Principles of Digital Accessibility

Posted on May 18th, 2017 in Featured, Uncategorized

What is Digital Accessibility?

Broadly speaking, digital accessibility refers to electronic information and communications designed to “work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability.” (Accessibility – W3C)

Digital accessibility is about making electronic information and communications available to people with a variety of disabilities: auditory, cognitive and neurological, physical, speech, visual, or some combination. In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) 2017, here are four principles to keep in mind when creating electronic content, such as webpages and Microsoft Office documents.


Can users perceive your information? For many people, vision is the primary mode of perception and this explains why so much effort is placed on the visual presentation. However, this does not account for other means of perception: namely, hearing and tactile feedback. Content should be developed with these perceptions in mind, and it needs to be easily changeable among these three modes–visual, auditory, and tactile–to meet the needs of individual users. To make your content perceivable:

  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
  • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
  • Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies such as screen readers, without losing meaning.
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content.


Can users interact with your information? Traditionally, users interacted with electronic information using a mouse and keyboard. However, limiting access to these interactions does not account for people who cannot use such devices–or cannot use them in traditional ways–and instead rely on assistive technology. Nor does it account for all the ways to access information on mobile devices. However they choose to access your information, people should be able to use it. To make your content operable:

  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • Give users enough time to read and use content.
  • Do not use content that causes seizures.
  • Help users navigate and find content.


Can users understand your information? As the content creator, your information makes sense to you. But would it make sense to someone who has never encountered it before? Does it take into account people who have difficulty comprehending, remembering, or focusing? To make your content understandable:

  • Make text readable and understandable.
  • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes.


Does the presentation of your content actually work as you intend it to, on any device a user chooses to use? Will it continue to work for the foreseeable future? To make your content robust:

  • Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.

For more information, refer to our digital accessibility resources.


Diversity of Web Users – How People with Disabilities Use the Web
WCAG 2.0 at a Glance