By Janina Sajka
Today the Protocols and Formats Working Group published Media Accessibility User Requirements (MAUR) as a W3C Note. This document describes the needs of users with disabilities to be able to consume media (video and audio) content. In development since late 2009, the MAUR has already been used to ensure that the HTML 5 specification can fully support traditional alternative media access technologies (such as captioning), and newer, digitally based approaches (such as simultaneous sign language translation). It is the most thorough and comprehensive review of alternative media support for persons with disabilities yet developed. In addition to HTML 5 support for traditional broadcast approaches, it also describes media accessibility user requirements related to newer technologies being developed specifically for the web.
Media accessibility is familiar to many from the closed captions used in television broadcasts. While captions are frequently used by the general public in noisy environments, it’s also generally understood that captions were initially created to allow persons who are deaf or hard of hearing understand the audio content of television and movies–content they cannot hear, as indeed no one can in very noisy environs. Over the past 30 years, most people have come to an appreciation of captions in movies and television content.
Less well known, but widely established and equally successful, is the practice of describing the visual content of television and movies for those who cannot see it. The human-narrated descriptions are generally provided on the secondary audio programming (SAP) channel of television broadcasts, or via wireless headphones in movie theaters.
As HTML 5 based web technologies are increasingly used to deliver video content, the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative has stepped forward to develop a set of requirements for insuring that media content delivered over the web can also leverage the power of the web to make media accessibility to persons with disabilities accessible. The MAUR will be useful for user agent developers and media content developers alike as they exploit the power of HTML 5. It will aid broadcasters as they publish their content on their web sites, and it will aid governmental entities seeking to meet their legislated mandates to make governmental web content accessible.