TELEMATICS APPLICATIONS Programme

 

 

Web Accessibility Initiative

(WAI)

 

TIDE Proposal

 

Daniel Dardailler - W3C

July 18, 1997

 

 

Administrative forms, Part A of Proposal

 

 

REMOVED --- OBSOLETE

 

 

 

Part B. PROPOSAL DESCRIPTION

 

Introduction

 

This proposal, called "Web Accessibility Initiative" (WAI), is a support action whose goal is to make the Internet, aka the Web, more accessible to all users with disabilities.

 

It is lead by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the international vendor-neutral organization which fosters the evolution of the major Web protocol and format specifications, and whose goal is to realize

the full potential of the Web (a long description is provided later on in the proposal).

 

W3C is currently starting a new major activity in this area, funded on its own, that includes a strong technological group working on the accessibility of the core Web formats such as HTML, HTTP, and CSS (see Annex A for information and references on these acronyms) and also incorporates work on a set of guidelines accompanying the technologies and the tools that are using them (Web browsing tools, HTML authoring tools, etc).

 

This TIDE proposal complements this technical work and includes three workpackages and a cross-workpackage activity:

 

The partners are:

as input on the technology requirements.

 

Working on evolving the Web technologies in the most interoperable and accessible way has always been and still is W3C's mission. Solving the technical issues is necessary but is not sufficient if we want to

really succeed in making the Web and the Internet accessible universally. We have to address the content providers, the people that create and distribute the information, and in order to do that, we need to raise the awareness, and educate them in as many ways as we can (including rating campaign).

 

This European TIDE proposal, if funded, will focus on the European Web content providers and market. As global as the Internet and the Web are, there is still a clear need for "local" actions when content providers are the target. A similar fund raising activity for education and dissemination is being persued by W3C for the Americas and the Pacific rim. We think all these actions are required for the Web as a whole to become more accessible.

 

 

The rest of this proposal text follows the themes and outlines provided by the Telematics booklet on proposal form, Part B (long description).

 

Chapter 1 is about User needs and Application area, and Chapter 2 described each Workpackages and their deliverables in details. Then come the description of the consortium and the relevance and references chapters.

 

The annex gives information about the Web technologies on which this work is based (Web itself, HTML, HTTP, etc).

 

 

1. User needs and application area

 

The emergence of the World Wide Web has made it possible for individuals with appropriate computer and telecommunications equipment to interact as never before. The Web is the stepping stone, the infrastructure, which will pave the way for next generation interfaces.

 

The current situation in the area of Web usability for people with disabilities is not very good and is getting worse everyday as more and more providers of information rush into the Web business without any awareness of the new limitations and frontiers they may create. No single disability population is unaffected.

 

For example:

 

  • People who are deaf cannot hear multimedia or audio events that do not contain captioning or audio descriptions.
  • People who are blind struggle with the Web's inherent graphical interface, it's graphic-based content, and any Web protocol or application that cannot easily be rendered or accessed using audio, braille, large text or synthetic voice.
  • People who are physically challenged have difficulty using certain hardware devices or web controls, including Web kiosks and WebTV.
  • People who are cognitive and visually impaired have difficulties interpreting most web pages because they have not been designed with this population in mind.

 

Worldwide, there are more than 750 million people with disabilities. A significant percentage of that population is affected by the emergence of the Web, directly or indirectly. For those without disabilities,

the Web is a new technology that can help unify geographically dispersed groups. But these barriers put the Web in danger of disenfranchising people with disabilities in this emerging infrastructure.

 

The users in our project are the Web users with a disability, like visually or hearing impaired people.

 

The needs for these users is the access the information online on the Internet just as everyone else.

 

Impact on users.

 

The Web is rapidly becoming the interface of choice to get access to information worldwide. There are millions of pages of data available today on the Internet and Electronic commerce widespread adoption is

the next step.

 

One important thing to mention is that the Internet and the Web are becoming more and more critical as a social resource: job posting or university course descriptions are good examples of things that some organizations are starting to only distribute via the Web.

 

Over the next few years, accessing the web to do shopping or get the weather forecast is going to be as natural as doing shopping in the supermarket or watching/hearing TV/radio.

 

The impact of this project on the users with disabilities is to give them the same access to information as users without a disability.

 

In addition, if we succeed making web accessibility the norm rather than the exception, this will benefit not only the disability community but the entire population. For instance, people wanting to browse the web through a telephone or in a car, with no screen feedback, are in a sense temporary blind and the development of voice-based interface will benefit them as well. Another example is web users using very slow link to the Internet (an economic problem likely), and for which heavy graphical images are a too expensive: widespread adoption of descriptive text added to images would allow them to get access to the same pages with no or little loss of information.

 

Application and context.

 

One important aspect of this project is that of education and awareness.

 

We do not seek to only enhance the format used on the Web (HTML, CSS, etc) but to go after the content providers, either directly or indirectly (through the tool and service providers they use) so that design of accessible web pages become the default case and the format extensions are put at use.

 

Therefore, we can say that the intended size of the application population and area if that of the Web.

 

 

In addition to the education and dissemination actions targeted at the largest content providers in Europe, we will also develop specific application domain site to illustrate good design.

 

Our market is the online market, aka the Internet or the Web, and it is still in rapid expansion. We think that with a very focused action over 18 months, we can succeed in making the Information Society accessible for the years to come.

 

Knowledge of Sector and technologies to be used

 

Protocols and Data formats.

 

In terms of data formats the state of the art is HTML3.2 (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS1 (Cascading Style Sheet), which are both controlled by W3C and which are evolving in parallel to this project and in close contact with the developers (in fact the technical manager for the evolution of these formats regarding accessibility at W3C is going to be active as well in this TIDE proposal).

