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W3C Issues Internet Access Guidelines

Calling for equal access for all Internet users, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) this week unveiled a set of Internet access guidelines for site designers and Webmasters.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 establish principles for accessible design, such as the need to provide equivalent alternatives for auditory and visual information. Each guideline has associated "checkpoints" explaining how these accessibility principles apply to specific features of sites.

The guidelines are designed to be forward-compatible with evolving Web technologies, the group said. Specifics on how to implement the checkpoints with languages such as HTML, CSS and SMIL are included.

The guidelines were drawn up to encourage information providers to raise their level of accessibility, said Tim Berners-Lee, director of W3C.

"It has always been difficult to know, when making a site more accessible, which changes are critical," he said.

"These guidelines answer that question, and set common expectations so that providers of Web sites and users can be much more strategic."

The guidelines are the result of collaboration between industry, disability organizations, accessibility research centers and governments. They have been working together to identify consensus solutions for barriers that people with disabilities encounter on the Web.

To implement the guidelines, the W3C is developing an online curriculum, giving Web authors examples of tables, frames, animations and multimedia mark ups that adhere to the guidelines, said Judy Brewer, domain leader for the group's Web Accessibility Initiative.

The goal is to contribute to the universality of the Web, the group said.