Introduction – accessibility for web writers

Introduction to a 19-part series on accessibility for web writers, based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.

In this series of articles we discuss the parts of theWeb Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 that web writers should be familiar with.  If you’re trying to make your site accessible, or comply with legislation or policy, we hope you’ll find this series helpful.

Note: We are updating the articles in this series in early 2016.


This series assumes web writers:

  • Create content that’s published within a content management system. Writers have more control over design or development may need to know more than we discuss in this series.
  • Don’t produce multimedia. Instead they write and structure text-based content, add links and images, and create page titles.  If you do produce multimedia, you’ll need to be aware of the relevant accessibility guidelines.

Guidelines relevant to web writers

Based on these assumptions, web writers need to be aware of 12 guidelines to meet Australian policy of level-AA conformance (or 22 guidelines to meet level-AAA). The table below summarises these guidelines and the type of content they apply to.

GuidelineSummaryContent affected
1.1.1 Non-text contentWrite an appropriate short or long text alternative for images, except then they’re purely decorative.images
1.3.1 Info and relationshipsTag headings, lists, tables, quotations and emphasised text.text
1.3.3 Sensory characteristicsDon’t write instructions that rely on things that can only be seen (shape, size, screen location, orientation) or heard (audio).text
1.4.1 Use of colourDon’t use colour alone to communicate information.images, text
1.4.3 and 1.4.6 ContrastUse a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for text and images of text, unless the text is decorative or part of a logo. Use a ratio of at least 3:1 for large text (18 points or 14 points bold and larger).images
1.4.5 and 1.4.9 Images of textUse styled text rather than images of text unless users it’s technically impossible or users can customise the text style or an image is essential.images
2.3.1 and 2.3.2 Three flashes (or below threshold)Don’t use animated graphics that could cause a seizure.images
2.4.2 Page titledWrite a descriptive page title.metadata
2.4.4 and 2.4.9 Link purposeWrite descriptive link text, or ensure the link’s purpose is contained in the enclosing sentence, paragraph, list item (or parent item), table cell (or associated header cell).links
2.4.6 Headings and labelsWrite descriptive headings and labels.text
2.4.10 Section headingsLabel each part of the content with a heading.text
3.1.2 Language of partsTag foreign language words or phrases, unless they are proper names, technical terms or have become part of English.written conten
3.1.3 Unusual wordsDefine jargon, idioms or special terms.text
3.1.4 AbbreviationsDefine abbreviations (including acronyms and initialisms).text
3.1.5 Reading levelWrite content that scores below grade 10 on a readability test, after removing proper names and titles). Otherwise, provide supplementary content or an easier-to-read version.text
3.1.6 PronunciationProvide a pronunciation if a word’s intended meaning is not clear.text
3.2.4 Consistent identificationUse icons and their text alternatives consistently.images
3.2.5 Change on requestAvoid opening links in new windows. If you must, include a warning within the link text.links

Articles in this series

In the following articles we explain each guideline and include examples.

  1. Text alternatives
  2. Info and relationships
  3. Sensory characteristics
  4. Colour
  5. Contrast
  6. Images of text
  7. Three flashes (or below threshold)
  8. Page titles
  9. Link purpose
  10. Headings and labels
  11. Section headings
  12. Language of parts
  13. Unusual words
  14. Abbreviations
  15. Reading level
  16. Pronunciation
  17. Consistent identification
  18. Change on request