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The purpose of the Web Accessibility Standards is to ensure access to state web pages for everyone. The scope of these standards encompasses more than compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other statutes that call for accessible technology for people with disabilities.
Enterprise Web Accessibility Standards
The purpose of the Web Accessibility Standards is to ensure access to state web pages for everyone. The scope of these standards encompasses more than compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other statutes that call for accessible technology for people with disabilities.1
The standards also address access issues for people using different technologies, including older technologies (slower Internet connections, for example) and newer technologies (mobile devices, for example), as well as issues of computer literacy.
These standards apply to external and internal agency web sites, and web-based applications. The audiences for this document are agency heads, webmasters, web content providers, application developers, and vendors or contractors doing web and application development for agency sites. These groups are jointly responsible for ensuring that agency web sites are accessible.
These standards were developed by the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS) with the participation of state web page developers, including developers with disabilities. They are intended for use by all state agencies and their contractors to address accessibility issues in web page design and application development. These standards are based on the following laws and regulations. It should be noted that these standards apply to all web sites maintained by Executive Department agencies, whether or not those sites and those agencies are subject to these laws:
These standards are also based on the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 (http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT)
Each Section 508 standard and W3C accessibility guideline was evaluated for applicability to the Commonwealth's environment and modified where necessary to address the Commonwealth's particular requirements. The standards and guidelines were also reviewed to ensure that they can be implemented using currently available technologies and for compatibility with other Commonwealth policies and standards.
These standards encompass the minimum requirements needed for a state agency to ensure accessibility of its web site under all foregoing laws and the W3C guidelines. All Executive Department web pages developed subsequent to the published date of these standards must incorporate these minimum requirements into their design. As existing web pages are updated, agencies must ensure that the updated pages also meet these requirements. These standards represent a floor, not a ceiling for accessibility: agencies can supplement these standards with their own web publishing guidelines that set higher standards for their own agency.
It is important to note that, for a web site to be accessible under the statutes and regulations referenced above, it cannot simply have a second text-based page with redundant information. This is the least desirable alternative. State agencies must ensure that the functionality provided in the inaccessible site has a fully equivalent alternative in the accessible site. A delay in response or receipt of information due to this alternative page may place the agency in violation of Federal or state disability statutes, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, which can pose serious legal risks to the agency.
Please note that these standards address most accessibility issues. They do not address accessibility of Graphic Information System (GIS) maps and other complicated images.
The standards are grouped in functional categories. Accompanying each standard is:
Standards that apply to web-based applications are in a separate section, grouped in functional categories.
Included in appendices at the end of the document are:
Refer to the Web Accessibility section for a list of key resources on accessibility techniques developed by the workgroup.
The use of HTML tags (headings, lists, blockquotes, tables, for example) is currently the de facto method to achieve desired formatting effects on a web page. However, using HTML tags for presentation effect relies on how a particular version of a particular browser interprets the tags being used.2
If tags are misused, the browser may interpret the tags in a manner unforeseen by the web developer, making it difficult for the user to understand the organization of a page or hindering navigation.
When an appropriate markup language exists, web developers should use the officially sanctioned tags as established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) (http://www.w3.org) to promote consistency and accessibility across all web sites. This means that state agencies must:
For validation purposes, all web pages must identify the markup language and version type in a document type declaration (DOCTYPE) statement.
Example: <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
The document type declaration statement informs the validator which version of HTML, XHTML, or XML the web developer is using. DOCTYPEs are a key component of compliant web pages: the markup and style sheet will not validate without them.
A style sheet or cascading style sheet (CSS) is a set of statements that specify presentation of a document.
It is recommended that web developers use style sheets whenever possible because they enhance accessibility by more precisely controlling layout and appearance of a web page and allow quicker download of pages. When used in conjunction with the other accessibility standards, style sheets make web pages easier to follow for users with disabilities, as well as the general public.
It is strongly recommended that agencies avoid using frames for several reasons:
Correctly designed forms allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form.
A user's disability can have a direct impact on the speed with which he or she can read, move around, or enter information. A page may "time out" before the user is able to finish reading it. Many forms, when they "time out" automatically, also delete whatever data has been entered. The result is that someone with a disability who enters data slowly cannot complete the form.
When a timed response is required, the user must be alerted via a prompt and given sufficient time to indicate whether additional time is needed.
