edX Introduction to Web Accessibility

Introduction to Web Accessibility is a free edX course, though you can receive a certificate by passing the class with a 70% grade and paying $99. The first module of the course has a fantastic overview of many ways people may need a site to be accessible, either because they have a disability (like low vision) they have a temporary issue (like a broken arm), or accessible features make accessing the internet more convenient (like having content read to them.)


  • If you’re using Safari as a browser, to allow tabbing through a site you need to go to Safari preferences > Advanced > and turn on tabbing.
  • This course focuses on raising awareness and providing resources to learn more. It isn’t a technical course and doesn’t include tutorials.

Module 1: What is Web Accessibility

This module was a real eye-opener for me. When I think about accessibility I usually think about people using screen readers or people with low vision who are helped by increasing color contrast, and people with movement issues. But there’s a great deal more to think about. For instance, you might think that increasing font size and line-height is a gimme. But people with tunnel vision will find this less accessible since they can see only a small bit of the text.

Module 2: People and Digital Technology

So if you’re using Safari, you specifically need to turn on the ability to tab through a site. 👍 And tabbing through a site is pretty annoying to do – so please add the ability to skip to the main portion of the site so you don’t force people to go through your nav to get there. 🤓

There are some pretty cool accessibility features that are built into an iPhone and are easy to turn on and off, like voice-over. Having a properly coded site is super important to voice-over since you can choose to scroll through the headers to find the content you’re looking for. If the text was just enlarged and bolded, the user wouldn’t be able to find the content as easily.

I didn’t know that making a site responsive could make a site more accessible for people who use magnification since they can enlarge a site and keep the text to a column to cut down on horizontal scrolling.

Module 3: Business Cases and Benefits

You want people to visit your site. You likely spend a lot of effort on SEO. Of course you want your site to be as accessible as possible.

Including accessibility, a user-focused design approach is important for many reasons including a company’s mission to promote human rights, increasing market share, and abiding by legal requirements. This module focused on what you would consider if you are making the case in your business to put user-focused design, including making your site accessible first.

There was also some great information on what is mobile design. It’s more than phone design and includes the many non-desktop ways we interact with the internet including TV’s, displays on refrigerators and cars, and watches. They also linked to some case studies written by the W3.org group of user experience interacting with the web.

Module 4: Principles, Standards, and Checks

When coding, keep in mind that your site should be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (compatible with different browsers, assistive technologies, and other user agents.)

Here we’re moving into the more technical aspects of creating a site but the course stops short of technical solutions. Instead, they make you aware of sites you can use to learn how to code accessible sites. The discussion groups are especially great in this section. Many people provided links to videos and articles that helped them learn more about the specifics of implementing W3C Accessibility Standards and WAI-ARIA.

Module 5: Getting Started with Accessibility in your Organization

Time to put what we’ve learned into a plan to increase accessibility. This section reinforces the need to create a public policy of ensuring the web site, authoring tools, and environment are accessible and are updated to keep abreast of standards and technology. There’s a real emphasis on who needs to be involved in the initiative and what level of knowledge they’ll need. When new features are creating or a site is updated, accessibility concerns need to be considered from the outset. They also strongly encourage involving people with disabilities from the beginning – while being aware that a single person with a disability does not speak for all.


The course is definitely worth taking. The best parts for me were an increase in my awareness of different disabilities and adaptive technologies and resources for learning more. Businesses spend gobs of time and money increasing their SEO to bring more visitors to their site. Gatekeeping based on disability is working against their best interests. If accessibility is considered from the outset, costs are kept down and the benefit of increased traffic can be achieved.