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What is accessibility?
Accessibility is for everyone is for everyone. Learn why accessible websites matter.

What makes content accessible?

Accessibility is for everyone. In fact, it’s less about accessibility and more about inclusivity: Inviting all users to the party.
Accessibility often includes web elements such as:
  • Font styles
  • Colors and color contrasts
  • Text size
  • Image placement and captions
  • Alternative text on images
  • Link clarity
  • Content reading level
  • Content display, including accordions, subheads, tab containers, and tables
  • Captions and video or audio transcriptions
  • Accessible controls for mouse, keyboard, etc.
Why is this important? Because 1 in 4 adults in the United States has a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This includes:
  • 2.8 million with severe vision impairments
  • 3.6 million with severe hearing impairments
  • 8.4 million with severe physical impairments
  • 6.5 million with severe cognitive impairments

Guidelines for accessibility

Accessibility guidelines come from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and their Web Accessibility Initiative. This initiative laid out several guidelines known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG. WCAG comes in three levels of compliance:
  • Level A: The bare-minimum compliance. All web content should achieve this level of compliance.
  • Level AA: The target compliance level that meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for public entities. This optimized level achieves broader accessibility and is the goal we aim to meet.
  • Level AAA: The highest level achievable. This level of compliance exceeds requirements.
At Mass.gov, we always aim for the highest level of accessibility to meet constituents where they are, no matter their needs or abilities.

How do people with impairments use the web?

It depends on the impairment.
One common assistive tool is a screen reader. Screen readers read the content on a webpage. Watch how one person uses their screen reader to browse the web (video, 8 minutes, 43 seconds):
Blind or vision impaired users rely on screen reader software, like JAWS, to help them navigate the web.
That’s why it’s important to make Mass.gov accessible – to ensure everyone who needs information from us can find what they need and use it.
Other types of assistive software and tools include:
  • Refreshable braille displays, which uses a flat keyboard-like device to translate text into braille
  • Dictation, which helps users navigate, type, and interact with websites by voice
  • Keyboard accessibility, which allows keyboard controls (such as the TAB key) to be used as a way to navigate and choose content on a page instead of a mouse
  • Screen mangification, which enlarges text and graphics to help users see them
  • Motion tracking and eye tracking, which focuses on the user's eyes to control a mouse and navigate the web
  • Single switch entry devices, which can be used with other input devices to help people move about a page of content or navigate

Benefits of accessible websites

The most important benefit of an accessible website is that everyone can use it. But it also has other benefits that can be helpful to your organization and your web metrics:
  • Accessible websites perform better in search. It’s easier for search engines like Google to understand the context of a website or webpage that is accessibly built
  • It improves user experience. Because accessibility isn’t just for people who use assistive tools, it actually benefits all users across the web. Closed captioning on videos, for example, are helpful to people in a loud setting who couldn’t otherwise hear a video. Accessibility gives people other options for browsing content depending on their environment or needs. You’ll reach more people and provide the best user experience possible.
  • Makes content compatible and accessible across devices. Whether someone is using a desktop computer or a smartphone, accessible content makes it possible to digest content on any device.
The Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD) offers accessibility consulting to Commonwealth agencies. This includes testing accessibility of electronic documents, trainings, websites, and software.

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