 

The clear message that we want to convey is the following: content on the web must be separated in the structure and the text on one side (what is a TITLE, a bullet LIST) and the presentation made out of it (rendered on a graphical screen, a dumb terminal, using a voice synthesizer, or a Braille device).

 

Not only this is good for accessibility, but this is good for the management of information itself: by virtue of this separation content/style, one can evolve the two sides separately: change the text without touching the style (the color used, the fonts, etc) and more importantly change the style without changing the content and

sharing one style for multiple different content.

 

There are very good economic reasons for separating the style out of the web content and HTML, as an SGML application, is perfectly suited to achieve this goal.

 

On other words, we really want to convince information providers that if they just do their job well, then in addition it will be accessible to all.

 

Of course, information on the Web is not just text and HTML: there are images, video, audio clip, or programs (like Java applet being downloaded by users).

 

The strategy here is called Alternative description: for instance for image, there is HTML attribute that allows content providers to describe the image in words, that can in turn be spoken or rendered on a one line telephone screen.

 

One goal of the W3C is to make sure all formats used on the Web, and that include multi-media formats such as video and audio, allow room for accessibility hooks and alternative delivery. For instance, the OBJECT tag being added to HTML should allow for descriptive text to be used as a replacement of any given data format being presented to the user.

 

This, and much more, will have to be taught to the people creating content.

 

Tools

 

In terms of browsing and authoring tools, there are products available from several software companies available on the market and one of the first action this project will conduct is a study of the existing base. The goal here is to educate tool providers regarding the style-guide that the users are expecting.

 

In terms of certification and rating, it's a very novel area where a couple of HTML validator exists but where most of the work (especially regarding rating system and labelling) is going to be innovative.

 

 

Links to other projects.

 

Web related projects are common nowadays in Europe and worldwide, and we expect that the result of our action will impact them in a way to make their sites more accessible.

 

One of the thing we will promote and suggest as an awareness action during the project that a certain level of accessibility be made a requirement for EC projects generating web content. This will act as a good incentive for widespread adoption of accessibility design on the web.

 

2. Work content

 

The project is divided into a series of 3 work-packages and cross-workpackage activity (not including management, which is another cross-workpackage activity of course).

 

  • education/awareness campaign
  • rating and certification system
  • standardization
  • user forum

 

The following sections detail each workpackage and the management task as well.

 

 

Work package 1 description

Title: Education/Awareness Campaign

Responsible

Total man power (MMs)

Start

End

W3C

W3C: 12

BN: 2

RNIB:1.5

EBU:1

Month 1

Month 12

 

 

Objectives and background

 

The goal of this work-package is to promote the realization of accessible content throughout the Web.

 

This need to be done using education means (teach the content providers how to create accessible content), dissemination of information (guidelines helping the authoring phases) and awareness (constantly remind new players of the issues involved)

 

In order to reach our goal, we need to target different audiences.

 

The content providers are of course our first target, and "in fine" our only target, since they will eventually decide what to put on the pages.

 

But for doing so, they use, listen, and are influenced by, several other actors:

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, one other actor is W3C itself, and having us running this program is a very important factor. The production of new HTML and CSS specifications, together with guidelines, that comply with the requirements of the disability community - which will happen through our regular technical activity in 97 - will play a great role in moving forward in this awareness action.

 

In order to reach all these communities, we have to target our effort along a series of events:

 

 

A last educational aspect needs also to be explored: the education of the disability community itself regarding their rights with respect to accessing the information like everybody else.

 

This is particularly true and important in the Intranet context, where companies are already subject to existing legislation regarding access (see the US ADA or the UK DDA).

 

Our educational action at that level will go through the disability user organization such as the EBU and also through reference materials put on our W3C Web site.

 

 

Breakdown and Phases

 

 

Task 1:

 

 

 

Task 2:

 

 

 

The phasing will be such that there will be some overlap between the two phases in the sense that we will participate in conferences and submit papers as soon as we have a presentation ready, and not wait until the final materials is ready.

 

 

Workpackage deliverables

 

 

Month 6:

 

 

Month 12:

 

 

Month 18:

 

 

 

Partners and roles

 

W3C is the principal actor in this workpackage. W3C will contract any product-specific (e.g. Microsoft FrontPage, Netscape Gold) authoring tool education process to a professional company and concentrate on the generic (non product specific) messages.

 

Both BrailleNet and RNIB/EBU are assisting W3C in the elaboration of the educational/awareness materials, and also by facilitating the presentation of the materials at workshops and conferences.

 

 

Making the Web accessible requires attention on the part of the designer to the needs of a community that is all-too-often ignored. The key to success here is a combination of languages, protocols and tools that make it easy to do the right thing (and W3C is doing that as part of its regular activity). Education is the glue that will reinforce the importance of using the tools routinely and

correctly.

 

 

Work package 2 description

Title: Rating/Certification system

Responsible

Total man power (MMs)

Start

End

W3C

W3C: 9

BN:2

RNIB:1

EBU:1

Month 1

Month 18

 

Objective

 

This work package deals with a novel idea which will use the result of the latest development in the area of Web information access: the Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS).

 

Roughly, it's about creating a new descriptive rating vocabulary to assess the level of accessibility of Web pages and putting it at work with users in a small pilot phase involving a community of people with disabilities.

 

Background

 

PICS is an infrastructure for associating labels (meta-data) with Internet content. It was originally designed to help parents and teachers control what children access on the Internet, but it also facilitates other uses for labels, including code signing, privacy, or intellectual property rights management.

 

We want to create another use for PICS: Level of Accessibility of Web Content.

 

PICS is both the name of the "system" and the name of the cross-industry working group hosted by W3C which design and evolve the specifications.

 

In order to advance its goals, PICS has devised a set of standards that facilitate the following:

 

enable content providers to voluntarily label the content they create and distribute.

