Accessibility In 2024: A Step-By-Step Guide To Website Compliance

web content accessibility guidelines

Website accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. More specifically, accessible websites adhere to accessibility guidelines and standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

There are a few important reasons why website accessibility is crucial:

It’s the right thing to do. Everyone deserves equal access to information and services on the web. Designing with accessibility in mind is simply the right thing to do ethically.

It’s required by law. Many countries have legislation requiring websites, especially government ones, to meet accessibility standards. For example, in the United States, ADA and Section 508 requirements mean federal websites must be accessible.

It expands your audience. An accessible website opens up content to more users, including the 15%+ of the population with disabilities. It also benefits users without disabilities, like those on slow networks or older users.

It’s good for SEO. An accessible website typically uses proper HTML semantics and ARIA roles, which search engines can better interpret. Accessibility correlates with higher search rankings.

It demonstrates social responsibility. Prioritizing accessibility showcases a commitment to equal opportunity and inclusion. It’s a great way for brands to show social responsibility.

In today’s digital landscape, creating an accessible website is no longer optional – it’s a must for ethical, legal, and business reasons. This guide will explore the key steps to ensuring your website’s accessibility in 2024 and beyond.

WCAG Standards

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. They are a set of recommendations published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for making web content accessible for people with disabilities.

The current version of WCAG is 2.1, published in June 2018. It has three levels of conformance: A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest). Most organizations aim for at least WCAG 2.1 AA compliance to ensure their websites and apps meet an acceptable level of accessibility.

WCAG 2.1 AA includes these key requirements:

Providing text alternatives for non-text and visual content, like images, videos, and audio files. This allows the content to be interpreted by screen readers for blind users.

Making all functionality keyboard accessible, so the site can be navigated without a mouse. This helps users with motor impairments who cannot use a mouse.

Designing content that does not cause seizures for users with photosensitive epilepsy. This includes avoiding flashing content.

Ensuring text can be resized up to 200% without loss of content or function. This helps low-vision users read the content.

Including captions for audio and audio descriptions for video. This makes multimedia content accessible to deaf and blind users.

Ensuring that content is readable and understandable to a variety of users, including those with cognitive disabilities.

Making the website navigable, findable, and usable. The site should have clear navigation and mechanisms to help users find content and determine where they are.

Following WCAG 2.1 AA ensures websites and applications meet a standard level of accessibility for all users. Failing to meet these standards can prevent disabled users from accessing content and services.

Automated Testing

Automated testing tools help get a quick overview of accessibility issues on a website. They can crawl through pages and identify any major errors that should be fixed. Some benefits of using automated tools include:

Quick analysis: They can scan multiple pages in a short time to spot high-level issues. This allows you to get a broad sense of problem areas.

Identify common errors: Many automated checkers are programmed to find generic accessibility problems like missing alt text, low color contrast, etc. They are good at finding these common mistakes.

Ease of use: The tools normally have a simple interface and don’t require advanced technical skills. You don’t need to be an expert to run an accessibility scan.

Integration into workflows: Some tools can integrate directly into site editors and development platforms, making it easy to build accessibility testing into the process.

However, there are some limitations to be aware of:

Incomplete testing: Automated tools can’t identify every type of accessibility issue, especially those involving more complex interactions or context. Issues like logical flow, focus order, semantics, and language may be missed.

False positives: The tools often incorrectly flag acceptable content as problems. Each result needs to be manually verified before making changes.

No user perspective: Automated testing lacks the subjective human experience. Issues like ease of use and clarity of language can’t be simulated.

Can’t check conformance: The tools may find issues, but can’t definitively confirm if a page meets WCAG conformance. Manual checks are still required.

The main takeaway is that automated testing can complement an accessibility strategy, but not replace comprehensive user and manual testing methods. Use tools for quick scans to identify common issues, but follow up with more in-depth techniques for full conformance.

Manual Testing

Manual testing is essential for verifying if a website is truly accessible for users with disabilities. While automated tools can identify many issues, nothing replaces human evaluation. Here are some key areas to manually test:

Keyboard Navigation

Use a keyboard only (no mouse) and tab through all content and functionality. Everything should be reachable and operable.

Test forms, media players, carousels, accordions, popups, etc. Make sure they can be accessed without a mouse.

Check focus order is logical. Visually highlighted elements should match the keyboard focus. All interactive elements like links and buttons should be focusable.

Screen Readers

Turn off the monitor and use a screen reader like NVDA or VoiceOver to read through all pages and interactions.

Have the screen reader read headings, lists, link text, captions, and page regions. Listen for anything confusing or missing.

Verify reading order and semantics match logical document structure.

Confirm no additional instructions are needed for screen reader users.

Color Contrast

Use color contrast checker tools to analyze foreground/background combinations. Check text and interactive elements meet a minimum 4.5:1 contrast ratio. Watch for contrast issues with borders, icons, and images.

Test dynamic changes like hover/focus/active states.

Enable high contrast mode and confirm content remains legible.

Manual testing provides critical insight into real user experience. Dedicate sufficient time and resources to thoroughly evaluate accessibility from multiple perspectives. Fix any issues discovered to ensure website access for all.

User Testing

Recruiting real users with disabilities to test your website is one of the best ways to evaluate accessibility. Focus on recruiting people with a diverse range of disabilities, including visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive impairments.

Remote user testing allows you to connect with testers worldwide. Services like []( and [TryMyUI]( make it easy to recruit testers and conduct remote tests. You provide tasks for testers to complete on your site, then observe them and record their feedback.

