web Pages

Prepared by:
Sylvia Chong

This document is funded in part by the project "An Internet Based Curriculum on Math and Aeronautics for Children with Physical Disabilities," supported by Cooperative Agreement #NCC2-9011 with NASA's High Performance Computing and Communications Office, a part of NASA's Information Infrastructure and Applications Program.
This document is funded in part by the project "Improving Access to Disability Data, a National Dissemination and Utilization Center," #133D50017 with the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)

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Table of Contents


1. Text

2. Images and Image Maps

3. Color and Backgrounds

4. Links

5. Tables

6. Frames

7. Audio, Video and Multimedia

8. User-Input Forms


Designing Accessible Web Sites

There are many different ways to make a website accessible to people with disabilities, who may use special software or equipment to operate their computers and access the Internet. A problem with some of the currently available guidelines on website accessibility is that they rely on additions and extensions to HTML that have not yet been implemented, or might only apply to people with a particular disability, such as a visual impairment or motor control difficulties, and thus bring up access issues for people with other disabilities.

This document attempts to combine the currently available guidelines for web accessibility into a single set of guidelines that works for all types of disabilities, and which can be implemented with a minimal amount of modification to HTML and viewed with the most widely used browsers, such as Netscape Navigator 3.0, Internet Explorer 3.0, or Lynx, a text-based browser. These guidelines are best used after other design issues such as organization and appearance have been dealt with. The ideal accessible web site is one which any user can visit, whether or not he or she has a disability. Thus, when one designs a website for accessibility, one must still consider other basic design principles such as organization, balance, and readibility. For reference to other popularly-used documents on web accessibility, please see the bibliography at the end of this document.

Note: All references to HTML refer to HTML 3.2, the latest version supported by Netscape 3.0 and Internet Explorer 3.0. Some tags that are very useful for accessibility are only implemented in HTML 4.0, which is not supported by these earlier browsers. As browsers are updated and the newer versions become more common, people may move to using HTML 4.0, which is described at


Images and Image Maps

Color and Backgrounds




Audio, Video and Multimedia

User-Input Forms


"Accessible Information on the World Wide Web."
The Research Exchange, Volume 2, Number 1, 1997. This entire issue is devoted to uses of the Web by NIDDR grantees and contains some guidelines and information on designing for physically disabled Internet users.
Alliance for Technology Access (
The ATA maintains both a page on designing web sites for access and on improving access to the Internet if you have a disabled.
Bobby (
An on-line HTML validation service provided by the Center for Applied Special Technology.
"Design of Accessible Web Pages" (
Available on InfoUse's Access to Disability Data website.
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the W3C (
Contains recommendations for accessible webpage design that may be implemented in future versions of HTML. Not all recommendations are backwards compatible.