W3C Issues Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as a Recommendation

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WAI Provides Definitive Guidance for Web Access by People with Disabilities

Testimonials | Fact Sheet


http://www.w3.org/ -- 5 May 1999 -- The World Wide Web Consortium today announced the release of the "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0" specification as a W3C Recommendation. As a W3C Recommendation, the specification is stable, contributes to the universality of the Web, and has been reviewed by the W3C Membership who recommend it as the means for making Web sites accessible. W3C encourages information providers to raise their level of accessibility using this Recommendation.

Clear Expectations for Web Sites

"The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines explain what to do," said Tim Berners-Lee, Director of W3C. "It has always been difficult to know, when making a site more accessible, which changes are critical. These guidelines answer that question, and set common expectations so that providers of Web sites and users can be much more strategic. The bar has been set, and technologically it is not a very high bar. Some of the items in these guidelines will be unnecessary once authoring tools do them automatically. Now it is time to see which sites can live up to this."

Stable Guidance for Changing Technologies

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines establish stable principles for accessible design, such as the need to provide equivalent alternatives for auditory and visual information. Each guideline has associated "checkpoints" explaining how these accessibility principles apply to specific features of sites. For example, providing alternative text for images ensures that information is available to a person who cannot see images. Providing captions for audio files makes information available to someone who cannot hear audio.

The guidelines are designed to be forward-compatible with evolving Web technologies, yet enable sites to degrade gracefully when confronted with legacy browsers. Specifics on how to implement the checkpoints with the latest versions of mark-up or presentation languages such as HTML, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), or SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) are described in a parallel "Techniques" document, to be updated periodically.

Prioritized Checklist For Easy Reference

"An accompanying 'Checklist' provides a handy tool for reviewing Web sites and clearly delineates the three priority levels in the guidelines," explained Daniel Dardailler, Technical Manager of the Web Accessibility Initiative.

Outcome of a Strong Collaboration

As with other areas of WAI work, these guidelines are an outcome of a collaboration of industry, disability organizations, accessibility research centers and governments working together to identify consensus solutions for barriers that people with disabilities encounter on the Web.

"The W3C has provided a unique forum which has allowed us to bring together experts from industry, research and practice in a way that has not been possible before," explained Gregg Vanderheiden, Director of Trace Research & Development Center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Co-Chair of the Web Content Guidelines Working Group. "The result is a set of guidelines that is more comprehensive, technically sound and practical than anything possible before. In addition, because the guidelines are built on the work and participation of virtually everyone who is active in this area, it provides us for the first time with a definitive set of guidelines that can serve as a reference for the field."

Broader Benefits

Accessible design also benefits other Web users, for instance by promotingdevice-independence for Web content. Checkpoints that support Web access for people with visual disabilities also help people accessing the Web from mobile phones, hand-held devices, or automobile-based PC's; when connection speed is too slow to support viewing images or video; or when a person's eyes are "busy" with other tasks. Checkpoints such as captions support access for people with hearing impairments but also help people who are using the Web in noisy or in silent environments; and they make it possible to index and search on audio content. Use of CSS for control of presentation not only facilitates accessibility, but also speeds download time of pages and can reduce costs of maintaining or updating the "look and feel" of sites.

Supporting Resources

"We have a growing list of resources to support implementation," explained Judy Brewer, Domain Leader for WAI. "We are developing an on-line curriculum to take Web authors through the guidelines, giving examples of mark-up of tables, frames, animations, multimedia, and other features that create barriers when done poorly but are accessible when marked up correctly. There are technical reference notes; links to browsers with features to support accessibility; links to information on policies in different countries that relate to accessibility."

About the Web Accessibility Initiative

W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), in partnership with organizations around the world, is pursuing accessibility of the Web through five activities: ensuring that core technologies of the Web support accessibility; developing guidelines for Web content, user agents, and authoring tools; developing evaluation and repair tools for accessibility; conducting education and outreach; and tracking research and development that can affect future accessibility of the Web. The WAI International Program Office is supported in part by funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, European Commission's DG XIII Telematics Applications Programme for Disabled and Elderly, the Government of Canada, IBM, Lotus Development Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, and NCR. For more information see http://www.w3.org/WAI.

About the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability. It is an international industry consortium jointly run by the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (MIT 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 320 organizations are Members of the Consortium.


W3C Contacts

Janet Daly, <janet@w3.org>, +1.617.253.5884
Ned Mitchell, <ned@ala.com>, +33 1 43 22 79 56

Andrew Lloyd, <allo@ala.com>, +44 1 27 367 5100


Yuko Watanabe <yuko@w3.org>, +81.466.49.1170

Testimonials for "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0"

Vice President Al Gore | Treasury Board of Canada | Bell Atlantic | Boeing | Coalition for Networked Information | COCEMF | HTML Writers Guild | IBM | Vinton Cerf, Internet Society | Microsoft | National Assocation of the Deaf | National Council on Disability | Productivity Works | RealNetworks | RNIB | SoftQuad | Sun Microsystems | Texas Education Agency | World Blind Union | World Institute on Disability | World Organization of Webmasters


Congratulations to the World Wide Web Consortium and its Members for helping to make the Web more accessible for people with disabilities. The Web is having a dramatic impact on the way we work, learn, live and communicate with each other, and it is essential that this new medium be accessible to everyone. People with disabilities should be full participants in the Information Society. I am proud of the role that the White House has played in serving as a catalyst for the Web Accessibility Initiative. The U.S. Government intends to work closely with the World Wide Web Consortium to ensure that government information and services are accessible, and I want to challenge all Web developers to design Web sites that are accessible to everyone.

