W3C advances Web accessibility guidelines

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has updated its recommendations for designing Web pages so people with disabilities can easily access them.

Version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines offers techniques to help prepare Web pages so they can be read by those with vision, hearing or cognitive limitations. Such users often use screen readers, Braille displays, audio text readers and other assistive technologies.

Released last week, Version 2.0 updates the first version of the guidelines, which was published in 1999.

"Version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines goes a long way toward promoting [the] goal of global harmonization of accessibility requirements,” said David Capozzi, executive director of the U.S. Access Board, in a statement. “The Access Board hopes to further the goal in its rulemaking to update its Section 508 standards in the coming year."

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires agencies to give equal access to all available information to employees and members of the public with disabilities.

Developed by W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative, the latest version of the guidelines both simplifies and extends the recommendations. It divides them into four categories, which aim to make Web pages more:

  • Perceivable. This group of recommendations describes how to render Web pages so that the content can be transposed into other formats, such as Braille, large type or read aloud.
  • Operable. This group of recommendations discusses how to set up Web pages that can be easily navigated.
  • Understandable. This group of recommendations offers tips on shaping content so it can be easily understood.
  • Robust. This group of recommendations describes how to future-proof Web pages and make them digestible by the widest possible range of assistive technologies.
In addition to the guidelines, W3C also offers a quick reference guide, a a set of techniques for implementing the suggestions and a document that discusses the recommendations in exhaustive detail.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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