W3C promotes Web access for disabled

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on Tuesday issued guidelines intended to make Web browsers and multimedia players more accessible to disabled persons.

The W3C's User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 1.0 is a formal W3C Recommendation, meaning it is "essentially an Internet standard for browser and media player design," said Judy Brewer, director of Web accessibility at W3C.

"The accessibility [effort is about] making sure that regardless of what kind of disability, people can still get the information from a Web site," she said.

Written for software developers, the W3C Recommendation represents consensus among developers and the disability community on accessibility features needed in browsers and multimedia players used to access the Web.

Examples of enabling disabled access include making browser commands accessible on a keyboard for those who cannot use a mouse and support for screen reader technology, which intercepts what is on a screen and directs it to a speech synthesizer or refreshable braille device for the blind, Brewer said.

"There are millions of blind people using the Web," she said, noting that some of the features in the W3C guidelines already are being implemented in products.

UAAG 1.0 addresses HTML and XHTML browsers, multimedia players, graphics viewers, and assistive technologies. The recommendation is the third in a series of recommendations on Web accessibility, following Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 and Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.

In addition to the formal recommendation, the UAAG Working Group at W3C has produced a related test suite, interactive forms for evaluation, and a techniques document with detailed information on implementation in different markup languages and user agent types.

Among those endorsing UAAG 1.0 include the American Association of People with Disabilities, American Council of the Blind, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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