Sunday, December 14, 2008

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

The W3C has published its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. These recommendations have been worked on to make the Internet more accessible for people with disabilities and for older people and it aims to increase the usability of websites across a variety of mobile devices.

This improved standard addresses the barriers to accessing the Web experienced by people with visual, auditory, physical, cognitive and neurological disabilities, and by older Web users with accessibility needs. WCAG 2.0 explains how to make content:
  • Perceivable (for instance by addressing text alternatives for images, captions for audio, adaptability of presentation, and color contrast);
  • Operable (by addressing keyboard access, color contrast, timing of input, seizure avoidance, and navigability);
  • Understandable (by addressing readability, predictability, and input assistance); and
  • Robust (for instance by addressing compatibility with assistive technologies).
The publication of this standard comes at a time when the Wikimedia Foundation is preparing its Stanton project team to address usability. Even with $890.000,-- there is only so much that you can do and the research by UNICEF has made it painfully clear how much work needs to be done on MediaWiki usability. Browsing the text of this improved standard, it is clear to me that this standard is written to a large extend for the classic websites that are quite static in nature. The content of wikis are generated by its communities and consequently it will be hard to make it available in all the different ways discussed in these guidelines. I do expect that there is much in there that is relevant.

The Stanton team will start its work in January with assessing what has already been done by others on usability. In the WCAG 2.0 it finds guidelines that help our projects to become accessible for people with disabilities. It is a happy coincidence that these standard have been published before this work actually started.

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