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W3C Web Standard Defines Accessibility for Next Generation Web

Collaborative Effort Results in More Flexible and Testable Standard; Advances Accessibility of the Web

Today W3C announces a new standard that will help Web designers and developers create sites that better meet the needs of users with disabilities and older users. Drawing on extensive experience and community feedback, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 improve upon W3C's groundbreaking initial standard for accessible Web content.

This new standard from the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) will advance accessibility across the full range of Web content (such as text, images, audio, and video) and Web applications. WCAG 2.0 can be more precisely tested, yet it allows Web developers more flexibility and potential for innovation. Together with supporting technical and educational materials, WCAG 2.0 is easier to understand and use.

WCAG 2.0 addresses barriers to accessing the Web experienced by people with visual, auditory, physical, cognitive and neurological disabilities, and by older Web users with accessibility needs. WCAG 2.0 explains how to make content:

* Perceivable (for instance by addressing text alternatives for images, captions for audio, adaptability of presentation, and color contrast);

* Operable (by addressing keyboard access, color contrast, timing of input, seizure avoidance, and navigability);

* Understandable (by addressing readability, predictability, and input assistance); and

* Robust (for instance by addressing compatibility with assistive technologies).

Wide Support for WCAG 2.0

"Because WCAG 2.0 applies to all Web technologies, it can help ensure that the Web stays open to people with disabilities even as we continually introduce new technologies. We incorporated feedback from thousands of comments received during the development of WCAG 2.0 regarding user needs, and technical feasibility," said Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden, Co-Chair of WCAG Working Group, and Director of the Trace R&D Center at the University of Wisconsin. "WCAG 2.0 represents the outcome of a major collaborative effort, and its final form is widely supported by industry, disability organizations, research and government. This balance is important in order for WCAG 2.0 to serve as a unifying international standard for Web accessibility."

Extensive supporting materials to help developers and policy-makers include WCAG 2.0 at a Glance; WCAG 2.0 Documents; How to Meet WCAG 2.0: A Customizable Quick Reference; Understanding WCAG 2.0; and Techniques for WCAG 2.0. Techniques are already available for HTML, CSS, SMIL, Scripting, and Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA), and are under development for additional Web technologies. Resources to support transition include How to Update Your Web Site to WCAG 2.0. Essential Components of Web Accessibility describes the relationship between WCAG 2.0 and other Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines that also have 2.0 versions under development.

Far-Reaching Impact

"Web accessibility helps us reach a broader audience by supporting access to the Web for people with disabilities, as well as increasing usability across a variety of mobile devices," explained Loretta Guarino Reid, Co-Chair of WCAG WG, and Google Accessibility Engineer. "The Web community helped us demonstrate successful use of WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.0 test procedures in diverse types of Web technologies, Web content, interactive applications, and natural languages. These trial implementations also show the continuity between WCAG 1.0 and 2.0, as most Web sites that conformed to WCAG 1.0 did not need significant changes to meet WCAG 2.0."

While WCAG 1.0 was adopted widely, there is even broader interest in adoption of WCAG 2.0 by organizations and governments worldwide. The Policy for Authorized W3C Translations is expected to facilitate direct adoption in local languages.

"In the recently passed United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, access to information and communications technologies is for the first time recognized internationally as a human right," according to George Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium. "WCAG 2.0 will help to make access to information a reality around the world."

Current and recent participants in the WCAG Working Group include Adobe, AOL, Google, IBM, International Webmasters Association/HTML Writers' Guild, Microsoft, NIST, SAP, and Vision Australia, and individual Invited Experts from research, disability, government and standards organizations in Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, and the United States. In addition, the extensive public review process resulted in comments from hundreds of organizations and individuals around the world.

Marie-Claire Forgue | alfa
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