This article looks at Web Accessibility and gives specific mention to the standards and requirements that have been established by industry professional groups.
The World Wide Web Consortium or simply W3C, have developed and fostered a program called the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The initiative is regarded as the international standard for web accessibility. The WAI set standards, develop guidelines, provide resources and support materials that promote systematic web development and aims to make the web accessible to all.
Under the WAI, the following standards have been authored and are the global bench mark for web accessibility
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – The WCAG standard outlines how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. The content refers to information on a web page in the form of text, images, multimedia material, and sounds. It also refers to the programming language or markup that defines its structure and presentation. The WCAG standard is designed with authoring in mind and is aimed at web developers and designers, web authoring tool developers, web accessibility evaluation tool developers and any other persons or groups such as governments or community groups who strive to set a standard in web content accessibility.
- Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) – The ATAG standard explains how to make the authoring tools that are used to build dynamic web pages, accessible to those with disabilities so they too can create and publish web content. Furthermore and importantly, the standard promotes the production of web content in a way in which the published content itself conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) so that people using the website and on the receiving end of the chain, can access and interpret the content. The ATAG standard is primarily for the use of developers of authoring tools and those that wish to develop tools that are far more accessible. The following are some of the types of authoring tools that developers are utilising and that should adhere to the ATAG standard, What-you-see-is-what you get HTML editors, software for developing websites such as content management systems, software that converts to documents to web content technologies, multimedia authoring tools, websites that allow users to add content such as blogs and photo-sharing sites.
- User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) – Quick Note: For the intended purpose of this topic, a user agent is described and intended to be a web browser or other software application that renders web content. Generally speaking and according to wikipedia, a user agent is a software agent that acts on behalf of a user. The UAAG standard explains how developers of user agents can work to make them accessible to those with disabilities. In some cases, accessibility is better met in the browser than in the web content allowing users with specific needs to customise the content, preferences and interface to suit their specific needs. For user agent developers that conform to the standard, they will improve upon their web accessibility by allowing the software greater ability to communicate with assistive technologies that are widely used by people with disabilities. The UAAG has been developed primarily for the use of developers of web browsers, browser extensions, media players, readers and other software applications that serve the purpose of rendering web content. The standard is also intended for those looking to improve upon their own software when it comes to audience reach and its accessibility, individuals looking to choose a more accessible user agent or even people who wish to file bug issues against the UAAG in the hopeful desire that their chosen user agent will improve upon these issues in the future.
As well as the above guidelines established by the WAI, the initiative have published a number of documents that serve as recommendations for improved accessibility across modern websites.
- Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) – The ARIA documentation provides accessibility recommendations on how to help make web pages with more dynamic and interactive content accessible to those with disabilities
- Independent User Interface (Indie UI) – Indie UI describes ways in which user actions can be communicated to web applications. It will provide improved accessibility by allowing web applications to function across different devices, different assistive technologies and for users with differing but specific needs