 

enable multiple, independent labelling services to associate additional labels with content created and distributed by others. Services may devise their own labelling systems, and the same content may receive different labels from different services.

enable non-technical users to use ratings and labels from a diversity of sources, doing filtering or searching, without specific training.

 

PICS is called a Platform because it's made of several complimentary components. There are two formal PICS specification documents (see annex for details) which define:

 

  1. A syntax for describing a rating service, that is, new vocabulary describing a new domain, so that computer programs can present the service and its labels to users.
  2. A syntax for labels, so that computer programs can process them. A label describes either a single document or a group of documents (e.g., a site.)
  3. An embedding of labels (actually, lists of labels) into the Web transmission format and the HTML document format.
  4. An extension of the HTTP protocol, so clients can request that labels be transmitted with a document.
  5. A query-syntax for an on-line database of labels (a label bureau)

 

 

About labels

 

PICS labels describe content on one or more dimensions. It is the selection software, not the labels themselves, that determine how the labels is used: as a search tool ("find me all the sites talking about fishes and have a accessibility label of more than 3 on the print impaired scale) or as a filtering tool ("no need to show me the sites which have a rating of 0 or 1 in the Financial Times Commercial Trust scale").

 

Each rating service can choose its own labelling vocabulary. For example, a given system might include a "coolness" dimension and a subject classification dimension.

 

Information publishers can self-label, just as manufacturers of children's toys currently label products with text such as, "Fun for ages 5 and up." Provided that publishers agree on a common labelling vocabulary, self-labelling is a simple mechanism well-matched to the distributed nature and high volume of information creation on the Internet.

 

When publishers are unwilling to participate, or can't be trusted to participate honestly, independent organizations can provide third-party labels. For example, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is concerned about Nazi propaganda and other hate speech, could label materials that are historically inaccurate or promote hate.

 

Third-party labelling systems can also express features that are of concern to a limited audience. For example, a teacher might label a set of astronomical photographs and block access to everything else for the duration of a science lesson.

 

In our domain, we expect that the disability user community will want to operate such a "label bureau".

 

Prior to PICS there was no standard format for labels, so companies that wished to provide access control had to both develop the software and provide the labels. PICS provides a common format for labels, so that any PICS-compliant selection software can process any PICS-compliant label. This separation allows both markets to flourish: companies that prefer to remain value-neutral can offer selection software without providing any labels; values-oriented organizations, without writing software, can create rating services that provide labels.

 

PICS is now implemented in popular browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or IBM Web Server and internally to W3C, we have or will have by the time this action is implemented a tool for creating a label database in the domain of Accessibility.

 

 

Breakdown and Phases

 

Task 1:

 

 

 

Task 2:

 

 

We expect to use our W3C Jigsaw HTTP server to implement the label database repository

 

Ideally, the same community creating labels should be the one using them, and we want to involve the online users as much as we can in this task.

 

 

Workpackage deliverables

 

Month 6:

 

 

Month 12:

 

 

Month 18:

 

 

 

Partners and Roles

 

W3C is the technical lead with PICS and label server management expertise.

 

BrailleNet and RNIB/EBU act as expert for the Visual impaired community, relating information to their end-users for creating the labels.

 

The Online forum created for the project will help gather requirements for the other disabilities not covered by the two associated contractors, such as hearing or cognitive impairment.

 

 

Work package 3 description

Title: Standardisation

Responsible

Total man power (MMs)

Start

End

FORTH

FORTH: 9

CNR: 4.5

Month 1

Month 18

Objectives:

Work-package breakdown

 

 

Work-package phases

The work-package phases are depicted in the following diagram which provides a summary of activities and respective outcomes.

 

Work package background

During the past two decades, concern over the impact of computer-based equipment on health and safety has led to the establishment of new national, European and international ergonomic standards, directives and legislation. Many of those have already had a profound impact on the relevant industries, while for others the impact is due in the years to come. With reference to the ISO series of standards (i.e. ISO 9241, ISO 9000, etc), there have been several underlying assumptions which influenced and shaped the work carried out.

First of all, for the past 10 years, standardisation work in the context of ISO, but also the European Directive 90/270/EEC on the Minimum Safety and Health Requirements for work with the Display Screen Equipment have been primarily characterised by the emphasis on average able user. Additionally, these standards emphasise primarily an ergonomic perspective whose scope has covered users in work situations. Moreover, the standards have been developed through a sequential process, whereby research results are consolidated and then standardised. This means that a first draft of a standard would evolve from a review and consolidation of existing results. Finally, regarding the spectrum of technologies considered, these were bound by the above commitments. In other words, the technologies which were relevant were those employed by an average able user in work situations; alpha-numeric terminals (during the early period) and then graphical user interfaces. More recently, and with the emergence of multimedia, a new work item was introduced, by ISO TC 159 / SC 4 / WG 5.

With recent advances in Information Technology and Telecommunications, new trends have evolved which require that some of the assumptions in traditional standardisation work are revisited. These trends are driven by the following two important factors.

Change in context: Shift from business to private and residential demand for services

It is likely that, whereas in the past the business demand prevailed any standardisation activities in software ergonomics, the new paradigm shift (see also next section) has created business opportunities in sectors that were not covered by the traditional focus of the ISO work (i.e. education, banking, shopping, news groups, entertainment, etc). What is important to mention is that the potential size of market for these new applications is substantial, thus the compelling need for new standardisation activities which will adequately cover these domains.

 

Shift in computer usage: From calculation-intensive & scientific use to work group- and communication-centred computing

This shift is summarised in the diagram of Figure 1, which shows the intended purpose, and primary use of computer equipment, in the past, as well as the tentative forecast, given current and emerging trends, for the future. Clearly, the existing work in the area of software ergonomic standardisation does not suffice to provide a foundation for the new state of affairs likely to emerge in the future.

