What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility is intended to ensure the web works for the widest possible audience. This means that any item, tool, or web element can be accessed by everyone, including those with differing abilities that may require additional elements to ensure access.

Perspective through numbers

A significant portion of the United States population has some form of a disability.

Prevalence of disability by age, from the American Community Survey 5-year estimate, 2011-2015
Age Group Estimated Total Number Estimated with Disability Estimated Percent with Disability
All Ages 311,516,332 38,601,898 12.4%
Under 5 years 53,637,150 159,879 0.8%
5 to 17 years 72,307,218 2,853,439 5.3%
18 to 35 years 122,348,530 4,218,974 5.8%
35 to 64 years 24,857,845 15,766,614 12.9%
65 to 74 years 18,455,769 6,330,993 25.5%
75 years and over 53,637,150 9,271,999 50.2%


Among community colleges, approximately 12% of students indicate some form of disability through the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (2007-2008 & 2011-2012) from the US Department of Education. (Source: AACU Datapoints, Diverse disabilities, October 2015)

Students will not always identify

It is important to note that not all students with a disability make use of the Center for Disability Services. As a direct result, it is likely that an instructor will have a student with different abilities in their class but will not be given any awareness of it through official processes.

Additionally, in regards to online learning, many institutions and students believe that online courses should be built so that a student would not need to identify with a disability. In fact, many students with a disability will take an online course as they believe it will let them be seen for their educational abilities rather than for their personal disabilities. As stated in a Northwestern University School of Professional Studies page, Why is web accessibility important?,

“They provide greater flexibility, allowing students to do their work when they have the most ability, rather than when the class is scheduled. They are easier to access for students with mobility issues. And they allow students to maintain their privacy if they do not want to report their disability.”