--Al Gore, Vice President, USA


The Government of Canada's Federal Identity Program is developing a common look and feel for all federal Internet/Intranet sites and electronic networks and products. Federal identity, Information design and infrastructure of a Web site will affect an institution's ability to meet moral and legal obligations to make all information accessible to all Canadians. This initiative challenges Web developers and communications officers to consider both information and information design within the context of universal access. The Treasury Board of Canada, Secretariat recognizes and supports the importance of the work of the W3C's WAI and is committed to ensuring that Government of Canada Web sites comply with many of the WAI's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines' checkpoints.

-- Alan Way, Group Chief, Federal Identity Program, Treasury Board of Canada, Secretariat


Over the past century and a quarter, the concept of universal access and availability has driven the telecommunications industry. Part of that drive has been the enormous commitment and inspired innovation that has made using the telephone virtually barrier free. The World Wide Web is essentially a multimedia extension of the telephone, and those who generate and project content over so ubiquitous a medium must commit themselves to the concept of universal access. Bell Atlantic is committed to the adoption and application of the WC3 accessibility guidelines. We are applying them on our own AccessAbility Web pages and will promote barrier-free access to the Internet by others. The Internet is in its infancy. Bell Atlantic believes that now is the time to establish a new tradition of universal access.

--Toby Webb, Bell Atlantic Vice President-External Affairs and Corporate Communications


Boeing applauds the W3C for this excellent effort to make Web developers aware of the requirements necessary to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities. While we are not currently fully compliant with these guidelines, the specifications will enable us to move in the direction of making our site more accessible to all users.

--Sue Lorenz, Chairperson; Web Communication Council, The Boeing Company


As more and more content critical to teaching, learning and research moves to the net, it is critical to ensure that these materials are very broadly accessible; the digital environment promises so much in this area, but we can achieve this promise only if we are thoughtful and well-informed about how to apply the technology to enhance rather than inhibit accessibility. These guidelines are badly needed and will, I believe, be welcomed by a wide range of institutions that both create and acquire content.

-- Clifford Lynch, Director, Coalition for Networked Information


COCEMFE (Confederación Coordinadora Estatal de Minusválidos Físicos de España) is an Spanish mobility impaired people umbrella organization that represents more than 1 million handicapped people in Spain. This organization fully supports the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines developed by WAI and plans to promote their implementation in all its association´s Web sites. Furthermore, COCEMFE will undertake active policies to promote these guidelines at a national level.

-- Javier Romañach, President of COCEMFE's R&D Comission.


Understanding the principles of accessible Web authoring is crucial for mastering the potential of the Web; interoperability and platform-independence are the Web's cornerstones. Application of the WCAG not only produces accessible pages, but overall better pages as well. The HTML Writers Guild is committed to promoting and teaching these guidelines among our membership; we urge all Web authors to study and learn from the W3C's work and produce a World Wide Web that can truly be used by everyone.

- Kynn Bartlett, AWARE Center Director, HTML Writers Guild


As a major sponsor of the Web Accessibility Initiative, IBM is pleased to endorse the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and checklist. IBM has already adopted most of the accessibility checklist in our recently enhanced www.ibm.com and the design standards that we use to manage over a million Web pages around the world. IBM's effort's have also included Home Page Reader, a talking Web browser, that takes advantage of the W3C recommendation in making the Web more accessible to the blind and vision impaired. IBM is committed to making the Web accessible to all our customers and employees, including those with disabilities and those using emerging Internet devices. IBM is e-business and we are committed to making the Web e-accessible as well."

-- Carol Moore, Vice President of Corporate Internet Programs, IBM


Internet is for everyone! At least, that is the goal of the Internet Society. But Internet won't be for everyone if it poses impossible barriers to access by failing to take various disabilities into account when preparing material for delivery through the World Wide Web or other "channels" in the system. The World Wide Web Consortium guidelines represent a beacon bright with promise and potential for everyone confronted with daily challenges of information accessibility. Moreover, the proposed guidelines will make the Web more friendly and useful for everyone, not only those who may need a little extra help. I am hearing impaired and the effort by W3C to make the Internet truly accessible for everyone has personal meaning to me.

-- Vint Cerf, Chairman, Internet Society


Microsoft is firmly committed to making computer technology and the Web accessible to everyone. We are proud to be a founding supporter of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, and a contributor to these guidelines, which will be instrumental in insuring individuals with disabilities have full access to the Web. It is essential that every company and organization developing Web content move toward supporting these guidelines and incorporate them into their design process.

