W3C NEWS: W3C Issues First Public Draft of Browser Accessibility Guidelines

W3C Issues First Public Draft of Browser Accessibility Guidelines 

WAI Develops Key Step Toward Improving Web Browsing for People with

For immediate release -- 

Contact America -- 
Sally Khudairi <khudairi@w3.org> 
Ian Jacobs <ij@w3.org> +1.212.684.1814 

Contact Europe -- 
Ned Mitchell <ned@ala.com> +33 1 43 22 79 56 
Andrew Lloyd <allo@ala.com> +44 127 367 5100 

Contact Asia -- 
Yumiko Matsubara, <matsubara@w3.org> +81.466.49.1170 

http://www.w3.org/ -- 18 June, 1998 -- Furthering efforts to ensure that
the millions of people with disabilities world wide have access to the
Web, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today issued the first public
Working Draft of the WAI Accessibility Guidelines: User Agent
specification. Developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to
improve usability for all who access the Web, the guidelines focus on
different aspects of browser design, particularly the user interface.
"The WAI Accessibility Guidelines: User Agent specification will provide
guidance to manufacturers of browsers and multimedia players to ensure
that people with disabilities can use their products," explained Judy
Brewer, Director of the Web Accessibility Initiative International
Program Office. 

The WAI Accessibility Guidelines: User Agent specification offers
guidance on presentation adjustability; orientation information;
navigation and control; organization of accessibility features; and
compatability with a variety of technologies. In addition, the
guidelines highlight key elements of HTML 4.0 and Cascading Style Sheets
Level 2 (CSS2) where implementation in browsers is critical to ensure
support for accessibility. 

Broad Implementation Support 

WAI Accessibility Guidelines: User Agents is being developed by the WAI
User Agent Working Group, which includes participation from industry and
invited experts from disability and research organizations. The WAI
Accessibility Guidelines: User Agent specification will assist browser
manufacturers in addressing a key sector of the Web marketplace: 

"Microsoft's Internet Explorer product team fully supports the efforts
of the WAI and has been actively involved in the development of these
guidelines. Internet Explorer 4.01 already implements many of these
guidelines, as well as many of the accessibility features of HTML 4.0,"
said Kathy Hewitt, Accessibility Program Manager for Internet Explorer,
Microsoft Corporation. 

"Opera Software is committed to making the Internet available to all. We
regularly include people with diverse disabilities in our Beta-testing
programs, and have already implemented accessibility features such as
full keyboard support," said Jon S. von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera
Software. "We welcome the coordinated guidance which the WAI
Accessibility Guidelines: User Agent will give us for further
development of the Opera Browser." 

Ray Ingram, Executive Vice President, The Productivity Works, Inc. said,
"the User Agent guidelines are a major step forward in providing a
consistent way for the information on Web pages to be interpreted in an
accessible manner. Improved user agent accessibility, which includes
capabilities specific to non-visual access, will bring the benefits of
the Web to a much broader population.  This permits interaction
appropriate to the needs and abilities of the user as well as opens the
Web to a new generation of Web access devices such as the telephone and
public information kiosks. We fully support this work and are committed
to continuing our efforts to enhance accessibility for all our

"We are happy that the W3C has continued its achievements by publishing
this draft of the browser guidelines," said Chuck King, new product
manager from IBM Special Needs Systems. "We encourage the more than 250
consortium members, all Web browser manufacturers, and any developers of
Internet user agents to review these guidelines and participate in
making the Web more accessible to persons with disabilities." 

Answering a Critical Need 

The Working Draft is the result of a collaborative effort between
disability organizations, industry, and research organizations that are
involved in the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative. "These guidelines,
which we are developing in cooperation with browser manufacturers, will
clarify priorities for browser design with regard to usability for
people with disabilities. We welcome public feedback while this is in
Working Draft status," said  Jon Gunderson, Chair of the WAI User Agent
Guidelines Working Group and Coordinator of Assistive Communication and
Information Technology at the University of Illinois at

"Blind or visually impaired people should be able to navigate the Web as
quickly and comfortably as our sighted colleagues do," said Scott
Marshall, Vice President for the American Foundation for the Blind. "The
guidelines created by the User Agent working group represent a
significant step forward toward the creation of more accessible Web
browsers and related applications. A browser that includes the features
specified in these Guidelines will improve access to Web-based
information and interaction for persons who are blind or visually
impaired, as well for other disability groups." 

WAI Accessibility Guidelines 

The "WAI Accessibility Guidelines: User Agent" Working Draft is part of
a series of WAI Accessibility Guidelines which together address page
authoring, browsers, and authoring tools. In addition to the "WAI
Accessibility Guidelines: User Agent" Working Draft, the WAI
Accessibility Guidelines also includes the following two specifications: 

  - "WAI Accessibility Guidelines: Page Authoring" -- provides
    accessibility guidance for page authors and Website developers;
    first public release in February 1998 as a W3C Working Draft --

  - "WAI Accessibility Guidelines: Authoring Tools" -- currently in
    development; will address the accessibility of authoring tool user
    interface and provides guidance for authoring tool manufacturers
    to make accessible design more automatic 

The Web Accessibility Initiative and International Program Office 

The W3C's WAI Accessibility Guidelines are just one aspect of a
multi-part approach to improve the accessibility of the Web, in
partnership with organizations around the world.  The W3C Web
Accessibility Initiative is addressing Web accessibility through five
primary areas of work: ensuring that the core technologies of the Web
support accessibility; developing guidelines for page authoring, user
agents, and authoring tools; developing evaluation and repair tools for
accessibility; conducting education and outreach; and tracking research
and development that can affect the future accessibility of the Web. 

The Web Accessibility Initiative International Program Office is
sponsored by the US National Science Foundation and the US Department of
Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation
Research; the European Commission's TIDE Programme, and W3C industry
Members including IBM/Lotus Development Corporation, Microsoft
Corporation, NCR, and Riverland Holding. 

For more information on the Web Accessibility Initiative, please see
http://www.w3.org/WAI . 

About the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C] 

The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing
common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its
interoperability. It is an international industry consortium jointly run
by the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) in the USA, the
National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA)
in France and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the
Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web
for developers and users; reference code implementations to embody and
promote standards; and various prototype and sample applications to
demonstrate use of new technology. To date, more than 260 organizations
are Members of the Consortium. 

For more information about the World Wide Web Consortium, see

Received on Thursday, 18 June 1998 10:03:13 UTC