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Tools and Resources for Accessible Web Design

Compiled by
John Slatin, University of Texas at Austin
Jim Allan, Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired ()

Rev. Dec, 2002

Accessibility Guidelines and Standards

  • Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) A major activity of the World Wide Web Consortium, the WAI is a broad collaboration among industry, academic research, and members of the disability community to define standards and techniques for maximizing the accessibility of Web-based materials for all users.
  • WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (including checklist and techniques documents). These Guidelines are the closest thing to a universally accepted standard for accessible Web content (though this position may be challenged by the U.S. government's Section 508 standards; see below). (Note: the WAI site also includes useful information about use of color, etc.)
  • Section 508 Final Standards. These standards became effective on June 21, 2001, and govern IT accessibility for all federal agencies and entities operating federal contracts. These standards are expected to have significant impact in the private and nonprofit sectors as well as in government. For additional information on Section 508
  • IBM Web Accessibility Checklist and Tutorial The most recent version of IBM's accessibility checklist is closely aligned with Section 508 federal standards. Each checkpoint includes a link to a short, clear tutorial about basic design and testing techniques.
  • Making Educational Software Accessible. Excellent, detailed guidelines for CD-ROM-based multimedia. The guidelines aim at education, but are much more broadly applicable. Site includes downloadable prototypes and information about accessibility issues related to specific development platforms.
  • Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities. The California Community College System's comprehensive accessibility guidelines for its distance learning applications, published in 1999.

Accessibility resources


Online information and tutorials

  • Web Accessibility for Section 508, The online accessibility course described in the next entry, on the site of the person who wrote it. Thatcher's site includes other valuable information, including a comparison chart with side-by-side views of Section 508 requirements and related WCAG Checkpoints.
  • Information Technology Technical Assistance Training Center (ITTATC) Web Accessibility Course, at This course was developed by Jim Thatcher, a member of the panel that developed the accessibility standards for Section 508. Thatcher developed the first screenreader for computers using a graphical user interface.
  • Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired This site, maintained by Jim Allan, Webmaster and Statewide Technical Specialist, provides a wealth of information on a broad range of accessibility topics. Allan is a member of the WAI.
  • Adaptive Technology Resource Center, University of Toronto. Wide-ranging research and development program related to adaptive technologies for persons with disabilities, including excellent work on Web and software accessibility. See also the SNOW project site.
  • National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). NCAM has pioneered such important developments as closed captioning and descriptive video service, and continues to conduct innovative research on ways to make video and other media both interactive and accessible. Free download of NCAM's MAGpie software for captioning and describing video.
  • WebAIM. Web Accessibility in Mind. Tutorials, training, accessible simulations, laws, guidelines and more. At The 508 checklist with success/failure criteria is especially helpful.
  • WebSavvy. Useful tutorials and other information on accessible design, including Flash, from the University of Toronto.
  • Lighthouse International's guides to improved legibility through font selection and sizing, and effective use of color and contrast. Available at Simple Steps to More Readable Type through Universal Graphic Design is available at And Making Text Legible: Designing for People with Partial Sight is available.
  • Safe web colours for colour-deficient vision. Guidelines for selecting Web colors that work for people who have difficulty seeing certain colors. Excellent illustrations. By Christine Rigdon of British Telecom.
  • Captioning FAQ. A readable guide to closed captioning by the Media Access Group at WGBH-TV in Boston, the PBS station that pioneered closed captioning for television in the early 1970s.
  • Trace Research and Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Probably the leading center for research on information technology and people with disabilities.
  • HTML Writer's Guild web site, and the Guild's AWARE Center (Accessible Web Authoring Resources and Education). Site was last updated in April 2001, but authoring resources are still useful.
  • International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet, Section 508 resource Page. Substantial listing of government, industry, and academic resources related to federal accessibility standards as defined by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • Microsoft's Enable Substantial site providing information about and access to many Microsoft tools for accessible design, plus links to many other resources including information about Microsoft's Active Accessibility (MSAA) Application Programming Interface (API) for Windows.
  • UseIt! Web site maintained by Jakob Neilsen, a leading usability expert who has written some useful pointers about accessible design.

Validation and repair tools

  • A-PROMPT.  An evaluation and repair tool developed jointly by Toronto's Adaptive Technology Resource Center and Wisconsin's Trace Research & Development Center (see above).  W3C's HTML Validation Service, available online via the WAI site at
  • HTML-Kit.   This powerful Web-authoring tool performs several useful and important functions, including HTML validation and conversion to XHTML.  It also cleans up extraneous HTML code generated when Microsoft Office documents are saved as Web pages.
  • The WAVE Developed at Temple University (Philadelphia) by the late Len Kasday, the WAVE is especially useful in helping sighted developers see ALT text and recognize the order in which items on their pages will be read by screenreaders and speaking browsers.
  • Microsoft Powerpoint WWW Accessibility Wizard.    Developed by the Division of Education-Rehabilitation Services at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign.  This tool steps Powerpoint authors through the process of converting Powerpoint presentations into accessible Web-based presentations.
  • The WAI's Evaluation and Repair Tools Working Group maintains a list of free and commercial evaluation and repair tools.  The list is frequently updated. 

Authoring tools reported to provide at least some support for creating accessible content

  • Macromedia's Dreamweaver MX includes extensions for checking compliance with Section 508 and with general usability guidelines. If you turn on Accessibility Preferences, the authoring tool will prompt for ALT text, table markup, form labels, and other accessibility features.
  • Access.Adobe. Information about accessibility features for Adobe products, including instructions on using Acrobat 7 and MS Word 2000 to create accessible PDF documents.

Tools for captioning, descriptive video, etc.

  • MAGpie (Media Access Generator). Produced by the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH (PBS) in Boston. Tool for producing closed captions, descriptive video, etc., and outputting files in multiple formats including QuickTime, RealPlayer, SMIL, and SAMI. Version 2.0 is currently in beta-testing.
  • SMIL. Synchronized Media Integration Language. A W3C specification for coordinating synchronized display of multiple media tracks such as video, audio, captions, descriptions, etc., etc. SMIL is an XML application. RealPlayer 8 Basic can play SMIL documents, allowing users to toggle audio descriptions and captions on and off.

Other Useful Evaluation Tools/Toys