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News Release: W3C Issues Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as a Recommendation

From: Janet Daly <janet@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 05 May 1999 17:39:06 -0400
Message-ID: <3730BA76.8491C965@w3.org>
To: w3c-news@w3.org

W3C Issues Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as a

Endorsements from Vint Cerf, Vice President Albert Gore

WAI Provides Definitive Guidance for Web Access by People with

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http://www.w3.org/ -- 5 May 1999 -- The World Wide Web Consortium today
announced the release of the "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0"
specification as a W3C Recommendation. As a W3C Recommendation, the
specification is stable, contributes to the universality of the Web, and
has been reviewed by the W3C Membership who recommend it as the means
for making Web sites accessible. W3C encourages information providers to
raise their level of accessibility using this

Clear Expectations for Web Sites

"The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines explain what to do," said Tim
Berners-Lee, Director of W3C. "It has always been difficult to know,
when making a site more accessible, which changes are critical. These
guidelines answer that question, and set common expectations so that
providers of Web sites and users can be much more strategic. The bar has
been set, and technologically it is not a very high bar. Some of the
items in these guidelines will be unnecessary once authoring tools do
them automatically. Now it is time to see which sites can live up to

Stable Guidance for Changing Technologies

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines establish stable principles for
accessible design, such as the need to provide equivalent alternatives
for auditory and visual information. Each guideline has associated
"checkpoints" explaining how these accessibility principles apply to
specific features of sites. For example, providing alternative text for
images ensures that information is available to a person who cannot see
images. Providing captions for audio files makes information available
to someone who cannot hear audio.

The guidelines are designed to be forward-compatible with evolving Web
technologies, yet enable sites to degrade gracefully when confronted
with legacy browsers. Specifics on how to implement the checkpoints with
the latest versions of mark-up or presentation languages such as HTML,
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), or SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia
Integration Language)
are described in a parallel "Techniques" document, to be updated

Prioritized Checklist For Easy Reference

"An accompanying 'Checklist' provides a handy tool for reviewing Web
sites and clearly delineates the three priority levels in the
guidelines," explained Daniel Dardailler, Technical Manager of the Web
Accessibility Initiative.

Outcome of a Strong Collaboration

As with other areas of WAI work, these guidelines are an outcome of a
collaboration of industry, disability organizations, accessibility
research centers and governments working together to identify consensus
solutions for barriers that people with disabilities encounter on the

"The W3C has provided a unique forum which has allowed us to bring
together experts from industry, research and practice in a way that has
not been possible before," explained Gregg Vanderheiden, Director of
Trace Research & Development Center at the University of Wisconsin,
Madison, and Co-Chair of the Web Content Guidelines Working Group. "The
result is a set of guidelines that is more comprehensive, technically
sound and practical than anything possible before. In addition, because
the guidelines are built on the work and participation of virtually
everyone who is active in this area, it provides us for the first time
with a definitive
set of guidelines that can serve as a reference for the field."

Broader Benefits

Accessible design also benefits other Web users, for instance by
promoting device-independence for Web content. Checkpoints that support
Web access for people with visual disabilities also help people
accessing the Web from mobile phones, hand-held devices, or
automobile-based PC's; when connection speed is too slow to support
viewing images or video; or when a person's eyes are "busy" with other
tasks. Checkpoints such as captions support access for people with
hearing impairments but also help people who are using the Web in noisy
or in silent environments; and they make it possible to index and search
on audio content. Use of CSS for control of presentation not only
facilitates accessibility, but also speeds download time of pages and
can reduce
costs of maintaining or updating the "look and feel" of sites.

Supporting Resources

"We have a growing list of resources to support implementation,"
explained Judy Brewer, Domain Leader for WAI. "We are developing an
on-line curriculum to take Web authors through the guidelines, giving
examples of mark-up of tables, frames, animations, multimedia, and other
features that create barriers when done poorly but are accessible when
marked up correctly.
There are technical reference notes; links to browsers with features to
support accessibility; links to information on policies in different
countries that relate to accessibility."

About the Web Accessibility Initiative

W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), in partnership with
organizations around the world, is pursuing accessibility of the Web
through five activities: ensuring that core technologies of the Web
support accessibility; developing guidelines for Web content, user
agents, and authoring tools; developing evaluation and repair tools for
accessibility; conducting education and outreach; and
tracking research and development that can affect future accessibility
of the Web. The WAI International Program Office is supported in part by
funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of
Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation
Research, European Commission's DG XIII Telematics Applications
Programme for Disabled and
Elderly, the Government of Canada, IBM, Lotus Development Corporation,
Microsoft Corporation, and NCR. For more information see

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 (MIT 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, over 300 organizations are Members of the Consortium. For more
information see

Press Release


Fact Sheet for "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0" 

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines - Checkpoints
Received on Wednesday, 5 May 1999 17:43:34 UTC

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