World Wide Web Consortium Issues User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 as a W3C Recommendation

Third in set of Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines helps developers make accessible browsers and multimedia players

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Testimonials and a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about UAAG 1.0 are also available.

http://www.w3.org/ -- 17 December 2002 -- The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has issued the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (UAAG 1.0) as a W3C Recommendation, representing consensus among developers and the disability community on accessibility features needed in browsers and multimedia players used to access the Web. A W3C Recommendation indicates that a specification is stable, contributes to Web interoperability, and has been reviewed by the W3C Membership, who favor its widespread adoption.

"Web browsers and media players serve people as the front door to the Web. But when those tools aren't usable by people with disabilities, it's akin to locking the door and leaving no key," noted Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director. "For the past five years, the technical and disability experts in the Web Accessibility Initiative have provided definitive guidelines for making accessible Web content and designing authoring software that does the same, automatically. Today, with the announcement of the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines, developers have the specific guidance they need to make Web browsers and media players more useful to more people."

The Web is for Everyone -- Content, Authoring Tools, Browsers, and Multimedia Players Must Be Accessible

The Web has created unprecedented opportunities for people around the world to learn, work, shop, play, and communicate with others; and even more so for people with disabilities, who have frequently been excluded from many of these activities. Access to the Web for people with disabilities, however, presumes that Web developers choose accessible design over inaccessible design; these guidelines explain how to make accessible design choices when developing browsers and media players.

UAAG 1.0 is written for software developers, and addresses requirements such as accessibility of the user interface, rendering of accessibility information, and user choice in configuring browsers and media players. These guidelines also address interoperability of mainstream browsers and multimedia players with assistive technologies used by people with disabilities. UAAG 1.0 is third in a complementary set of Web accessibility guidelines which already include the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1.0) and the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (ATAG 1.0).

UAAG Leads to Improved Software for All Users

All three guidelines (UAAG, WCAG, ATAG) have been developed by W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Over the past five years WAI has become recognized as the leading international authority on Web accessibility, addressing accessibility issues for users with visual, auditory, physical, cognitive, and neurological disabilities through device-independent, multimodal design. Together these three WAI guidelines help Web developers deliver on the promise of a universal Web that is accessible to all.

UAAG 1.0 addresses a variety of user agent types including HTML and XHTML browsers, multimedia players, graphics viewers, and assistive technologies. Software that conforms to UAAG 1.0 is expected to be more flexible, manageable, extensible, and beneficial to all users.

Browsers and Media Players Already Implementing Many UAAG Features

"For the past five years, browser and media player manufacturers, assistive technology developers, and disability experts have contributed their expertise to UAAG 1.0," explained Jon Gunderson, Chair of the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (UAWG). "In addition to the UAAG 1.0 Recommendation, the UAWG has produced Techniques for UAAG 1.0 (detailed information on implementation in different markup languages and user agent types), a Test Suite for UAAG 1.0, and interactive forms for UAAG 1.0 evaluations. These tools will enable developers, users, and purchasing agents to assess the extent of accessibility improvements in Web software."

The implementation of UAAG 1.0 in software is already underway. The Working Group used an extended Candidate Recommendation period for intensive discussions with developers and documentation of UAAG 1.0 implementations in a variety of software. This documentation demonstrated the feasibility and industry acceptance of UAAG 1.0, which carries endorsements and commitments from developers of browsers, media players, assistive technologies, and from government and disability organizations.

About the Web Accessibility Initiative [WAI]

W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), in partnership with organizations around the world, pursues accessibility of the Web through five activities:

  1. ensuring that core technologies of the Web support accessibility;
  2. developing guidelines for Web content, user agents, and authoring tools;
  3. facilitate development of evaluation and repair tools for accessibility;
  4. conducting education and outreach;
  5. coordinating with research and development that can affect future accessibility of the Web.

WAI is supported in part by the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research; European Commission's Information Society Technologies Programme; Canada's Assistive Devices Industry Office; Elisa Communications; Microsoft Corporation; IBM; SAP, Verizon Foundation, and Wells Fargo.

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, and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. Currently over 450 organizations are Members of the Consortium. For more information see http://www.w3.org/