Checklist: PDF File

Checklist: Word Document

Checklist: Excel Document

Checklist: PowerPoint Document

Checklist: HTML File

Checklist: Multimedia File

Links to Non-HTML Resources

Users should generally be alerted to links that lead to non-HTML resources, such as PDF files, Word files, PowerPoint files, and so on. However, there is some debate as to whether the content author or the browser should be the one to alert the user. The trouble is that none of the browsers or screen readers currently alert the user at all, so the debate is more theoretical than practical.

A link to a PowerPoint slide show, for example, could say "Third quarter sales projections (PowerPoint)" or something similar, and a link to a PDF file could say "Tax form 1040 (PDF)" or something similar.


Useful Links

508 Web Compliance and Remediation Framework

508 Web Compliance and Remediation Framework

Questions and Answers on the Final Rule Implementing the ADA Amendments Act of 2008

The World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.01 state that text-only pages should only be used as a last resort:

The Section 508 Standards2 make a similar statement:

(k) A text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be provided to make a Web site comply with the provisions of this part, when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. The content of the text-only page shall be updated whenever the primary page changes. (Emphasis added.)

A General Assembly Mandate

A General Assembly Mandate

In order to make information on the United Nations and its activities available to the widest range of audiences, and in keeping with resolutions of the General Assembly, the Department of Public Information (DPI) is actively pursuing accessibility of the United Nations website by persons with disabilities. The objective of DPI is to comply with the Web Content Accessibility guidelines1 of the World Wide Web Consortium standards, which at the present time are the only standards with worldwide recognition.

Following the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 13 December 2006 (resolution 61/106), the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to progressively implement standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services of the United Nations System. To assist other departments and offices in producing accessible web content, those guidelines were prepared by a task force composed of members of the Web Services Section of DPI.

What is Web Accessibility?

"Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities." (Source: W3C).

Persons with disabilities are faced with many challenges when using the Internet and some use assistive technologies to help them access information. For instance, persons with visual impairments may use screen magnifiers or screen readers that read out loud the content of a page or translate it on a Braille display. Persons with mobility impairment may be unable to use a mouse and resort to using the keyboard or another assistive device to surf the web.

Special attention needs to be dedicated to web accessibility in the web design process to ensure a site is usable by persons with different types of disabilities, using a wide range of assistive technologies.

Costs and Benefits

Making a website accessible to disabled persons requires technical expertise in web design and accessibility issues.

Creating accessible pages takes more time. However, it is much more productive to consider this aspect at the start of a project than to modify an existing, inaccessible site.

It should also be noted that accessible websites carry other benefits. They are:

  • More user-friendly, because they strive to give users the greatest level of control on how they wish to access content;
  • Optimized for display on any type of device, such as mobile phones or PDAs;
  • Easier to access with low-bandwidth connection;
  • Optimized for search engine indexation, which contributes to an increased visibility in search results;
  • Easier to maintain -- redesigns and language versions can be implemented quicker.

Accessibility Validation

There are a number of automatic validation tools that can provide partial accessibility validation. They can be used for preliminary validation purposes. A list of such tools is referenced on the W3C website.

Once the issues identified with an automated tool are solved, it is imperative to complete the evaluation manually. See the Validation Procedures.

The present guidelines are based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 of the W3C.

The principle of inclusion in web accessibility

"Full and effective participation and inclusion in society" is one of the general principles that underlie the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and each one of its articles. The goal of inclusion signifies that there is an obligation to create environments that provide access to all aspects for all people on an equal basis.

The concept of inclusion is linked with "universal design", which is defined in the Convention as "the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design".

Therefore, every effort should be made to create universally accessible pages. The use of alternative, accessible versions should be kept to a minimum, as a last resort.

If, after best efforts, you cannot create an accessible page, provide a link to an alternative page that uses W3C technologies, is accessible, has equivalent information (or functionality), and is updated as often as the inaccessible (original) page.

Ensure that equivalents for dynamic content are updated when the dynamic content changes.

Provide a clear link to alternative version(s) at the top of each page

Providing the link at the top of the page means that the user does not have to wade through inaccessible content to find the alternative version. You should also provide a link to allow the user to navigate directly back to the original version.

Use scripts to automatically detect different browsers and present appropriate versions of web pages

A 'browser detect' is a script which can detect the type of browser used by a visitor to a site. If a browser detect is used in combination with alternative versions, it is possible to present the user with a version of the page which works well in their browser. Note that it is not possible to detect if the user is using a screen reader, because it is not a browser.

Use server-side scripts to generate alternative pages on demand

Server-side scripts, such as Java servlets, or PHP, can be used to create alternative presentations of a page if the user requests one through the browser. The benefit of providing alternative pages in this way is that there is no requirement to maintain different 'versions' of a website, which reduces the maintenance effort and ensures that up-to-date content is delivered to the user, regardless of the version selected.