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Web Standards Will Help Web Accessibilty

Released: November 2000 | Author: George Olsen on behalf of The Web Standards Project

Full support for Web standards would enable developers to make
even fuller use of guidelines intended to make the Web more
accessible to people with disabilities, according to the Web
Standards Project.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, developed by the
World Wide Web Consortium, will help Web developers build sites
that can be more easily access, whether by people with
disabilities or by anyone who might be visiting the site under
some constraint, for example a slow Internet connection.

“People will find many of the guidelines are things they may be
doing already, or can do just by planning ahead,” said George
Olsen, WSP Project Leader. “For example, most developers are
already using <alt> tags to describe graphics.”

Most of the guidelines can be used by Web developers with minimal
extra effort and few, if any, trade-offs.

“The guidelines aren’t asking us to design to the lowest common
denominator, they’re merely asking us to provide alternate ways
for users to comprehend our content,” Olsen said.

Using the accessibility features built into Web standards
minimizes the need for developers to build alternate versions of
their sites, he said.

But there are a few aspects of the guidelines that still need
full support for Web standards in order to be used fully.

For example, the guidelines ask Web developers to avoid using the
<table> tag to layout elements of a page—a workaround that’s
used by a vast majority of Web sites—unless the table can make
sense when read line-by-line. The Cascading Style Sheets 2.0
(CSS-2) standard, finalized more than a year ago, would enable
Web developers to lay out pages much more easily, and still be
accessible—but few browsers today support the layout and
positioning features of CSS-2.

In writing the guidelines, the Web Accessibility Initiative had
to provide “interim” guidelines for several areas, describing
workarounds developers can use to make pages more accessible
until browsers fully support standards and eliminate the need for
stop-gap measures.

“As browsers fully support key Web standards, it will become
easier to use these guidelines,” Olsen. “But in the meantime,
developers should incorporate the majority of the guidelines that
can be used today.”

About the Web Standards Project

is an international coalition of Web developers advancing the Web
industry by bringing attention to browser incompatibilities. The
coalition urges all browser manufacturers to support existing
standards before incorporating proprietary innovations.

The Web Standards Project is a grassroots coalition fighting for standards which ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all.

All of the entries posted in WaSP Buzz express the opinions of their individual authors. They do not necessarily reflect the plans or positions of the Web Standards Project as a group.

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