The emergence of the World Wide Web has made it possible for individuals with appropriate computer and telecommunications equipment to interact as never before. It presents new changes and new hopes to people with disabilities”
Tim Berners Lee
WEB accessibility – the only way of www evolution
In early 1996 White House paid close attention to the problems connected with people with disabilities. According to the research made by U.S. Census Bureau – about 56.7 million people, living in US — about 19 percent of the population — has some kind of disability.
W3C groups and guidelines
Approximately at the same time this subject was on the agenda in The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). So, as the result – a wide meeting was held on the 6th of January 1997. White House, together with W3C, with different government authorities, representatives from academia, industry and funding decided to invest $1,3 million/year for 3 years in elaboration of this project. And the work started…
Within the walls of W3C the branch, called Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) was born. Their aim is to develop guidelines and other technical reports to improve the accessibility of Web for people with disabilities. WAI consists of several working groups, special “task force” groups and interest groups. They are always in touch with each other via conference calls but also meet face to face several times a year. But only working groups can produce technical reports that become W3C recommendations, so in this post we will overview only them.
This department provides guidelines for designing web content authoring tools, that create web content – WYSIWYG (so called what you see is what you get) – ranging from desktop HTML editors to content management systems. They published the “Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.” in 2000 and currently working on Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.
This group develops technical specifications that support the accessibility and repair of Web sites. It also maintains a database of tools for making sites more accessible.
This group reviews all W3C technologies for accessibility before they are published as recommendations.
It must be the most productive and as a result the most well-known working group. They produce guidelines techniques and other supporting documents, relating to the accessibility of Web content (text, images, forms, sound, videos etc.). This work-group published the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0. in 1999, and than in 2008 – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Following these guidelines will make content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these.
For the last few years more and more public administration authorities in countries all over the world oblige social, government, educational and other non-profit organizations to optimize their web sites for people with disabilities. And though for some regions this is still just recommendation notes yet – the one thing is clear today – if you are a socially responsible organization, then sooner or later you will come to the decision of rebuilding the site according to the accessibility guidelines. For the last few years the amount of projects fitting WCAG requirements increased in times.