Finally, standardisation is needed in order to facilitate and promote non-discrimination and universal access; quality of interaction in the emerging interaction-intensive Information society and compliance with legislation and policy recommendations as expressed by various international fora and technical committees, including the United Nations General Assembly, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in U.S.A, The Telecommunications Act of 1996 in U.S.A, the Technical Committee USACM of ACM, The Telecommunications Policy Roundtable in the U.S.A, as well as several European Commission programmes (TIDE, COST 219 etc).

Work-package Deliverables

Month 12

D.1 Report on data collection methods and data analysis

Month 15

D.2 Draft report on standardisation guidelines for the accessibility of Web-based applications and services by people with disabilities.

Month 18

D.3 Draft report on standardisation guidelines for the accessibility of Web-based applications and services by people with disabilities.

Detailed Task description

T.1: User requirements and data collection

Responsible

Total man power (MMS)

Duration

Input

Output

FORTH

FORTH: 2

CNR: 2

6 months

   

Objectives

Partners and role

FORTH FORTH will undertake a thorough review of past and on-going European collaborative RTD projects within the framework of TIDE, COST 219 and ESPRIT programmes; additionally it will review the international state of the art as related to standardisation (i.e. work in ISO, ETSI HF 2, CEN/CENELEC, work by ANSI/HFES in U.S.A, the Scandinavian guidelines for accessibility, etc).

Additionally, FORTH will sub-contract to the Greek National Confederation of People with Disabilities (ESAEA), the equivalent of one man month in resources for the collection of data pertaining to end user interaction requirements

CNR CNR will bring into the project past experience in various RTD projects, as well as relevant materials related to terminal adaptations

Technical approach

In order to determine precisely what could be the scope of any future standardisation activities regarding accessibility of Web-based interactive applications and services, a thorough investigation will be undertaken covering the broad international state of the art. In this context, the following documents will be studied:

Additionally, the existing wisdom on accessible Web-design will be consolidated in order to define the scope of the recommendations to be derived in the following task. To this end, we will investigate recent work in the area of TIDE, namely previous TIDE projects, as well as work carried out at an international level by various organisations and institutions.

Task milestones

Month 12

M.1.1 Report on data collection methods and analysis (Contributing to D.1)

T.2 Consolidation and recommendations

Responsible

Total man power (MMS)

Duration

Input

Output

FORTH

FORTH: 5

CNR: 1.5

12 Months

Month 6

Month 18

Objectives

To consolidate existing material and derive criteria, recommendations and guidelines for the accessibility of Web-based interactive applications and services by people with disabilities.

Partners and role

FORTH FORTH will primarily deal with the derivation of requirements, design criteria, guidelines, and recommendations for unified interface design facilitating accessibility and high quality of interaction with Web-based applications and services.

CNR CNR will contribute to the task of ICS-FORTH and additionally it will provide recommendations for terminal adaptations

Technical approach

This task will be concerned with the identification of unified interaction requirements in Web-based applications and services. Based on such requirements, we will then derive recommendations and guidelines towards unified interaction in the Web; facilitation of accessible and high quality interfaces for user with different requirements, abilities and preferences, including disabled and elderly (i.e. following the concept of design for all). To derive the unified interaction requirements, the partners will review technical progress in previous RTD projects as well as recent steps by companies such Microsoft and Sun towards accessible interface design. The outcomes of this task will take the form of technical reports reviewed by an international panel of experts which is to be decided upon the start of the activity in collaboration with the TIDE Office of the European Commission. Finally, it is important to mention that the guidelines and recommendations to be compiled will be ranked according to the ground upon which they are formulated. Thus, recommendations, guidelines and requirements will be ranked into empirically-based (i.e. there is sufficient empirical evidence in support of the guideline / criterion / requirement), experience-based (i.e. the guideline / criterion / recommendation is based on existing wisdom or best design practice, intuition-based (i.e. proposed but not yet fully verified). Such rankings will be established through the collaboration of partners with the international expert panel.

Task milestones

Month 12

M.2.1 Draft technical report on standardisation guidelines for accessibility of Web-based applications by disabled and elderly people (Contributing to D.2).

Month 18

M.2.2 Final technical report on standardisation guidelines for accessibility of Web-based applications by disabled and elderly people (Contributing to D.3).

 

 

T.3 Dissemination

Responsible

Total man power (MMs)

Duration

Input

Output

FORTH

FORTH: 2

CNR: 1

9 Months

Month 9

Month 18

Objectives

To develop an overall dissemination strategy and to undertake the necessary steps to ensure the widest possible diffusion of the projectís results

Partners and role

FORTH FORTH will be responsible for defining and carrying out the dissemination strategy.

CNR CNR will undertake the maintenance of the Web server

Technical approach

To facilitate the widest possible dissemination of the projectís results, the partners will undertake:

Task milestones

Month 12

M.3.1 : Draft report on the dissemination of results

Month 18

M.3.2 : Final report on the dissemination of results

 

 

 

 

4 User Forum

Responsible

Total man power (MMs)

Duration

Start

End

BN

BN: 2

RNIB: 1

EBU:1.5

12 Months

Month 6

Month 18

 

Not a workpackage by itself, this activity will focus on the creation and the maintenance of an online user forum to be used by the project workpackages to gather user needs and requirements.

 

Both BrailleNet, RNIB and EBU will participate in the elaboration of this forum, which will take place using a regular electronic mailing list and a set of web pages.

 

The responsibilities of the user organizations in this activity is to make sure the end-users are represented and actively participate in all the phase of the projects.

 

W3C will also participate in managing this forum and keeping consistent and synchronize it with its existing set of forum.

