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W3C Documents Development For The Disabled

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today published documents to help developers create Web sites that are more easily accessible for people with disabilities.

People with disabilities, such as blindness or deafness, rely on assistive technologies, such as speech dictation software, screen readers and on-screen keyboards to access the Web.

These tools require information about the semantics of a document to present Web menus, content and banners in an accessible form.

But some Web sites run applications that deliver a combination of too many scripting-rich technologies, the W3C said in a statement.

These include technologies and languages such as AJAX , DHTML , JavaScript  and SVG , which don't usually provide the semantics needed to support assistive technologies.

In fact, such technologies can even prevent people with disabilities from accessing these applications, locking them out of some of the most interesting aspects of the Internet.

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative's (WAI) roadmap for Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) outlines a way for ensuring interoperability between rich Internet applications and assistive technologies used by people with disabilities.

Specifically, the guidelines map controls, AJAX live regions and events to accessibility APIs  , including custom controls used for rich Web apps.

The roadmap also documents new navigation techniques to delineate menus, primary content, secondary content, banner information and other types of Web structures.

These new technologies can be used to improve the accessibility and usability of Web resources by people with disabilities without major changes to existing Web resources.

"This new suite of documents... is significant because they will help developers gain access to the tools needed to support persons with disabilities on the Web," said Rich Schwerdtfeger, IBM distinguished engineer and author of the WAI-ARIA roadmap.

Other organizations working on the WAI-ARIA roadmap under the aegis of the W3C include Adobe Systems , AOL , Opera Software, Oracle , SAP AG  and the Royal National Institute for the Blind.