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 the Web 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.

Guideline Summary Content affected
1.1.1 Non-text content Write an appropriate short or long text alternative for images, except then they're purely decorative. images
1.3.1 Info and relationships Tag headings, lists, tables, quotations and emphasised text. text
1.3.3 Sensory characteristics Don'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 colour Don't use colour alone to communicate information. images, text
1.4.3 and 1.4.6 Contrast Use 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 text Use 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 titled Write a descriptive page title. metadata
2.4.4 and 2.4.9 Link purpose Write 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 labels Write descriptive headings and labels. text
2.4.10 Section headings Label each part of the content with a heading. text
3.1.2 Language of parts Tag foreign language words or phrases, unless they are proper names, technical terms or have become part of English. written conten
3.1.3 Unusual words Define jargon, idioms or special terms. text
3.1.4 Abbreviations Define abbreviations (including acronyms and initialisms). text
3.1.5 Reading level Write 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 Pronunciation Provide a pronunciation if a word's intended meaning is not clear. text
3.2.4 Consistent identification Use icons and their text alternatives consistently. images
3.2.5 Change on request Avoid opening links in new windows. If you must, include a warning within the link text. links

Learn web content accessibility

Make sure a broad audience can use your content. Our course teaches how to create content that meets WCAG 2.1 guidelines.

Book a course at