Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Web Accessibility

Reference to my last post, Web Standards Movement, Web Accessibility is a very important issue behind the Web standards: not only does it mean allowing the Web to be fully used by people with disabilities, it also means allowing people with unconventional browsers to have access to any web page.

The DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) states that service providers must not discriminate against disabled people. A web site is regarded as a service and therefore falls under this law, and as such must be made accessible to everyone.

Accessibility involves two key issues: first, how users with disabilities access electronic information, and second, how web content designers and developers enable web pages to function with assistive devices used by individuals with disabilities.

For the user with a disability, the challenge is to identify tools that provide the most convenient access to web-based and other electronic information. For the web content designer/developer, the challenge is to remove the obstacles that prevent accessibility tools from functioning effectively. In many cases, these challenges are relatively simple to overcome, but sometimes the solutions require some additional thought and effort.

Yes.. Accessibility Has Standards

Accessibility standards help designers and developers of web content identify and address accessibility issues.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the W3C represented the first major effort to establish guidelines for accessible design. This standard consists of 14 guidelines, each with three checkpoint levels for web developers to meet: Priority One, Priority Two, and Priority Three.

In individual countries, national standards emerged later. Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act in the United States is based on WCAG Priority One checkpoints. These same checkpoints serve as the basis for standards in Australia, France, Germany, and many other countries. The Common Look and Feel standard in Canada and Guidelines for U.K. Government Web Sites in the United Kingdom are based on Priorities One and Two of the WCAG.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)'s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is an effort to improve the accessibility of the World Wide Web (WWW or Web) for people using a wide range of user agent devices, not just standard web browsers. This is especially important for people with physical disabilities which require such devices to access the Web.

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