Accessibility Mandates - HTML

If you’re not motivated to improve accessibility by the inherent kindness in your heart or by the hard numbers of lost market share, there are always laws to consider. The United States, for example, has laws on the books that can make certain kinds of Web sites, especially those that have business with the Federal government, liable for criminal and civil damages if they don’t comply with certain laws and regulations.

Americans with Disabilities Act
Although technically only Web sites associated with the federal government (including contractors) need to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), any Web site that doesn’t follow its mandates may be potential targets for lawsuits. Those are the legal justifications for operating an accessible Web site. There are obvious moral and ethical considerations, as well.

There are a number of considerations when designing for ADA compliance. For example, use colors, fonts, and graphics with restraint by following these guidelines:

  • Avoid the use of more than two or three colors (not including white) and three font sizes (which is just good design, anyway).
  • Use bold and italic sparingly (for titles and occasional emphasis), and avoid underlining plain text (people often mistake underlined plain text as a link).
  • Since 8–12% of the population is color blind, be careful with colors, and be sure to provide good contrast between text and the Web page background. The truth is, nothing is better than black on white when it comes to readability.
  • Minimize the use of textured backgrounds, and when using them, keep them at a low contrast, especially when mixing font and link colors on a colored background.
  • Avoid animations, especially looping animations, which can be a sufficient enough distraction to people with some learning disabilities that they may find your Web pages unreadable

Additional U.S. and international guidelines and laws exist regarding accessibility, including the Telecommunications Act (Section 255) of 1996 in the United States, the Information Society Europe Action Plan, and the Beijing Declarations on the Rights of People with Disabilities established by the UN. In addition, the W3C has established the Web Content Accessibility Initiative. By following the rules established by the W3C, you go a long way toward ensuring you’ll be in compliance with the growing amount of international law regarding Web accessibility.

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