Making the Web More Accessible

New W3C standards aim to help developers make Web browsers and multimedia players accessible to disabled individuals.

The end of the year, which typically signals slowdown in the technology industry, instead saw a flurry of activity in the Web applications and Web services standards space.

Closing out the year, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) last month released the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 1.0 to help developers make Web browsers and multimedia players accessible to disabled individuals.

In addition to laying out guidelines that address accessibility requirements, UAAG 1.0 also addresses interoperability of browsers and multimedia players with technologies used to assist the disabled in accessing the Web and content from other sources.

The W3C issued UAAG 1.0 as a W3C Recommendation, which means the specification has been issued as a "standard" for developers to adhere to.

Judy Brewer, director of the W3Cs Web Accessibility Initiative International Program Office, said UAAG 1.0 is the third leg of a set of Web accessibility standards from the W3C. The other two—already in place—are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG) and the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (ATAG). The three specifications come out of the W3Cs Web Accessibility Initiative, which has been ongoing for five years.

The three guidelines cover several areas of making a Web site or media player accessible, including visual, structural, auditory, physical, cognitive and neurological guidelines for accessibility.

Brewer said "there are already a number of features [from UAAG 1.0] implemented in different products." The W3C extended the candidate recommendation period for the specification "to hammer out testing and also to gauge industry interest… But engineers have been waiting for this to be a W3C recommendation, and Im hoping well see accelerated adoption" of the standard, Brewer said.

Brewer said the W3C guidelines go far beyond the accessibility guidelines put forth in the federal governments accessibility standard: Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act.