World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Launches International Web Accessibility Initiative

W3C Leads Program to Make the Web Accessible for People with Disabilities

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CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, USA -- April 7, 1997 -- The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today announced the launch of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to promote and achieve Web functionality for people with disabilities. Endorsed by The White House and W3C Members, the WAI will involve the establishment of an International Program Office (IPO) responsible for developing software protocols and technologies, creating guidelines for the use of technologies, educating the industry, and conducting research and development.

The W3C will be working with government, industry leaders, Web developers, content providers, and non-profit organizations, including the Yuri Rubinsky Insight Foundation, to lead the development efforts of the newly created Initiative.

"Worldwide, there are more than 750 million people with disabilities. As we move towards a highly connected world, it is critical that the Web be usable by anyone, regardless of individual capabilities and disabilities," said Tim Berners-Lee, Director of the W3C and inventor of the World Wide Web. "The W3C is committed to removing accessibility barriers for all people with disabilities - including the deaf, blind, physically challenged, and cognitive or visually impaired. We plan to work aggressively with government, industry, and community leaders to establish and attain Web accessibility goals."

According to Jim Miller, W3C Technology & Society Domain Leader, the World Wide Web Consortium will be the central point for the formation of accessibility goals, and will also be an advocate for people with disabilities to Web developers and content providers. In addition, the IPO will be housed and fully integrated within the W3C, with technologists working to ensure that Consortium-developed protocols meet or exceed accessibility goals.

The W3C's technology development will focus initially on protocols and data formats aimed at making the Web itself more accessible. W3C will develop descriptive video and captioning enhancements to HTML and XML, develop extensions to CSS that will support speech output, and work on the negotiation of user agent features for HTTP and PEP.

"In addition to technology development, the Web Accessibility Initiative is designed to provide the infrastructure for education and outreach programs," said Mike Paciello, Executive Director, Yuri Rubinsky Insight Foundation. "Through strategic international partnerships, particularly with disability organizations, the YRIF will insure that content providers, application developers, and users are well educated in the area of accessible Web design."

The W3C will provide funds and staff to the Initiative's International Program Office, with additional resources provided by commercial, non-profit and government organizations. W3C Member organizations that have committed funding to the Initiative have been designated "charter sponsors."

The project begins this week with a WAI workshop held on Sunday, April 6, 1997. The International Project Office and developments for the overall project will begin in the summer of 1997.

About the World Wide Web Consortium

The W3C was created to develop common protocols that enhance the interoperability and promote the evolution of the World Wide Web. It is an 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; sample code implementations to embody and promote standards; and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. To date over 170 organizations are Members of the Consortium.

For more information about the World Wide Web Consortium, see

About the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science

Now in its third decade, MIT LCS is dedicated to the invention, development and understanding of information technologies expected to drive substantial technical and socio-economic change. The LCS has helped information technology grow from a mere curiosity to 10 percent of the industrial world's economies by its pioneering efforts in interactive computing, computer networking, distributed systems and public key cryptography. LCS members and alumni have started some thirty companies and have pioneered the Nubus, the X-Window System, the RSA algorithm, the Ethernet and spreadsheets.

For more information about the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, see

About the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique

INRIA, the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control, is a public-sector scientific institute charged with conducting both fundamental and applied research, and with transferring research results to industry. INRIA is made up of five Research Units located at Rocquencourt (near Paris), Rennes, Sophia Antipolis, Nancy and Grenoble. Areas of current research include information processing, advanced high speed networking, structured documents, and scientific computation.

For more information about INRIA, see

About Keio University

Keio University is one of Japan's foremost computer science research centers and universities. It is one of the oldest private universities in Japan, and has five major campuses around Tokyo. Keio University has been promoting joint research projects in cooperation with industry, government and international organizations, and is now becoming one of the research leaders for network and digital media technology.

For more information on Keio University, see

W3C Member Organizations Sponsoring the Web Accessibility Initiative

IBM Corporation · Lotus Development Corporation · Microsoft Corporation · Riverland Holding · SoftQuad International

Statement of Support by President William Jefferson Clinton

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