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W3C To Open Web to Those With Disabilities

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Tuesday advanced the final set of guidelines in its triad of recommendations geared at making the Web more accessible to those with disabilities.

W3C said it issued the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (UAAG 1.0) as a W3C Recommendation, complementing the previously issued Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1.0) and the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (ATAG 1.0).

UAAG lays out the accessibility features required in browsers and multimedia players to allow those with different abilities to access the Web. It addresses HTML and XHTML browsers, multimedia players, graphics viewers and assistive technologies.

"Web browsers and media players serve people as the front door to the Web," said Tim Berners-Lee, father of the World Wide Web and director of W3C. "But when those tools aren't usable by people with disabilities, it's akin to locking the door and leaving no key. For the past five years, the technical and disability experts in the Web Accessibility Initiative have provided definitive guidelines for making accessible Web content and designing authoring software that does the same, automatically. Today, with the announcement of the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines, developers have the specific guidance they need to make Web browsers and media players more useful to more people."

UAAG 1.0 is designed to help software developers address requirements such as accessibility of the user interface, rendering of accessibility information, and user choice in configuring browsers and media players. Also, the guidelines describe interoperability of mainstream browsers and multimedia players with assistive technologies.

Jon Gunderson, chair of the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (UAWG), noted that in addition to producing UAAG 1.0, the UAWG has produced detailed information on implementing UAAG 1.0 in various markup languages and user agent types, a test suite for UAAG 1.0, and interactive forms for UAAG 1.0 evaluations.

"These tools will enable developers, users, and purchasing agents to assess the extent of accessibility improvements in Web software," he said.

UAAG, WCAG and ATAG were all developed under the aegis of the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), which formed five years ago to address accessibility issues for users with visual, auditory, physical, cognitive and neurological disabilities. WAI works with the support of the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the European Commission's Information Society Technologies Programme, Canada's Assistive Devices Industry Office, Elisa Communications, Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Verizon Foundation and Wells Fargo.