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W3C Releases Draft of Web Accessibility Initiative

The World Wide Web Consortium this week released the first public working draft of the Web Accessibility Initiative.

The Accessibility Guidelines for Page Authoring, which is just one part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), are being developed to make sure that disabled people have equal access to the Web.

Judy Brewer, Director of the Web Accessibility Initiative International Program Office, explained the importance of the WAI for disabled people: "The Page Authoring Guidelines reflect the accessibility improvements in HTML 4.0, and are an outcome of a collaboration among industry, disability and research organizations, as well as governments from around the world."

"The W3C WAI Markup Guidelines Working Group is developing these guidelines as a key reference for Web authors and site builders who want to ensure that their Web sites can be reached by the broadest possible audience," continued Brewer.

Developers already have a headstart on the WAI if they have been using HTML 4.0 and Cascading Style Sheets Level 2 (CSS2) as they are the foundation of the WAI. The WAI Page Authoring Guidelines are written to provide strategies that will improve the accessibility of document structure, navigation, and alternative formatting of content.

Guideline topics include:

  • images
  • image maps
  • audio
  • video
  • tables
  • links
  • frames
  • user-input forms

The guidelines feature suggested "tests" for Web accessibility, concluding with an accessibility checklist. Alternative text is required for images, and new constructs will allow the developer to provide more detailed textual descriptions of images, image maps, tables, and frames.

The W3C is offering the Web community the use of its HTML Validation Service, which validates Web pages against the HTML 4.0 Recommendation. The Validation Service will be updated as additional guidelines are introduced by the WAI Guidelines Working Groups.

The WAI Accessibility Guidelines: Page Authoring Working Draft is available for public viewing. For additional information, visit the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative page.