 

 

 

5 Project Management

Responsible

Total man power (MMs)

Duration

Start

End

W3C

W3C: 9

18 Months

Month 1

Month 18

 

The objective of the management workpackage is to ensure that the workplan, targets, milestones and deliverables are met within the agreed time and cost schedules.

The co-ordinating partner who will provide the project management will also provide the technical management of the project. No distinction is made in this package. Consequently, in addition to overall management tools, two other issues are addressed : the definition of common methodologies across the project, and quality control & assurance.

Most of the management will be done using day-to-day electronic means between the partners, using a mailing list set up by the co-ordinating contractor.

In addition, conference calls and face-to-face meeting will be scheduled on a regular basis to ensure the proper advance of the work.

W3C has a lot of experience in managing such multi-national projects since all the work done at W3C is in fact done in partnership with given subset of W3C members.

 

By making visible the results regularly in our user forum and W3C technical forum, we should be able to assess our progress and adjust our methodology and goals in the most effective way.

We will also create and manage a web site making available our education program, any materials such as rating system description file, demonstrator code, and all interim reports for the project.

 

Project Steering Committee

A Project Steering Committee will be set-up that consists of the two main contractor managers, together with one representative of each associated contractor and a Quality Panel representative. It is responsible for the overall strategy. It also has specific responsibility for ensuring that recommendations of the Quality Panel are adhered to by the Workpackage managers doing the technical and awareness developments and dissemination.

Meetings will review progress, accept and sign off deliverables, reports and demonstrators, and identify and carry out any replanning of the project. These meetings will normally be a minimum of one-day duration.

At technical meetings, each package that is ongoing will present its findings to date together with plans for future work. The aim of these technical meetings will be to bring the project together at regular intervals to allow partners to benefit from the progress being made in different areas of the project.

 

Deliverables

Month 3: Project Reference Guide

Month 6,12,15: Interim Reports, Meetings

Month 18: Final report

 

 

3. The Consortium

 

This proposal is made in partnership by six non-for-profit organizations.

 

The roles and responsibilities of the participants are as follow:

 

 

World Wide Web Consortium [W3C] Backgrounder

 

W3Cís mission: Realizing the Full Potential of the Web

 

The W3C was founded to develop common protocols to enhance the interoperability and lead the evolution of the World Wide Web.

 

Uniquely Positioned to Lead the Evolution of the World Wide Web

 

Leading the World Wide Web's evolution means staying ahead of a significant wave of applications, services, and social changes. For W3C to effectively lead such dramatic growth -- at a time when a "Web Year" has shortened to a mere three months -- it must demonstrate exceptional agility, focus and diplomacy. To this end, the Consortium fulfills a unique combination of roles traditionally ascribed to quite different organizations.

 

Like its partner standards body, the Internet Engineering Task Force [IETF], W3C is committed to developing open, technically sound specifications backed by running sample code. Like other information technology consortia, W3C represents the power and authority of hundreds of developers, researchers, and users. Hosted by research organizations, the Consortium is able to leverage the most recent advances in information technology.

 

Host Institutions

 

The W3C was formally launched in October 1994 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Laboratory for Computer Science [MIT LCS]. Moving beyond the Americas, the Consortium established a European presence in partnership with France's National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control [INRIA] in April 1995. As the Web's influence continued to broaden internationally, the resulting growth in W3C Membership created the need for an Asian host. In August 1996, Keio University in Japan became the Consortium's third host institution.

 

Members

 

The Consortium's real strength lies in the broad technical expertise of its Membership. W3C currently has more than 165 commercial and academic Members worldwide, including hardware and software vendors, telecommunications companies, content providers, corporate users, and government and academic entities.

 

W3C provides a vendor-neutral forum for its Members to address Web-related issues. Working together with its staff and the global Web community, the Consortium aims to produce free, interoperable specifications and sample code. Funding from Membership dues, public research funds, and external contracts underwrite these efforts.

 

The Consortium's Advisory Committee [AC] is comprised of one official representative from each Member organization who serves as the primary liaison between the organization and W3C. The Advisory Committee's role is to offer advice on the overall progress and direction of the Consortium.

 

Staff

 

W3C is led by Director Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web; and Chairman Jean-François Abramatic. With more than 30 years' combined expertise in a wide array of computer-related fields, including real-time communications, graphics, and text and image processing. Berners-Lee and Abramatic are well prepared to lead the Consortium's efforts in spearheading the global evolution of the Web.

 

The Consortium's technical staff includes full- and part-time employees, visiting engineers from Member organizations, consultants, and students from more than 13 countries worldwide. W3C staff works with the Advisory Committee, the press, and the broader Web community to promote W3C's agenda.

 

Recommendation Process

 

Specifications developed within the Consortium must be formally approved by the Membership. Consensus is reached after a specification has proceeded through the review stages of Working Draft, Proposed Recommendation, and Recommendation. As new issues arise from Members, resources are reallocated to new areas to ensure that W3C remains focused on topics most critical to the Web's interoperability and growth.

 

Domains

 

Leading the evolution of technology as dramatically in flux as the World Wide Web is a challenging task indeed. W3C is a unique organization, well adapted to today's fast-paced environment. Its mission is to realize the full potential of the Web: as an elegant machine-to-machine system, as a compelling human-to-human interface, and as an efficient human-human communications medium. In order to achieve these goals, W3C's Team of experts works with its Members to advance the state of the art in each of the three Domains: User Interface, Technology & Society, and Architecture. Each Domain is responsible for investigating and leading development in several Activity Areas which are critical to the Web's global evolution and interoperability.

 

W3C web site is http://www.w3.org

See annex for Member list.

 

European Blind Union [EBU] Backgrounder

 

EBU is a non-governmental and non-profit making European organisation, founded in 1984. It is the principal organisation representing the interests of blind and partially sighted people in Europe with membership made up or organisations of and for visually impaired (VI) people in 43 European countries. EBU has formal consultative status as the co-ordinating NGO for the visual impairment sector on the European Disability Forum in Brussels.

