HTML and CSS Reference
and the Web
Making the Web Accessible
Nearly 15% of the world population has some sort of disability, a physical condition
that limits the individual's ability to perform certain tasks. The U.S. Congress passed the
Rehabilitation Act in 1973, which prohibits discrimination for those with disabilities. In
1998, Congress amended this act to reflect the latest changes in information technology.
Section 508 requires that any electronic information developed, procured, maintained,
or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities. Disabilities
that inhibit a person's ability to use the Web fall into four main categories: visual, hearing,
motor, and cognitive. This amendment has had a profound effect on how Web pages are
designed and developed.
Although Section 508 is specific to Web sites created and maintained by the federal
government, all competent Web developers adhere to the Section 508 guidelines. It is
important to include everyone as a potential user of your Web site, including those with
disabilities. To ignore the needs of nearly 15% of our population is just poor practice.
However, some portions of Section 508 are not supported by HTML5. For example,
longdesc (§ 1194.22a) and frames (§ 1194.22i) are no longer supported by HTML5.
A Web developer would not use those elements, which renders those Section 508
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) sponsors its own initiative, called
the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), that develops guidelines and support materials
for accessibility standards. These guidelines, known as the Web Content Accessibility
Guidelines (WCAG), cover many of the same issues defined in the Section 508 rules and
expand on them relative to superior Web site design.
Section 508 Guidelines Examples
The 13 parts of the Section 508 guidelines are as follows: