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February 26, 2024

What is accessibility in web design?

Elli Haddick

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Elli Haddick

Did you know that 1 in 4 Americans report having a disability? 

Website accessibility is a conversation that has been happening for a long time but is still something that has not been fully adopted throughout the internet. Companies should always consider how accessible their website is to all users. 

Using web design accessibility standards optimizes your website to ensure that it is usable by all users, including people with disabilities, changing abilities, poor internet connections, people using assistive technologies, and more.

Now, in order to fully address accessibility issues on your website, you do need a basic understanding of the different types of disabilities or considerations you need to incorporate into your website. 

Some common accessibility considerations to note:

  • Visual disabilities (e.g., blindness, color blindness)
  • Mobility disabilities (e.g., muscle control, arthritis, functional movement disorders)
  • Auditory disabilities (e.g., hearing loss, auditory processing disorder)
  • Seizure risk (those with photosensitive epilepsy)
  • Cognitive and learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia, processing disorders, impaired memory)

In 2010, the US Department of Justice published the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. These set the minimum requirements – both scoping and technical – for newly designed and constructed or altered State and local government facilities, public accommodations, and commercial facilities to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.

Most of the ADA standards pertain to physical structures, not the digital world of the internet. That is where the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) come into play. 

What is the WCAG?

W3C published the first Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 in 1999. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have become the international standard, including WCAG 2.0, WCAG 2.1, and WCAG 2.2. The WCAG documents explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities.

The WCAG uses a rating system that user experience (UX) and product designers can study and reference during the design process (source): 

  • Level A is the minimum acceptable threshold for accessibility features and doesn’t achieve broad accessibility. It must be navigable with a keyboard and convey meaning through non-visual elements. This level includes rules around CAPTCHA presentation, alternatives to text for prerecorded audio and video content, and prerecorded captions and text alternatives to sensory content. 
  • Level AA means a site has acceptable compliance — most visitors find it usable, including disabled people. Websites at this level must have alt text, consistent navigation elements, logical headings, and more. These designs also include accessibility options such as live video captions and prerecorded audio descriptions, depending on the site’s content. 
  • Level AAA is optimal for site design and includes everything covered in the first two levels as well as maximum contrast options, the three-flash rule (no more than three flashes in one second), sign language interpretation for audio or video content, and expanding abbreviations. Although there’s no such thing as a perfectly accessible website, those at this level are as close as they can get, according to WCAG standards.

WCAG standards for website accessibility are built upon four foundational principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. These principles ensure that web content is accessible and usable for all, including those with disabilities. 

The WCAG is comprehensive and includes guidelines for providing text alternatives for non-text content, ensuring all functionality is available from a keyboard, making text readable and understandable, and ensuring content compatibility with current and future user tools. 

Following the WCAG standards is not only a compliance requirement but also a step towards creating a more inclusive and accessible digital world.

This topic is very technical and intricate, and if you are interested in the more technical aspects, I encourage you to review the W3C website. 

Below, I have gathered and summarized some items you can do today to ensure your site is more accessible: 


Start with basic user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design principles and hierarchy. Your website content needs to be clear and organized. Remove content that is not necessary or clutters the pages. The design should be easy to navigate or be in the right order. Make sure your website always follows the best practices with spacing and containers. As well as maintaining consistency throughout the site with brand and design choices. 

Image Alt Text

Image alt text has three important functions: accessibility, user experience, and image traffic. 

text alternatives for non-text content like images. Think about adding descriptive captions to videos, providing keyboard shortcuts for easier navigation, and ensuring your site is compatible with screen readers.


The font and typography you use in your user interface can have a big impact on readability and overall aesthetic. To create an effective user interface, you should choose fonts that are easy to read and appropriate for the type of product or service you are designing. You should also pay attention to typography, such as font size, line spacing, and the use of headings and subheadings.

Color & Contrast

Color is a powerful tool in user interface design and can be used to create visual interest, convey meaning, and guide users through the interface. But you must consider that not all users will be able to use the colors as they are intended; that is why there is a color contrast standard. 

The WCAG does require a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text to achieve Level AA compliance.

Below is a visual depicting a CTA button when you apply the contrast test to it. One is easier to read but fails the contrast test, and one is harder to read but passes the contrast test. It is a delicate balance to find ways to ensure that a website is accessible and functional for all users.


Another thing to consider with accessibility is language. We now have options natively in our browser to translate websites into other languages like Google Translate. These tools are amazing but also very flawed. Translator apps sometimes miss nuances or slang. It is important to know your audience’s languages and make the content on your website specific to each language. Having your content in other languages will also be an SEO advantage. Visit the Webflow blog post to learn more about multilingual Webflow sites

Remember, accessibility isn't one-size-fits-all, so be open to feedback and continually improve your site's usability for everyone. If you are still unsure of your website's accessibility or want us to help you make it more accessible, please click the Contact Us button and reach out to us! 

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