In January 1995, Gregg Vanderheiden developed the foremost web accessibility guideline. It was after the Second International Conference at the World Wide Web (WW II) in Chicago, where Tim Berners-Lee included the concept of disability access in his keynote speech
"The power of the Web lies in its universality. Access by everyone even in any case of disability is an essential aspect."
after being pitched the concept by Mike Paciello. After which the revolution of Accessibility to differently abled to internet began, over 38 different web access guidelines were developed by multiple authors and organizations in the next few years. All of which were acknowledged together on the Unified Web Site Accessibility Guidelines formulated at University of Wisconsin at Madison. The version 8 of Unified Web Site Accessibility guidelines was published in 1998, which laid the foundation of W3C's WCAG 1.0.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) leads an important part in the concept of web accessibility. Executed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), it is an international development standards organization for the development of the Internet. The WCAG is a set of counsel for making the content on the internet more accessible for the people with disabilities and also for the users, including devices such as mobile phones.
Evolution of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
The WCAG was first published on 5 May 1999, referred to as WCAG 1.0, which has been replaced by WCAG 2.0. The WCAG 1.0 comprises 14 guidelines, each comprehending the basic principles of accessibility. Every guideline is associated with checkpoints to direct the implication of the same when developing each feature of an accessible website or tool. In February 2008, a group of independent developers published the WCAG Samurai. It was led by Joe Clark, which contained the alterations and extensions to WCAG 1.0. Later, the same year on 11 December, WCAG 2.0 was formulated and executed as a W3C recommendation, which consisted of 12 guidelines under 4 principles. It said that the internet and web tools must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. Each guideline was assigned testable success criteria. Along with which was published the W3C’s Techniques for WCAG 2.0, it was a set of techniques that help authors meet guidelines and success criteria. The techniques have evolved with time but the principles, guidelines and the success criteria are rigid.
Guidelines to POUR Content
The concept of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is based on four main principles which are considered during the development of accessible websites and software. The principles state that the content must be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust (POUR). WCAG is the most-referenced set of guidelines standards in web accessibility.
The content presented on the internet must be perceivable, which refers to that users must be able to explain the information being depicted. It cannot be available to all their senses. Guidelines to perceivable content-
● Text Alternatives- provision of alternatives to all the non-text content, which makes the text alterable to any form needed by the user, i.e. braille, speech, large print, symbols, or simpler or easy language.
● Time- based Media- provision of alternatives for time-based media.
● Adaptable- information or user interface that is capable of being presented in multiple ways without losing the content, source or structure.
● Distinguishable- segregation of background and foreground for a simplified interface.
The content and the UI must be operable. The interface cannot include an interaction that a user cannot perform. Guidelines to operable content-
● Keyboard Accessible- all the functionalities must be accessible through keyboard.
● Sufficient Time Duration- The users must be provided with sufficient time to read and use content.
● Navigable- users must be able to navigate through content and know where they are.
● Input Modalities- simplify the content for users to operate multiple functionalities beyond the keyboard.
Both information and the UI must be simplified for the user to understand. Guidelines to understandable content-
● Readable- the content must be readable and understandable.
● Predictable- the UI and functionality of the content must be predictable.
● Input Assistance- the users must be assisted while the input of any content to help users to avoid and correct mistakes, and alter content.
The content must be robust, in order to be interpreted by multiple user categories including the assistive technologies. Guidelines to robust content-
● Compatible- the content must be compatible at maximum, to be interpreted by maximum users including the assistive technologies.
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) at W3C
The WAI at W3C have united people from government, research labs, industry and disability organizations globally to assist development of accessible to all internet. It includes designing of worldwide applicable guidelines structure and resources to develop accessible websites and software to people with neurological, auditory, physical, speech, visual and cognitive disabilities.
WAI's inclusion upon web accessibility includes the following:
● "web content"- software and websites
● Authoring tools like content management systems (CMS) and blog software
● Web Accessibility Initiative- Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA)
The Internet is designed to be accessible for everyone, regardless of software, hardware, language, location or ability they use. As the internet achieves the objective of complete accessibility to the crowd of diverse range of movement, sight, hearing and cognitive ability. Thus, the consequences of one's disability are ineffective on the internet, because it removes the barriers of e-communication and interaction that are faced by many people in the physical world. Although, if the website, applications or software are poorly designed they can create multiple accessibility barriers that may not allow people to use the internet.
Accessibility is an important part for developers who wish to create high quality websites and software that will be further visited by every segment of abled users, and not exclude users from the service from their product.
The goal of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is to enable the internet for complete accessibility to every segment of differently abled people using the internet.
The Concept of WAI
Why: The issue for Web Accessibility
Every user should have equal access and opportunity regardless of any diverse abilities. To which, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to communications and information technologies, including the internet, as a basic or nominal human right.
Accessibility to all not only includes the differently abled, but also the elderly, rural based users and people from developing countries. It also benefits people without disabilities, the Web Accessibility Perspectives video portrays the essentiality of accessibility for people with disabilities and is useful for everyone in a variety of situations.
Accessibility makes a strong case. Being dynamic in evolution it overlaps with other best implications of the internet and its creation, i.e. device independence, usability, search engine optimization (SEO), mobile web design, multi-model interaction and design for older users. Research shows that websites with better accessibility have comparatively better search results, increased audience, reduced maintenance, among other benefits.
What: Examples of web accessibility
Efficiently developed software and websites can be used by people with disabilities. Although, many of them are developed with accessibility barriers which make it impossible for the differently abled to use them. For e.g. If the alt text is not provided and is not designed to support the image, it makes it difficult for the blind people who use screen readers that read the content aloud of the page. Developing an alt text for the visuals is necessary.
Providing the alt text, make the information on the page or the website more accessible, including the differently abled in the audience. It further assists the technologies that cannot read visuals like search engines.
Keyboard Input- there are people who cannot use a mouse like with fine motor skills. An accessible website or software does not rely on the mouse, it avails the functionality from the keyboard. It opens up the website or the software to the differently abled who can further make use of technology like mimic the keyboard, such as speech input.
Audio Transcripts- As visuals are not accessible to blind people, similarly audio files are not accessible to deaf people or who are hard of hearing. Hence, providing transcript in support of the audio content makes it accessible to more audiences which includes deaf people and other technologies itself like the search engines to filter content to display efficiently. Providing transcripts in support of audio is very easy and relatively inexpensive, also there are transcription services that develop text transcripts in HTML format.
How: Develop accessible software and websites
Accessibility is easy to implement. Following can be the initiatives to begin with:
● Accessibility Principles- avails accessibility structure and international standards objectified,
● Beginner Review- provides with first testing to accessibility of a website or a software, to direct some common accessibility barriers,
● Tips for getting started- provides the basic module of accessibility for designing, developing and writing.
Though some of the barriers are found to be more complicated to avoid and their development takes more time and effort, against which W3C WAI provides resources to assist through such barriers. The extensive package of resources includes tutorials and support materials, also available on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 Overview.
Utilization of authoring tools including the help from the browsers, play a major role in supporting the accessibility for web developers.