Watch for areas where testers have difficulty or cannot complete tasks. Note accessibility issues they encounter like lack of alt text, poor color contrast, confusing navigation, and more. Be sure to follow up with a survey to capture their subjective impressions of the site’s accessibility.

User testing provides personalized insights into the real-world experience of people with disabilities on your site. Make it an ongoing process to guide improvements over time. Prioritize fixes for issues commonly encountered by testers.

Code Validation

Valid HTML, CSS, and ARIA roles are crucial for an accessible website. Valid code ensures that assistive technologies can read and interpret your website correctly.

HTML Validation

Run your website HTML code through an HTML validator like the [W3C Markup Validation Service]( This checks for any errors in your HTML syntax or structure that could cause issues for screen readers or other assistive tech. Fix any errors or warnings that come up.

CSS Validation

Similarly, validate your CSS code using the [W3C CSS Validation

Service]( Fix any CSS errors that could prevent proper styling and presentation of content.

ARIA Roles

Use ARIA roles properly to further enhance accessibility. For example, use `role=” navigation”` for navigation elements, `role=”banner”` for page banner areas, etc. Validate that ARIA attributes do not conflict with native HTML semantics. Test that all interactive ARIA widgets work correctly with assistive tech.

Validating code helps eliminate technical issues that could prevent assistive technologies from properly interpreting and interacting with your site. Regularly check for valid HTML, CSS, and ARIA implementation.

Accessibility Statements

An accessibility statement is an important part of a company’s commitment to accessibility and inclusion. It provides transparency by communicating what accessibility standards a website meets and efforts made to improve accessibility over time.

An accessibility statement should include required elements like:

Compliance with standards such as WCAG 2.1 AA. This establishes the site meets certain accessibility criteria.

Testing methodology that was conducted such as automated, manual, and user testing. This demonstrates the efforts to evaluate the site’s accessibility.

A way for users to report accessibility issues they encounter. This provides a feedback channel for ongoing improvements.

Contact information for the accessibility coordinator. This gives users someone to reach out to with questions.

A roadmap of future accessibility improvements is planned. This shows continued commitment to enhancing accessibility.

Accessibility statements should be updated frequently as improvements are made. At minimum, review and update annually to ensure the information remains accurate. Keeping the statement current establishes that accessibility is an ongoing priority, not just a one-time fix.

Crafting a thoughtful accessibility statement is a crucial component of website accessibility in 2024 and beyond. It shows users that inclusivity and ease of use for all is a primary focus.

Ongoing Monitoring

It’s important to regularly monitor and maintain accessibility after launch. Website content and functionality frequently change, which can introduce new accessibility issues.

Schedule regular accessibility re-testing every few months. Automated tools and manual audits should be run on new code changes before launch. Consider making accessibility re-testing part of your standard quality assurance process.

Actively collect user feedback around accessibility issues. Provide an easy way for visitors to report barriers they encounter (e.g. via an online form or published email address). Monitor social media complaints. Proactively reach out to users with disabilities for feedback.

Track accessibility issues in a register and prioritize critical problems. Assign responsibility for remediation and set target timelines.

Leverage analytics to identify usage patterns and pain points for users with disabilities. Look for abandonments and lack of conversions in assistive technology.

Stay updated on emerging accessibility best practices and legal requirements. Subscribe to industry publications, follow standards organizations like W3C, and keep your team trained.

Common Barriers to Web Accessibility

Web accessibility depends on designing and developing websites that work for everyone. However, some common barriers can make content difficult or impossible for some users to access. Focusing on improving these areas can go a long way towards ensuring accessibility.


Images should have text alternatives, like alt text, that describe the image content and function. This allows the information to be conveyed to those using screen readers or who have images turned off. Alt text also helps if problems are loading the image.


Forms should be built to work with assistive technologies like screen readers. This includes logical tab order, properly associating labels with form fields and instructions that are easy to find. Required form fields should be indicated. Providing good error messages and validation helps avoid problems submitting forms.


PDFs need to be created and accessible from the start. Scanned documents and images inserted into a PDF won’t be readable by a screen reader without additional work. Tools like Adobe Acrobat allow adding tags for semantic structure and alt text for images. Accessible PDFs have searchable, selectable text.


Videos, audio content, animations, and presentations require captions, audio descriptions, and transcripts to convey information to those who can’t see or hear the content. Keyboard controls allow navigation of media players and slides without requiring the use of a mouse.

By identifying and addressing common barriers like these, organizations can work towards making their websites accessible to all users. What might be easy for some to use could be impossible for others without proper implementation of web accessibility best practices.


Ensuring and maintaining website accessibility is crucial for organizations that want to provide an inclusive online experience. With advanced technologies and standards like AI-powered testing tools and WCAG 2.1, checking and monitoring accessibility has become more comprehensive and streamlined.

However, digital accessibility should be an ongoing process, not just a one-time checkpoint. Websites constantly evolve with new features, pages, and content. It’s necessary to continuously evaluate accessibility across the entire site and with real user testing. Monitoring assistive technology usage and user feedback provides valuable insights.

There are compelling legal, ethical, and business reasons to prioritize inclusive design. With a thoughtful, user-centered approach and the right tools, organizations can create accessible digital experiences that don’t exclude people with disabilities. This allows them to tap into a broader audience and gain their trust and loyalty.

The landscape will continue advancing, but the core tenet of equitable access for all users should remain the guiding principle. Comprehensive and continuous auditing is key to an effective, long-term website accessibility strategy. With vigilance and care, we can work towards making the web a space that embraces diversity.