The United Nations (UN) observes International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December. Here is an update on just a few of the things that W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is doing to improve digital accessibility for people with disabilities around the world: documenting user needs, translating resources, and updating language.
Documenting Accessibility User Needs
WAI continues to research and document user needs in several areas. These documents provide information to developers on how to make their products more accessible and inform future standards.
Note:The links below go to the latest published version. Some are incomplete “Working Drafts”. You can get in-progress updates from the “Latest editor’s draft” link near the top of each document.
- MAUR Media Accessibility User Requirements (MAUR updated Working Draft) describes the needs of users with disabilities to be able to consume audio and video media on the web. (Learn more from the MAUR blog post.)
- SAUR Synchronization Accessibility User Requirements addresses synchronization of captions, sign language interpretation, and descriptions in audio and video media. Media needs to be synchronized to very specific limits in order to be understandable. (SAUR blog)
- XAUR XR Accessibility User Requirements describes the needs of people with disabilities in virtual or immersive environments (XR). (XAUR blog)
- RAUR RTC Accessibility User Requirements describes user needs for real-time communication (RTC). RTC enables instantaneous applications for video and audio calls, text chat, file exchange, screen sharing, and gaming. (RAUR blog)
- NAUR Natural Language Interface Accessibility User Requirements addresses situations where a user and a system communicate via a natural (human) language. The user provides input as sentences via speech or other input, and the system generates responses as sentences delivered by speech, text, or another modality. (Learn more from the NAUR blog post.)
Translating Accessibility Resources
WAI is working with volunteer translators to provide accessibility resources in many languages. For example, Video Introduction to Web Accessibility and W3C Standards is available in العربية , čeština , Deutsch , Ελληνικά , español , français , Bahasa Indonesia , 日本語 , 한국어 , Nederlands , Português do Brasil , русский , 简体中文 plus additional subtitles in فارسی , ગુજરાતી , हिंदी , Magyar , Italiano , कोंकणी , മലയാളം , मराठी , తెలుగు
- All WAI Translations lists translations in 35 languages.
- WCAG 2 Translations lists Authorized Translations of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG is an ISO International Standard and is referenced in the European standard EN 301 549 for web content, electronic documents, and non-web software such as native mobile applications.
Updating Digital Accessibility Language
The Accessibility Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG) is updating wording in the English resources based on evolving terminology around the world.
For an example of how we handle terminology that is different across regions, see the section in Making Audio and Video Media Accessible on Captions and Subtitles.
Speech Recognition, Voice Recognition
Many of us called technology that converts what someone says into text ‘voice recognition’. Technology can now identify a person from their voice, and that is called ‘voice recognition’. Speech-to-text is more accurately called ‘speech recognition’. Therefore, we updated our style guide as follows:
“speech recognition” is different from “voice recognition”. In most EOWG documents, we mean “speech recognition”.
- “speech recognition” is about recognizing words for speech-to-text (STT) transcription, virtual assistants, and other speech user interfaces. (Most speech recognition programs can be trained to understand a specific person’s speech better, yet the programs don’t identify the person from their voice.)
- “voice recognition” is technology that identifies who the speaker is, not the words they’re saying. It’s also called “speaker recognition”. Some virtual assistants do both voice/speaker recognition and speech recognition.
Description of Visual Information in Videos
When videos have important visual information, that information needs to be described for people who are blind or otherwise cannot see the video. (To learn more, see Description of Visual Information.) The terminology for this is different around the world. And, common terminology (‘audio description’) is confusing to some people and not always accurate with current technologies. We updated our style guide to:
Use “description” and “description of visual information”, rather than “audio description” or “video description” in most cases.
- Usually include on first use:
Description of visual information is called audio description, video description, or described video in different areas.
- (Description discussion in GitHub issue with links to more information)
It turns out, some people think that ‘color blind’ means that a person cannot see any colors. However, it is extremely rare that a person cannot see any color. Most people who are ‘color blind’ see colors, just not all colors. We updated our style guide:
Avoid “color blind” alone, primarily because it can be misunderstood that people do not see any color.
- In almost all documents, especially referring to a person or persona, use:
cannot distinguish between certain colors (often called “color blindness”)
- In rare cases, when addressing the medical condition, use “color vision deficiency”. Usually do not use an acronym, because it is not widely known. (The only document identified so far for this use is Accessibility Requirements for People with Low Vision).
- (Color blind discussion in GitHub issue with links to LVTF (Low Vision Task Force) and EOWG meeting minutes)
A related wording issue of common terminology and simple language versus accuracy is ‘color contrast’ and ‘luminance contrast’. Here’s how we addressed that:
- In Easy Checks – A First Review of Web Accessibility, we used the section heading ‘Contrast ratio (“color contrast”)‘. We included this note:
“(This accessibility requirement is sometimes called sufficient “color contrast”; however, that is incorrect — technically it’s “luminance contrast”. On this page we use “contrast ratio” as short for “luminance contrast ratio” because it’s less jargony.)”
- The Perspectives Videos illustrate how accessibility is essential for people with disabilities and useful for all. We titled the video covering contrast: ‘Colors with Good Contrast‘. And the video page includes:
“Colors must have sufficient contrast, for example, between the text color and the background color (technically called luminance contrast ratio). This includes text on images, icons, and buttons. Also colors used to convey information on diagrams,…”
Wording Next Steps
We’ve already updated several resources, and will be updating other EOWG resources soon. If you see a current resource that needs updating, we welcome a quick e-mail to let us know. Or, if you are comfortable with GitHub, a pull request is best. Current EOWG resources have GitHub and e-mail links near the bottom of the page in the “Help improve this page” box.
We continue to discuss terminology for EOWG and other W3C resources, and welcome input on additional updates.
Invitation to Contribute
We welcome your input on all of the documents and issues. For the Accessibility User Requirements documents, you can find the e-mail address and GitHub links to submit comments in the “Status of This Document” section near the top of the document.
If you might be interested in contributing to translations, see Translating WAI Resources.