A navigation mechanism is any means by which a user can navigate a web page or web site (for example, navigation bar, site map, or table of contents).
A consistent style of presentation on each page allows users to locate important content and to skip navigation mechanisms, if desired. This not only helps users with learning disabilities, but also makes navigation easier for all users. Predictability will increase the likelihood that users will find information at a site or avoid it when they so desire.
Agency web pages must provide links that allow people using assistive technology to skip repetitive navigational menus or other lengthy lists of links.
Example:<a href="#skipnav" title="Skip to main content.">Skip to main content</a>
... [Navigational links] ...<a name="skipnav" id="skipnav">
... [Main page content] ...
<a href="#skipnav" title="Skip to main content.">Skip to main content</a>
<a name="skipnav" id="skipnav">
When an interactive element can only be activated with a mouse or other pointing device, the element is inaccessible to a person who is using voice input, a keyboard, or other non-pointing input device. This is problematic for users with various types of disabilities such as blindness, quadriplegia, and arthritis, and also for users of some new technologies (mobile technologies, for example).
Graphics can be useful and attractive enhancements to a web page. However, when graphics are used, text equivalents must be provided so that information is also accessible to people from various disability groups using a variety of technologies. Text display is essential to make web pages available to people using assistive technology and also to enhance usability.
Providing non-text equivalents (pictures, videos, and pre-recorded audio, for example) of text are beneficial to some users, especially nonreaders or users who have difficulty reading. In movies or visual presentations, visual action such as body language or other visual cues may not be accompanied by enough audio information to convey the same information. Unless verbal descriptions of this visual information are provided, people who cannot see or interpret the visual content will miss that part of the presentation.
Where streaming video has been approved for use, a state agency must adhere to the following:
Users who are hearing impaired need a text transcript of any information provided in audio format.
Where streaming audio has been approved for use, a state agency can use streaming audio on web pages, but must also:
Example: If a state agency web page provides a link to an audio broadcast of a speech, the content of the speech must also be provided in text format.
State agencies are strongly discouraged from using motion (animated graphics, blinking text, scrolling banners, and auto-updating objects and pages) on a state agency web page for several reasons:
Example: A web page explaining how to make rope knots might have a legitimate need to display how the knot is tied using an animated graphic. However, the animation should begin when the user chooses to activate the motion by selecting it. The user must be able to end the motion. A text description explaining how to make rope knots must also be provided.
If color alone is used to convey information, users who cannot differentiate between certain colors and users with devices that have non-color or non-visual displays will not receive the information. When foreground and background colors are too close to the same hue or luminosity, the colors may not provide sufficient contrast when viewed using monochrome displays or by people with color blindness.
Example: An air quality report that uses a red bar to indicate an alert level must also include that information in text.
An image map is an image that has been divided into regions with associated actions.
When a server-side image map presents the user with a selection of options, browsers cannot indicate to the user the URL that will be followed when a region of the map is activated. Therefore, a redundant text link is necessary to provide access to the page for anyone not able to see or accurately click on the image map.
File formats that require browser plug-ins or special software limit accessibility to information on the web in a number of ways:
The Portable Document Format (PDF) file format is often used for the following business reasons:
When documents are published in PDF, the following are implementation options in order of preference:
Note: Content authors who produce PDF documents for publishing on the web must familiarize themselves with best practices for optimizing PDFs for disabled users. Refer to the Mass.Gov Portal Services website for a list of key resources developed by the workgroup.
Note: Choosing option 2, rather than option 1, means that disabled users do not in fact have equal access to the information that the state agency is providing on the web. This is an option of last resort, and should never be used as a standard practice. Every effort should be made (and documented) to publish all web content in a format that will be accessible to all.
File compression can both assist and hinder accessibility. Smaller files (75% compression is not uncommon) are faster to download - a major concern for users with slower Internet connections. On the other hand, compressed files may require special software to extract the information.
If providing information in a compressed format, the state agency must also adhere to the following:
Note: Single, small files (less than 35 KB) should never be compressed since the time saved downloading may not be worth the need for special software.
The size of a file on the web impacts the time it takes to download that file and is an issue that affects everyone using the web. Users with slower Internet connections and users of the latest mobile technologies are particularly impacted by the issues of file size and download time.