-- Greg Lowney, Director of Accessibility, Microsoft Corp.


The National Association of the Deaf enthusiastically applauds the release of new guidelines designed to ensure access to the World Wide Web by individuals with disabilities. As use of multimedia on the Web steadily increases, these guidelines will ensure that individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing will continue to have full access to the vast amount of information and knowledge shared through this medium. A significant number of multimedia applications on the Web are increasingly relying on audio access. By requiring captioned text for material that is presented aurally, the guidelines will ensure that persons who are deaf and hard of hearing can fully reap the benefits of the electronic highway in our work, school, and recreation."

--Karen Peltz Strauss, Legal Counsel of Telecommunications Policy , National Association of the Deaf


The World Wide Web is revolutionizing pathways to the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including independent living, economic empowerment, and social integration. For several years, the National Council on Disability (NCD) has monitored barriers to the information superhighway for citizens with disabilities. We welcome the W3C Web Accessibility Guidelines as a concrete solution, properly developed through collaboration among industry, government, and the disability community. As part of our historic commitment to ADA, NCD will actively promote these guidelines.

-- Statement by Marca Bristo, Chairperson, National Council on Disability (an independent U.S. Federal agency)


The work done on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is an excellent first step. As we see more and more types of devices accessing the Internet, accessibility to the actual content for multiple delivery modalities will become more and more important. The Content Authoring Guidelines are the first design step to creating content which is access device independent -- for example content may then be accessed by PC, by Telephone, by game machines, palmtop devices, or by Web-enabled audio only book reading devices.

--Ray Ingram, Executive Vice President of The Productivity Works


Accessibility and usability are critical to ensuring the full potential of the Web as a universal communications medium is realized. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are a major step forward to enabling all individuals to experience the richness of the Web as an information source. The W3C has shown outstanding leadership by ensuring all can benefit from the value and usefulness of the Web.

-- Len Jordan, Senior Vice President, RealNetworks


The advent of the Web and availability of digital information has been a genuine revolution which holds great promise for the disability community and for visually-impaired people in particular. The amount of information that has potentially opened up for visually-impaired people is enormous. RNIB is fully supportive of and has taken part in WAI. WAI is showing authors of Web pages how easy and beneficial it is to implement good design principles. RNIB will continue to campaign for good design: it means the difference between playing a full and active part in society, or becoming a minority group who cannot exercise their rights, freedoms or responsibilities on an equal footing.

-- Steve Tyler, Manager, Digital Information and Communications Technology Access, Royal National Institute for the Blind, U.K.


The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Recommendation is an important step towards enabling Web content to be accessible to all Web users. SoftQuad has been at the forefront of implementing accessibility features in our products, as evidenced by the unique accessibility prompting in our award-winning HTML editor, HoTMetaL PRO. We look forward to working with the new guidelines to continue our leadership in this area.

--Lauren Wood, Director of Product Technologies, SoftQuad Software Inc.


Sun Microsystems is excited by the release of W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Making the information on the Web accessible, through use of guidelines such as these, is as important as making the technology itself accessible. Concrete guidelines only make it easier to do the right thing.

-- Franz Aman, Director Web Marketing, Sun Microsystems, Inc.


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently submitted a report to the Legislature which included a recommendation that "all Internet-based or Intranet-based textbooks adopted by the State Board of Education comply with the accessibility guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium." TEA plans, with publishing industry input, for implementation to begin in January 2000. This will benefit ALL 3.5 million students in Texas schools, including students with visual, hearing, or motor impairments, learning disabilities, and limited English proficiency, since accessibility enables better customization to meet individual learning needs of students.

-- Jim Allan, Chairperson, Accessibility Subcommittee, TEA Computer Network Study


The World Blind Union (WBU) endorses the guidelines and will promote them among its 160 member countries on behalf of the estimated 160 million blind persons throughout the world. The Internet continues to play an increasingly important role in the lives of individuals, society, education and business. Without total and efficient access to the Internet by blind persons, they will be further alienated from full and equal participation in all aspects of society. It is vital and urgent that these guidelines be adopted by all Internet users with full endorsement by governments of the World.

-- Euclid J. Herie, President, World Blind Union


The World Institute on Disability (WID) welcomes the new Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This is a demonstration of the positive and useful benefits that are possible when there is collaboration between private companies and the disability community. WID will encourage many different Web site hosts to follow these guidelines, including many of the international organizations and governments that we interact with. The fact that the World Wide Web Consortium is the source of the guidelines makes our job much easier; as advocates for accessibility, we can now refer people to this W3C specification.

-- Deborah Kaplan, Executive Director, World Institute on Disability


The World Organization of Webmasters is committed to making the Web more universally accessible including having representatives participate in the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, dedicating a monthly column in the newsletter to the topic, and making sure to include accessibility information in the curriculum of our Certified Professional Webmaster program. In our opinion, a Web site cannot be a good site unless its an accessible site. That's why the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is one of the most important references to date.

-- William Cullifer, Executive Director, World Organization of Webmasters

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