 

Royal National Institute for the Blind [RNIB] Backgrounder

 

RNIB is the largest organisation in the UK looking after the needs of visually impaired people, with over 60 services. Current reappraisal of its work has led to services being increasingly considered in terms of supplying the needs of visually-impaired people at every stage of their lives and in various aspects. The organisation employs around 2500 people based throughout the UK, of whom 7% are visually-impaired. RNIB has already been involved as a partner in the CAPS (136/218) and Harmony (1226) projects.

 

This work will be greatly enhanced by the recent approval of the TIDE ARTNet (3006) project which will build an international digital network for assistive and rehabilitation technology.

 

Apart from CAPS, Harmony and ARTNet, RNIB has also been involved with a number of other TIDE and Telematics projects: ASHORED (101), AUDETEL (169/212), GUIB (103/215), CORE(126/213), ACCESS(1001), SATURN(1040), MOBIC(1148) and OPEN(1182). These have shown the technical knowledge which can be accessed by the organisation and have developed an understanding of how to assess user needs and wants."

 

RNIB web site is http://www.rnib.org.uk

 

BrailleNet Backgrounder

 

Braillent is a french consortium whose mission is to to promote the Internet for social, professional, and school integration of visually impaired people.

 

Objectives:

 

 

Partners

 

The BrailleNet consortium regroups:

 

 

BrailleNet web site is http://www.ccr.jussieu.fr/braillenet/consbrn.html

 

National Research Council (CNR) Backgrounder

The National Research Council (CNR, Italy) is a government research organisation (staff of about 7000), which is involved in activities addressing most disciplinary sectors (physics, chemistry, medicine, agriculture, etc), in cooperation with universities and industry (one of its tasks being the transfer of innovations to production and services).

 

CNR will participate in this project proposal with two Institutes: IROE (Firenze) and CNUCE (Pisa). IROE, with a staff of about 100 (half of whom are researchers) has a broad range of activities in pure physics (solid state, cosmology, optics) and applied physics (electromagnetic wave propagation, communications, integrated optics, optical fibre, remote sensing, etc). The Department on Information Theory and Processing is involved in research on the theory and applications of signal and image processing and information technology. It has a extensive experience in accessibility and usability. CNUCE, with a staff of 107, conducts research on Methods and Models for the Design and Analysis of Systems, Multimedia Technology, Geographical Information Systems, Mechanics of Materials, and Flight Dynamics of Spacecrafts. In relation to the project proposal, CNUCE is conducting research in 3D virtual environments and modelling, knowledge integration, agent architectures and user modelling.

 

CNR Web site is at http://www.cnr.it/

 

Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas (FORTH) Backgrounder

 

Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas (FORTH, Greece), is a centre for research and development monitored by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Technology (General Secretariat of Research and Technology) of the Greek Government. The Institute of Computer Science, one of the seven institutes of FORTH, conducts applied research, develops applications and products, and provides services. Current R&D activities focus on information systems, software engineering, parallel architectures and distributed systems, computer vision and robotics, digital communications, network management, machine learning, decision support systems, formal methods in concurrent systems, computer architectures and VLSI design, computer aided design, medical information systems, human-computer interaction, and rehabilitation tele-informatics. ICS-FORTH has a long research and development tradition in the design and development of user interfaces that are accessible and usable by a wide range of people, including disabled and elderly people. It has recently proposed the concept, and provided the technical framework for the development of unified user interfaces, that are adaptable to the abilities, requirements and preferences of the end user groups.

 

ICS/FORTH web site is at http://www.ics.forth.gr/

 

Effort Per Workpackage/Activity

 

  1. Education/Awareness
  2. Rating/Certification
  3. Standardization
  4. User forum
  5. Project Management

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

Total

W3C

12

9

0

0

9

30

BN

2

2

0

2

0

7

RNIB

1.5

1

0

1

0

3.5

EBU

1

1

0

1.5

0

3.5

ICS

0

0

9

0

0

9

CNR

0

0

4.5

0

0

4.5

Total

16.5

13

13.5

5.5

9

58.5

 

 

4. European dimension and benefits

 

The Web is global by nature and the players in the field of accessibility comes not only from all across Europe but worldwide. Through W3C, we expect to leverage that worldwide expertise and cooperate closely with non-European players. From W3C point of view, this proposal comes as complement of a wider scale initiative gathering experts worldwide in the field of Web Accessibility.

 

But of course, there are individual persons and organizations behind any web pages, whether authored by hand or automatically generated, and these human beings live in a given nation, not in a virtual world. With this TIDE proposal, we want to give our focus on the Europe's Information society.

 

In terms of economic impact, it's clear that giving access to the web to an entire section of the population (people with disability) will help the development of the information society just by bringing in more users.

 

In terms of social policies, this is basic non-discrimination, that some countries have already made into legislation, which is providing additional motivation to build accessibility into the Web's infrastructure. These legal standards and requirements (current and proposed) already exist in the US and other national laws. There is work in Europe to extend the national laws into a pan-European framework that would, presumably, also be considered for adoption worldwide.

 

Part of our education/awareness effort will aim at raising the visibility of these European legislation to the disabled users of the technologies (by hosting a web site with reference information).

 

 

5. References and related projects

 

There are several projects, European and worldwide, that already have expertise in the field of Web access to people with disabilities (TEDIS, ACTS Avanti, University Leuven, Industrial - COST 219, Trace, CAST, DOIT, ICADD, etc).

 

The partners in this proposal have very good links to these past or current efforts and one of our first activity will be to gather as much input as possible for the education aspect and to create a technical forum where existing team can participate in the elaboration of the specific awareness planning and materials.

