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Making The Web - And Your Content - More Accessible

Last week, after a long process of drafting and refining the documents, W3C's <a href="http://www.w3.org/WAI/">Web Accessibility Initiative</a> released the <a href="http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/">Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0)</a>. It's been nine years since the guidelines have been updated, and while the technology behind Web sites has vastly changed, the basic need for accessibility hasn't.

Peter Hagopian

December 15, 2008

2 Min Read

Last week, after a long process of drafting and refining the documents, W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative released the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0). It's been nine years since the guidelines have been updated, and while the technology behind Web sites has vastly changed, the basic need for accessibility hasn't.In a nutshell, WCAG 2.0 is a series of guidelines around making Web sites accessible to older users, the vision impaired, and other people with disabilities. From the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) blog post announcing the new guidelines:

WCAG 2.0 is a significant improvement. It's better for Web site creators, it's better for people with disabilities, and many others, too. WCAG 2.0 met its goals: to apply to more advanced technologies; to be more precisely testable (with automated testing and human evaluation); and to be easier to use and understand.

While the guidelines themselves are extremely detailed, W3C has provided an excellent quick reference guide on how to meet the guidelines, running through both technical best practices and pitfalls to avoid as well as the different levels of success criteria.

While many content management tools already have functionality to assist with making sites more accessible, a new set of Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG 2.0) also is being developed.

The goal of ATAG 2.0 is twofold -- offering recommendations on how the tools can help make content more accessible, while at the same time making the tools themselves more accessible to those with disabilities. A working draft of the ATAG 2.0 guidelines has been made available and the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines Working Group is currently gathering feedback.

Unless your organization is federally funded or has government contracts (in which case you must adhere to Section 508 regulations), there's no legal mandate that your site must be accessible. But thanks to the efforts of dozens of volunteers putting in hundreds of hours of work, WCAG 2.0 makes it easier than ever to understand how to do the right thing.

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