The following list of priciples comes from "WebAIM", or Web Accessibility in Mind, an initiative of The Center for Persons With Disabilities at Utah State University. You can also download a Word version of the WebAIM Accessible Desigh Principles.
Below you will find a list of some key principles of accessible design. Most accessibility principles can be implemented very easily and will not impact the overall "look and feel" of your web site.
Provide appropriate alternative text
Alternative text provides a textual alternative to non-text content in web pages. It is especially helpful for people who are blind and rely on a screen reader to have the content of the website read to them.
Provide headings for data tables
Tables are used online for layout and to organize data. Tables that are used to organize tabular data should have appropriate table headers (the element). Data cells should be associated with their appropriate headers, making it easier for screen reader users to navigate and understand the data table.
Ensure users can complete and submit all forms
Ensure that every form element (text field, checkbox, dropdown list, etc.) has a label and make sure that label is associated to the correct form element using the
Ensure links make sense out of context
Every link should make sense if the link text is read by itself. Screen reader users may choose to read only the links on a web page. Certain phrases like "click here" and "more" must be avoided.
Caption and/or provide transcripts for media
Videos and live audio must have captions and a transcript. With archived audio, a transcription may be sufficient.
Ensure accessibility of non-HTML content
Including PDF files, Microsoft Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and Adobe Flash content.
In addition to all of the other principles listed here, PDF documents and other non-HTML content must be as accessible as possible. If you cannot make it accessible, consider using HTML instead or, at the very least, provide an accessible alternative.
PDF documents should also include a series of tags to make it more accessible. A tagged PDF file looks the same, but it is almost always more accessible to a person using a screen reader.
Allow users to skip repetitive elements on the page
You should provide a method that allows users to skip navigation or other elements that repeat on every page. This is usually accomplished by providing a "Skip to Content," "Skip to Main Content," or "Skip Navigation" link at the top of the page which jumps to the main content of the page.
Do not rely on color alone to convey meaning
The use of color can enhance comprehension, but do not use color alone to convey information. That information may not be available to a person who is colorblind and will be unavailable to screen reader users.
Make sure content is clearly written and easy to read
There are many ways to make your content easier to understand. Write clearly, use clear fonts, and use headings and lists appropriately.
Design to standards
HTML compliant and accessible pages are more robust and provide better search engine optimization. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) allow you to separate content from presentation. This provides more flexibility and accessibility of your content.
This list does not present all accessibility issues, but by addressing these basic principles, you will ensure greater accessibility of your web content to everyone. You can learn more about accessibility by browsing our articles and resources.