Web Accessibility Initiative
On April 7, 1997, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) launched the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI™). Accessibility refers to the usability of an application or Web site by people with disabilities. The majority of Web sites are considered either partially or totally in-accessible to people with visual, learning or mobility impairments. Total accessibility is difficult to achieve because people have varying types of disabilities, language barriers and hardware and software inconsistencies. However, a high level of accessibility is attainable. As more people with disabilities use the Internet, it is imperative that Web site designers increase the accessibility of their sites. The WAI aims for such accessibility, as discussed in its mission statement described at www.w3.org/WAI.
This chapter explains some of the techniques for developing accessible Web sites. The WAI published the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 to help businesses determine if their Web sites are accessible to everyone. The WCAG 1.0 (www.w3.org/ TR/WCAG10) uses checkpoints to indicate specific accessibility requirements. Each checkpoint has an associated priority indicating its importance. Priority-one checkpoints are goals that must be met to ensure accessibility; we focus on these points in this chapter. Priority-two checkpoints, though not essential, are highly recommended. These check-points must be satisfied, or people with certain disabilities will experience difficulty accessing Web sites. Priority-three checkpoints slightly improve accessibility.
At the time of this writing, the WAI is working on a WCAG 2.0 draft. A single check-point in the WCAG 2.0 Working Draft may encompass several checkpoints from WCAG 1.0. WCAG 2.0 checkpoints will supersede those in WCAG 1.0. The new version can be applied to a wider range of markup languages (i.e., XML, WML, etc.) and content types than its predecessor. To obtain more information about the WCAG 2.0 Working Draft, visit www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20.
The WAI also presents a supplemental checklist of quick tips, which reinforce ten important points for accessible Web site design. More information on the WAI Quick Tips can be found at www.w3.org/WAI/References/Quicktips.
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