Although published back in the last century, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines provide a valuable resource for developers and web designers, and should be mandatory reading for all development teams, designers, business analysts, and anyone drawing up specifications.

The guidelines explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities, but more importantly how make that content more available to all users, whatever user agent or browser they are using.

Recently I had cause to grateful for Guideline 6, which states “Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully”. This encourages you to build sites that are accessible even when newer technologies are not supported or are turned off. Although developers are encouraged to use the new technologies that solve problems, they should know how to make sure their pages still work with older browsers and people who choose to turn off features.

My gratitude was prompted because I had cause to access the Web from behind a corporate firewall, where security policy blocked all client side scripting. This wiped out JavaScript validation, on-click button handlers, clever Ajax page loader and anything except plain vanilla HTML. Fortunately the application I was using at the time still worked because it provided alternative ways to load, edit and save the data.

Sure it didn’t have the flashy stuff to automatically wrap my text in valid tags, but hey, hand coding HTML can be therapeutic!