Keep in mind when making decisions about file size that not all users are going to be able to afford high-speed connections. For more information, refer to the report,"Accessibility and the Digital Divide"
To optimize performance on the web, files need to transmit fewer packets of information and minimize server requests. Web developers should use the following practices, whenever possible, to improve download time:
An agency web accessibility statement communicates the agency's commitment to making information accessible and gives a mechanism to request assistance and to provide feedback.
Agency web sites must include a web accessibility statement, linked from the agency home page. The web accessibility statement can be accessed from a site policies link on the home page and included with other site policies, such as the site's privacy and security policies. The web accessibility statement must, at a minimum, provide the following information regarding accessibility issues:
Refer to Appendix A, Sample Agency Web Accessibility Statement, for suggested text.
Validation of new and existing web content allows agencies to ensure conformance to the Standards, ensuring that web content is accessible.
Validation tools in conjunction with human judgment are the only ways to be sure web content meets these standards. Several free accessibility validation tools are available that will test for compliance against WCAG or Section 508 standards; they are limited, however, in what they can do. Do not assume that the agency web site is accessible based solely on automated validation tools. View web pages in alternative browsers to gain a better understanding of how the web site may appear in less-popular browsers.
Compliance with this standard begins with testing using recommended validation tools. Developers should also include persons with disabilities during the development process where feasible. At a minimum, web developers can evaluate the accessibility of the web site themselves using the following methods:
For more information, refer to the list of resources developed by the workgroup on the Mass.Gov Portal Services website.
The following standards apply to web-based applications. These Federal standards are detailed in Section 508 and are incorporated here as Commonwealth standards for web-based applications. For the exact wording and an explanation of each standard, refer to Section 508 standards for software applications and operating systems: http://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-section-508-standards/guide-to-the-section-508-standards
Layout and Design
Standard 8.1: A well-defined on-screen indication of the current focus shall be provided that moves among interactive interface elements as the input focus changes. The focus shall be programmatically exposed so that assistive technology can track focus and focus changes.
Standard 8.2: When electronic forms are used, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.
Standard 8.3: Web-based applications shall not disrupt or disable activated features of other products that are identified as accessibility features, where those features were developed and documented as accessibility standards.
Standard 8.4: Sufficient information about a user interface element including the identity, operation, and state of the element shall be available to assistive technology. When an image represents a program element, the information conveyed by the image must also be available in text.
Standard 8.5: Web-based application functions shall be executable from a keyboard where the function itself or the result of performing a function can be discerned textually.
Standard 8.6: When bitmap images are used to identify controls, status indicators, or other programmatic elements, the meaning assigned to those images shall be consistent throughout the application's performance.
Standard 8.7: When animation is displayed, the information shall be displayable in at least one non-animated presentation mode at the option of the user.
Standard 8.8: Software shall not use flashing or blinking text, objects, or other elements having a flash or blink frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.
Standard 8.9: Web-based applications shall not override user selected contrast and color selections and other individual display attributes.
Standard 8.10: Color coding shall not be used as the only means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element.
Standard 8.11: When a web-based application permits a user to adjust color or contrast settings, a variety of color selections capable of producing a range of contrast levels shall be provided.
The [Agency Name] is committed to achieving meaningful accessibility to this online environment for all users, including users with disabilities. We follow specific Commonwealth enterprise standards [link to latest version of the Enterprise Web Accessibility Standards] designed to meet the needs of our citizens with disabilities. The Commonwealth enterprise standards are generally based on standards used by the Federal government for technology accessibility for people with disabilities, and web content accessibility guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). For more information about the Federal standards, please visit the Section 508 web site (http://www.section508.gov) or the Federal Access Board web site (http://www.access-board.gov). For more information about the W3C guidelines, please visit their web site (http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT). The [Agency Name] web site is regularly tested using leading web accessibility technologies and reviewed by users to verify that this web site is compliant with applicable standards.
About Portable Document Format (PDF)
Some documents on this web site are produced in Portable Document Format (PDF). Efforts are currently underway to ensure that all files are produced using the latest version of Acrobat (file conversion software for PDFs), which is the most accessible technology currently available for these types of files. In order to improve viewing of these files, please download the latest version of Adobe ReaderTM, which is available for free at the Adobe web site (http://www.adobe.com).
