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W3C Guidelines


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The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has created a set of guidelines to help web authors create web pages that make the Internet accessible to all. ITS encourages web authors to design pages that meet the minimum standards set forth in the W3C Web Accessibility Initiatives. For more details on HTML tagging and design, please refer to the list of URL's at the bottom of this document. The most critical design considerations can be summarized as follows:

  1. Provide alternate text for all images and image maps in your document. The syntax for including alternate text is shown in this example: <img src="image.gif" alt="This is an image with alternate text."> The alternate text is displayed when the mouse pointer moves over the image. Try it!
  2. The same alt syntax can be used in client-side image maps to provide alternate text for each link area in the image. Be sure that the text provides an adequate description of the link's target for a user who may be relying on a screen reader or other assistive technology to read the page.
  3. Identify row and column headers in tables. This can be accomplished by use of the <thead>, <tbody> and <th> tags, which separate table headers from table data. For example:
    Quiz scores
    Name Quiz #1 Quiz #2
    Joe B+ C-


    The HTML 4.0 table tags allow data to be associated with a specific header and for multiple columns to be grouped together. If you are creating complex tables in HTML, it is advisable to consult an HTML 4.0 reference book and the W3C guidelines for advice on how to create accessible data tables. Note that the W3C recommends that the use of tables purely for screen formatting be kept to a minimum.

  4. If you use Cascading Style Sheets in your page, be sure that the page organization will still be coherent when it is viewed by a browser or screen reader that does not support CSS.
  5. Be sure that the text and background colors provide sufficient contrast. Consider that color-blind readers may have difficulty distinguishing text and background colors.
  6. Provide titles for each document frame in a frame set.
  7. Provide text descriptions for all multimedia content, scripts, ascii art, images used as list bullets, spacers, graphical buttons, sounds (played with or without user interaction), stand-alone audio files, audio tracks of video, and video.
  8. Do not cause the screen to flicker.
  9. If all else fails, present the user with the option to view a text-only page.
Yale Web Team, January 3, 2002



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