 

As mentioned in the introduction, W3C is starting a separate major new technical activity in this area and this is obviously a project with which coordination is going to be critical. Thru the W3C own forum, we expect to gather input from its European and worldwide industrial membership, as well as from the US organizations that are active in this area.

 

 

 

 

ANNEX A: Web technologies

 

This annex is meant to give the reader a quick but yet informative overview of the Web technologies and protocols refered to in the proposal.

 

 

The World Wide Web (known as "WWW', "Web") is the universe of network-accessible information, the embodiment of human knowledge.

 

Started as one application on the Internet (which existed years before), it now defines the Internet.

 

The World Wide Web began as a networked information project at CERN, where Tim Berners-Lee, now Director of the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C], developed a vision of the project.

 

The Web has a body of software, and a set of protocols and conventions. Through the use hypertext and multimedia techniques, the web is easy for anyone to roam, browse, and contribute to. An early talk about the Web gives some more background on how the Web was originally conceived.

 

W3 Concepts

 

The world-wide web is conceived as a seamless world in which ALL information, from any source, can be accessed in a consistent and simple way.

 

Universal Readership

 

Before W3, typically to find some information on the Internet, one had to have one of a number of different terminals connected to a number of different computers, and one had to learn a number of different programs to access that data.

 

The W3 principle of universal readership is that once information is available, it should be accessible from any type of computer, in any country, and an (authorized) person should only have to use one simple program to access it. This is now the case.In practice the web hangs on a number of essential concepts. Though not the most important, the most famous if that of hypertext.

 

Hypertext

 

Hypertext is text with links. Hypertext is not a new idea: in fact, when you read a book there are links between references (see section X), footnotes, and between the table of contents or index and the text. If you include bibliographies which refer to other books and papers, text is in fact already full of references. With hypertext, the computer makes following such references as easy as turning the page. This means that the reader can escape from the sequential organization of the pages to follow pursue a thread of his or her own. This makes hypertext an incredibly powerful tool for learning. Hypertext authors design their material to make it open to active exploration, and in doing so communicate their information and ideas more effectively.

 

W3 uses hypertext as the method of presentation, although as we shall see, this does not necessarily require that authors write hypertext. In W3, links can lead from all or part of a document to all or part of another document. Documents need not be text: they can be graphics, movies and sound, so the term "hypermedia", meaning "multimedia hypertext" applied equally well to W3.

 

Searching

 

Whilst hypertext is a powerful tool for finding information, it cannot cope with large amorphous masses of data. For these cases, computer-generated indexes allow the user to pick out interesting items from textual input. There are therefore two operations a reader can use: the hypertext jump and the text search. Indexes appear within the web just like other documents, but a search panel (or FIND command) accompanies them which allows the input of text. Behind each index is some search engine: many different search engines with different capabilities exist on different servers. However, they are all used in exactly the same simple way: you type in some text, and you get back a hypertext answer which points you to things which were found by the search.

 

Client-Server Model

 

To allow the web to scale, it was designed without any centralized facility. Anyone can publish information, and anyone (authorized) can read it. There is no central control. To publish data you run a server, and to read data you run a client. All the clients and all the servers are connected to each other by the Internet. The W3 protocols and other standard protocols allow all clients to communicate with all servers.

 

Format negotiation

 

Since computers were invented, there have been a great variety of different codes for representing information. It has never been possible to pick one as the "best" code, as each has its advantages and its advocates. Our experience is that any attempt to enforce a particular representation such as postscript, TeX, or SGML leads to immediate war.

 

A feature of HTTP is that the client sends a list of the representations it understands along with its request, and the server can then ensure that it replies in a suitable way. We needed this feature to cope with the existing mass of graphics formats for example (GIF, TIFF, JPEG to name but a few). If we cannot cope with the existing formats, how can we hope to evolve to take advantage of all the exciting new formats yet to be invented? Format negotiation allows the web to distances itself from the technical and political battles of the data formats.

 

A spin-off of this involves high-level formats for specific data. In certain fields, special data formats have been designed for handling for example DNA codes, the spectra of stars, classical Greek, or the design of bridges. Those working in the field have software allowing them not only to view this data, but to manipulate it, analyse it, and modify it. When the server and the client both understand such a high-level format, then they can take advantage of it, and the data is transferred in that way. At the same time, other people (for example high school students) without the special software can still view the data, if the server can convert it into an inferior but still useful form. We keep the W3 goal of "universal readership" without compromising total functionality at the high level.

 

 

W3 Protocols

 

The specifications for the following protocols and formats are publicly available at the W3C web site at http://www.w3.org.

 

The W3 project has deined a number of common practices which allow all the clients and servers to communicate.

 

URL (Universal Resource Locator)

 

When you are reading a document, behind every link there is the network-wide address of the document to which it refers (e.g. http://www.inria.fr). The design of these addresses (URLs) is as fundamental to W3 as hypertext itself. The addreses allow any object anywhere on the internet to be described, even though these objects are accesed using a variety of different protocols. This flexibility allows the web to envelop all the existing data in FTP archives, news arcticles, and WAIS and Gopher servers.

 

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)

 

The web uses a number of protocols, then, but it also has its own Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). This protocol includes a number of facilities which we needed: it is fast, stateless and extensable. It also allows the web to surmount the problems of different data types using negotiation of the data represeentation as already described .

 

The other protocols which W3 clients can speak include FTP, WAIS, Gopher, and NNTP, the network news protocol.

 

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)

 

Although W3 uses many different formats, this is one basic format which every W3 client understands. It is a simple SGML document type allowing structured text with links. The fact that HTML is valid SGML opens the door to interchange with other systems, but SGML was not chosen for any particular technical merit. HTML describes the logical structure of the document instead of its formatting. This allows it to be displayed optimally on different platforms using different fonts and conventions.

