World Wide Web Consortium Launches International Program Office for Web Accessibility Initiative

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Government, Industry, Research and Disability Organizations Join Forces to Promote Accessibility of the Web


WASHINGTON, DC, USA -- October 22, 1997 -- The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today announced the launch of the International Program Office (IPO) for the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to promote and achieve Web functionality for people with disabilities. "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect," said Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web. "The IPO will ensure the Web can be accessed through different combinations of senses and physical capabilities just as other W3C activities ensure its operation across different hardware and software platforms, media, cultures and countries."

Judy Brewer, recently appointed Director of the IPO, affirmed that "the W3C realizes the critical importance of the Web for people with disabilities, and is committed to making the Web Accessibility Initiative a success. We are proud to host this unique partnership. Through the IPO, we will be coordinating with industry, government, research, and disability organizations to ensure that needs related to accessibility are addressed throughout the Consortium's work, and that the message of an accessible Web is carried as broadly as possible."

World Wide Support

The International Program Office is sponsored by a partnership of government, industry, research, and disability organizations. Endorsed by the White House, the IPO is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the European Commission's TIDE Programme, and W3C industry members. Industry sponsors include IBM/Lotus Development Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, NCR, and Riverland Holding. In addition, research and disability organizations on several continents participate in the IPO.

"The National Science Foundation recognizes the importance computers can play in removing barriers," said Gary Strong, Program Director for Interactive Systems at the National Science Foundation. "Systems developed to aid people with disabilities may help able-bodied people too. Research into speech recognition and synthesis, automatic translation software, alternative interfaces with computers, and new approaches to representing, transmitting and storing information can have countless applications. Such information technology can help move the 'information age' beyond the 'information overload age' to a future where useful information is accessible to all."

"Access to information through technologies such as the web is convenient for some, but for people with disabilities it is increasingly what makes educational and employment opportunity possible," said Kate Seelman, Director of the US Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Dr. Ing. Egidio Ballabio, Head of Division for Telematics Applications : Directorate Generale 13, added "the Disabled and Elderly Sector of the Telematics Applications Programme, formerly TIDE (Technology Initiative for Disabled and Elderly People), will provide financial and administrative support to the Web Accessibility Initiative project (WAI). Telematics is part of the IV Framework Programme of the European Community for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration activities."

"Having played an instrumental role in the creation and launch of the Web Accessibility Initiative," said Mike Paciello, Executive Director of the Yuri Rubinsky Insight Foundation, "the YRIF is pleased to share in the announcement of the WAI IPO. We will continue to push the envelope that leads to technology advancements on behalf of people with disabilities and commend the W3C for its continued leadership role."

Renowned Leadership

"The appointment of Judy Brewer as Director of the IPO/WAI is an important step in advancing this critical initiative. With her proven leadership, the efforts of the IPO/WAI will benefit not only the special needs community, but all users of Web technology," said John Patrick, Vice President, Internet Technology, IBM.

"Judy's past experience as Project Director of MATP [Massachusetts Assistive Technology Partnership], her tremendous contribution to our TAAC [Telecommunications Access Advisory Committee] development of Telecom96 [Telecommunications Act of 1996] accessibility guidelines and her broad-based understanding of the E-Com [Electronic Commerce] business benefits accessible web page design brings to the table for big business qualifies Judy, more than anyone else, to lead the WAI [Web Accessibility Initiative] into the new Millennium," added Steve Jacobs, Senior Technology Consultant, NCR Corporation.

Walter De Brouwer, Chief Executive Officer of Riverland Holding, said "the future of computing is not about computers but about bridging social gaps. Riverland is committed to avoiding any type of exclusion which is why we support a dedicated effort for the disabled, the elderly and children. We want them to feel comfortable in a future where they will not be forgotten. Together with WAI and Judy Brewer we are ready to build that bridge."

Empowering Global Access

"Software designed for accessibility makes good business sense.", said Jonathan Roberts, Director of Windows Marketing for Microsoft. "Access to the Internet has provided enormous benefits to individuals with disabilities, and I expect that the IPO/WAI will become a voice for setting standards and promoting the continued accessibility of the Web."

The International Program Office will coordinate the following five activities with regard to Web accessibility:

  • data formats and protocols;
  • guidelines for browsers, authoring tools, and content creation;
  • rating and certification;
  • education and outreach; and
  • research and advanced development

The WAI has already has several active working groups and expects to announce progress on the technical side before the end of the year. According to Daniel Dardailler, W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Project Manager, the WAI technical working group has reviewed the format and protocol elements within the HTML 4.0 specification, and will be delivering their feedback to the W3C HTML Working Group in the very near future.

Larry Goldberg, Director of Media Access at the WGBH Educational Foundation said, "WGBH congratulates the W3C on the establishment of the International Programming Office on Web Accessibility and its choice of Judy Brewer to be its head. The new IPO will be an excellent source for raising of awareness and for educating all web companies and supporters as to the need for greater access for all people. WGBH and its National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) has been working closely with the W3C to help address key issues for people with disabilities, especially people who are blind or visually impaired or deaf or hard-of-hearing. For this last group, the time is right now to deal with issues of audio on the web since we are still early in that development. NCAM looks forward to working with the IPO, especially on the issues of making multimedia on the Web accessible to people through closed captions and audio descriptions."

"The W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative presents an unprecedented opportunity to bring together web authors, browser developers and internet infrastructure architects to address the issue of access to the next generation web in a way that would not otherwise be possible," said Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden, Director of TRACE Research and Development Center. "The result is that for the first time we have an opportunity to address access for people with disabilities (and those who are older or have low bandwidth systems or are using smaller devices) in a systematic and effective manner. This is important because the band aid approach that has been used in the past has resulted in unnecessary work for web designers and inadequate access by many web users. Given the rate at which the web is being integrated into education and employment settings, this development is essential for real access to next generation education and employment environments for people with disabilities and those who will be older."

For more information on the International Program Office and the Web Accessibility Initiative, please see


About the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C]

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; reference code implementations to embody and promote standards; and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. To date, over 215 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


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 the network and digital media technology.

For more information on Keio University, see


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