However, recognizing that even this version does not always work for all users, alternative accessible formats are provided wherever possible, most commonly through a text or an HTML file.
If any file format prevents you from accessing the information, please contact us for assistance. In order to respond in a manner most helpful to you, please note the nature of your accessibility concern, the format in which you prefer to receive the material, the web page address of the requested material, and the best way to contact you.
We also welcome your questions about this accessibility statement and comments on how to improve the site's accessibility.
Please contact us at [mailing address], 617-XXX-XXXX, or by email at XXXX@state.ma.us.
IMPORTANT: Only messages regarding technical accessibility will be answered at the above phone or email addresses. All other questions should be sent to [Appropriate Agency Web Site Contact Email Address].
This checklist summarizes the requirements set forth in the Web Accessibility Standards, version 2.0. The checklist complements, but is not a substitute for, the standards.
_____ 1.1 HTML markup tags are used according to industry standards.
_____ Markup is used in data tables to identify row and column headers, and to associate table cells with headers.
_____ The markup language and version type is identified on each web page.
_____ Changes in natural language are identified.
_____ 1.2 Style sheets, which are consistent with the remainder of the standards, should be used to control presentation. The web page is readable when style sheets are overridden, turned off, or not supported.
_____ 1.3 The use of frames has been avoided. If frames are used, each frame has been titled.
_____ 1.4 Web pages containing scripts, applets, and other programmed objects are useable with the programmed objects turned off or not supported.
_____ 1.5 Forms are designed to be accessible using assistive technology.
_____ 1.6 If a timed response is required, the user is given the opportunity to request additional time to continue working before the time-out occurs.
_____ 2.1 Navigation is consistent from page to page and includes links that enable users to skip repetitive navigation menus and long lists of links.
_____ 2.2 Users are able to interact with web page elements in a device-independent manner.
_____ 3.1 Every picture, graphic or non-text element, including purely decorative elements, has a text alternative (alt attribute) describing the object.
_____ 3.2 Multimedia presentations include synchronized auditory and readable text descriptions of the visual track.
_____ 3.3 Text-equivalent versions of audio files are provided.
_____ 3.4 Any use of motion is absolutely integral to the site, is user-controlled, is limited to three cycles, and stops automatically.
_____ 3.5 Information is conveyed by means other than just color, and color combinations provide sufficient contrast.
_____ 3.6 Client-side image maps are used whenever possible. If server-side image maps must be used, redundant text links have been provided for each active region.
_____ 4.1 Content is provided in HTML whenever possible.
_____ Alternative formats are only used when necessary and provide links to free readers or viewers.
_____ Contact information is provided for obtaining accessible versions of documents.
_____ 4.2 Compressed files are provided along with the uncompressed format or as self-extracting files.
_____ 5.1 The total document weight of the web page (including HTML, images, and embedded objects) is as small as possible, and file size is indicated when a file for download exceeds 1 MB.
_____ 6.1 An agency web accessibility statement, which outlines the agency's commitment to accessibility and provides contact information for accessibility issues, is provided on the web site.
_____ 7.1 The web content is validated prior to posting and randomly validated at least every two years after posting.
_____ 8 Web-based applications are accessible as specified in the Section 508 standards (36 C.F.R. §1194.21).
1 Accessibility of web sites raises issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Telecommunications Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and other federal and state laws.
2 The current version of the Enterprise Technical Reference Model: Service Oriented Architecture identifies the browsers and minimum versions supported in the Commonwealth.
3 As of the release of this document, the Mass.Gov Search function only indexes HTML pages.
4 Refer to http://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-section-508-standards/guide-to-the-section-508-standards for more information.
5 Refer to http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/full-checklist.html for more information.
6 The latest version of the Enterprise Technical Reference Model: Service Oriented Architecture, available on EOTSS' web site.
7 Refer to http://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-section-508-standards/guide-to-the-section-508-standards for more information.
Version 2.0 of the Web Accessibility Standards updates version 1.0, addressing Federal accessibility standards for the Internet and intranet, and for web-based applications. Version 2.0 is in effect as of the published date of these standards. Executive Department agencies must comply with these standards. Non-Executive Department agencies that have their sites integrated with the Mass.Gov portal must also comply. Other agencies are strongly encouraged to adhere to these standards.
Major revisions to the document are listed in the following table.