 

HTML 3.2 is the current specification recommended by W3C.

 

CSS (Cascading Style Sheet)

 

Style sheets describe how documents are presented on screens, in print, or perhaps how they are pronounced. Style sheets are soon coming to a browser near you, and this page and its links will tell you all there is to know about style sheets.

By attaching style sheets to structured documents on the Web (e.g. HTML), authors and readers can influence the presentation of documents without sacrificing device-independence or adding new HTML tags.

 

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a style sheet mechanism that has been specifically developed to meet the needs of Web designers and users. A CSS style sheet can set fonts, colors, white space and other presentational aspects of a document.

 

CSS 1 are now supported in recent versions of Microsoft Explorer and Netscape.

 

 

ANNEX B: W3c Members

 

EUROPE: total 62 (Full 27, Affiliate 35)

 

Aérospatiale

F

Agfa

F

Alcatel Alsthom Recherche

F

AGF Group

F

Alfa-Omega Foundation

A

Architecture Projects Management Ltd.

A

Belgacom

F

British Telecommunications Laboratories

F

Bull S.A.

F

Canal+

F

Cap Gemini Innovation

F

CEA (Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique)

A

CERN

A

CNRS/UREC (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

A

CWI (Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science)

A

CIRAD

A

CCLRC (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory)

A

Computer Answer Line

A

CNR (Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche)

A

Cosmosbay

A

Dassault Aviation

F

Deutsche Telekom

F

EEIG/ERCIM (European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics)

A

ENEL

F

ENSIMAG

A

EDF (Electricité de France)

F

Ericsson Telecom

F

Etnoteam

A

FORTH (Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas)

A

France Telecom

F

GC Tech S.A.

A

Gemplus

F

GMD Institute

A

Grenoble Network Initiative

A

GRIF, S.A.

A

Groupe ESC Grenoble

A

Havas

F

Iberdrola

F

ILOG, S.A.

A

Infopartners S.A.

A

INRETS

A

Institut Franco-Russe A.M. Liapunov d'informatique et de mathematiques appliques

A

Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)

A

Matra Hachette

F

Michelin

F

MTA SZTAKI

A

NHS (The National Health Service)

A

Nokia

F

O2 Technology

A

Orstom

A

PIPEX Public IP Exchange Ltd

A

Reed-Elsevier

F

Sema Group

F

SICS (Swedish Institute of Computer Science)

A

Siemens Nixdorf

F

SISU (Swedish Institute for Systems Development)

A

Sligos

F

STET

F

SURFnet bv

A

Thomson-CSF

F

UKERNA (United Kingdom Research and Education Networking Association)

A

VTT Information Technology

A

 

AMERICA: total 84 (Full 29, Affiliate 55)

 

Adobe Systems Incorporated

F

Alis Technologies, Inc

A

America Online

F

American International Group Data Center, Inc. (AIG)

A

American Internet Corporation

A

Apple Computer, Inc.

F

AT&T

F

Bellcore

F

Bitstream, Inc.

A

Compuserve

F

CyberCash

A

Cygnus Support

A

Data Research Associates, Inc.

A

Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)

A

Delphi Internet

F

Digital Equipment Corporation

F

Digital Style Corporation

A

Eastman Kodak Company

F

Electronic Book Technologies

A

Enterprise Integration Technology

A

FTP Software, Inc.

F

First Floor, Inc.

A

First Virtual Holding

A

Folio Corporation

A

Fulcrum Technologies, Inc.

A

General Magic, Inc.

A

Geoworks

A

Harlequin Incorporated

A

Hewlett Packard

F

Hummingbird Communications Ltd.

A

IBM

F

Incontext Systems

A

Intel Corp.

F

Intermind Corporation

A

Internet Profiles Corporation

A

Intraspect Sofware

A

K2Net

A

Lexmark International Inc.

F

Los Alamos National Laboratory

A

Lotus Development Corporation

F

Lucent Technologies

F

Mainspring Communications

A

Metrowerks Corporation

A

MCI Telecommunications

F

MITRE Corporation

A

Microsoft Corporation

F

NCR

F

NCSA / Univ. of Illinois

A

Netscape Communications Corp.

F

NeXT Software Inc.

A

Novell, Inc.

F

NYNEX Science & Technology

F

Object Management Group

A

OCLC

A

Open Market

A

Open Software Foundation Research Institute

A

Oracle Corporation

F

O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.

A

PointCast Incorporated

A

Pretty Good Privacy

A

Process Software Corp.

A

Prodigy Services Company

F

Progressive Networks

A

Raptor Systems Inc

A

Rice University for National HCPP Software Exchange

A

Security Dynamics Technologies, Inc

A

Silicon Graphics, Inc.

F

Softquad

A

Software 2000

F

Spyglass Inc.

A

Sun Microsystems

F

Syracuse University

A

Tandem Computers Inc.

F

Teknema Corporation

A

Telequip Corporation

A

Terisa Systems

A

TIAA-CREF

A

TriTeal Corporation

A

U.S. Web Corporation

A

Verity Inc.

A

Wolfram Research, Inc.

A

Wollongong Group

A

Xerox Corp

F

Xionics Document Technologies

A

 

ASIA-PACIFIC: total 17 (Full 9, Affiliate 8)

 

Canon, Inc

F

Fujitsu Ltd.

F

Hitachi, Ltd.

F

ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute)

A

Justsystem Corporation

A

Kumamoto Institute of Computer Software, Inc.

A

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation

F

NEC Corporation

F

NTT Data Communications

F

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT)

F

Omron Corporation

F

Pacifitech Corporation

A

The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club

A

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

A

Sony Corporation

F

WWW.Consult Pty, Ltd

A

WWW - KR

A