The long-anticipated publication of new international web accessibility standard WCAG 2.0 has coincided with the release of a draft British Standard for managing web accessibility, in a landmark month for internet inclusion.
WCAG 2.0 (www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20) is the new version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), accepted as the main benchmark for ensuring web content is usable by people with disabilities
The new ‘recommendation’ – the consortium’s term for a full standard – was finally released on 11 December 2008, nine years and seven months after the adoption of its predecessor WCAG 1.0. The delay was caused by the W3C’s desire to consult as widely as possible on every stage of the complex guidelines’ development; and to ensure the standard is as generic and flexible as possible so it will remain relevant as web technologies develop.
A wide range of implementation and explanatory guidance has been published alongside the new guidelines, and W3C says websites which met the WCAG 1.0 guidelines should need little or no adjustment to meet WCAG 2.0.
Speaking to E-Access Bulletin shortly after publication, Judy Brewer, director of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, said one of the keys to WCAG 2.0 was improved flexibility, and an approach which emphasises generic outcomes rather than specific technical checkpoints. “They apply to all web technologies – we wanted developers to have fewer constraints in areas like scripting, and to be able to innovate,” Brewer said.
Meanwhile the consultation draft of a new British Standard for developing accessible websites has been published on the website of BSI, the UK’s national standards body ( drafts.bsigroup.com/?i=245).
The eventual standard BS 8878, entitled ‘Web accessibility – building accessible experiences for disabled people’, will be based on the previous Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 78 (see E-Access Bulletin issue 98 – www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=159)
It will not set technical specifications for accessibility, instead offering recommendations on upholding existing specifications, notably WCAG 2.0, and involving disabled people in developing and testing websites.
Julie Howell, chair of the BSI technical committee IST/45 which produced the draft, said: “This standard will be a fantastic tool for organisations wishing to understand their responsibilities in enabling disabled people to use web content.”
Ironically, many of the comments posted on the draft to date have focused on the relative inaccessibility and inflexibility of the document itself, and on difficulties with the registration process. Consultation continues to 31 January and the release of BS 8878 is expected in summer 2009.