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W3C Advances Web Accessibility Guidelines

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has updated its set of recommendations for designing Web pages so they can easily accessed by those with disabilities.

Version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provides techniques to help prepare Web pages so they can be read by those who are blind, deaf or have cognitive limitations. Such users may 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, 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, the U.S. Access Board executive director, in a statement. The Access Board hopes to further the goal in its rulemaking to update its [S]ection 508 standards in the coming year."

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

Developed by the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative working group, the new version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines both simplifies and extends the first set of the recommendations. It divides the recommendations into four categories, each group aimed to make the Web page more:

  • Perceivable: This group of recommendations advises how to render Web pages in such a way that the content can be transposed into other formats, such as braille, large-type, or read-aloud.

  • Operable: This group of recommendations advises how to set up Web pages that they can be easily navigated.

  • Understandable: This group of recommendations offers tips on how to shape content so it can be easily understood.

  • Robust: This group of recommendations advises how to future-proof Web pages, as well as make them digestible by the widest possible range of assistive technologies.
In addition to the guidelines themselves, the W3C also offers a quick reference guide, a set of techniques for implementing the suggestions, and a document that details the recommendations in exhaustive detail.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the chief technology editor of Government Computing News (GCN.com).

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