University of Wisconsin–Madison

What is accessible technology?

  • 2 minutes to read
  • Last updated February 2, 2016

Just as with the design of any website, you should consider your users. People who interact with technology are extraordinarily diverse, with a wide variety of characteristics and contexts. It cannot be assumed that everyone is using a traditional monitor, browser, or keyboard. Accessible technology has been designed in a way that can be accessed by all users.

What is web accessibility?

People who use the web have a growing variety of characteristics. Consider these user characteristics:

  • Unable to see.  Individuals who are blind use either audible output (products called screen readers that read web content using synthesized speech) or tactile output (a refreshable Braille device).
  • Has dyslexia. Individuals with learning disabilities such as dyslexia may also use audible output, along with software that highlights words or phrases as they’re read aloud using synthesized speech.
  • Has low vision. Individuals with low vision may use screen magnification software that allows them to zoom into all or a portion of the visual screen. Many others with less-than-perfect eyesight may enlarge the font on websites using standard browser functions, such as Ctrl + in Windows browsers or Command + in Mac browsers.
  • Has a physical disability. Individuals with physical disabilities that effect their their use of hands may be unable to use a mouse, and instead may rely exclusively on keyboard or use assistive technologies such as speech recognition, head pointers, mouth sticks, or eye-gaze tracking systems.
  • Unable to hear. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are unable to access audio content, so video needs to be captioned and audio needs be transcribed.
  • Using a mobile device. Individuals who are accessing the web using a compact mobile device such as a phone face accessibility barriers, just like individuals with disabilities do. They’re using a small screen and may need to zoom in or increase the font size, and they are likely to be using a touch interface rather than a mouse.
  • Limited bandwidth. Individuals may be on slow Internet connections if they’re located in a rural area or lack the financial resources to access high-speed Internet. These users benefit from pages that load quickly and transcripts for video.

The W3C summarizes web accessibility nicely in their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0:

  • Web content must be perceivable
  • Web content must be operable
  • Web content must be understandable
  • Web content must be robust

Get help

The Center for Digital Accessibility & User Experience can help answer questions you may have about creating accessible technology and content, or connect you with the right group.

Policies and Guidelines

Related Guides

Credit: Much of the content in this and other guides in the accessibility series was provided by the University of Washington’s terrific Accessible Technology website.