Feeds

Berners-Lee applies Web 2.0 to improve accessibility

Pushes vision of the Semantic Web

High performance access to file storage

Accessibility seminars often begin with a quote by Tim Berners-Lee: "The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." It's an old quote, but the web's inventor offered fresh ideas yesterday.

Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee presents his vision of the web's future at the 15th International World Wide Web Conference in Edinburgh today. At a press conference yesterday, he acknowledged that accessibility is failing the "essential aspect" he described back in 1997 when announcing the launch of the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (or WAI, pronounced 'way').

"That is a concern," he said of today's generally poor standard of web accessibility. Berners-Lee, who has served as W3C's director since it was founded in 1994, pointed out that his WAI team is working hard on a new set of guidelines to address accessibility. Version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, has been long awaited and the working draft is near completion: a 'last call' for public comment closes on 31 May.

Berners-Lee is not suggesting that WCAG 2.0 will present a quick-fix for web accessibility; but it should answer some of the criticisms of the current version.

One such criticism is that WCAG 1.0 is difficult to apply to technological developments on the web. Berners-Lee seemed to understand this concern. "I was having a conversation with someone the other day about video blogging," he said. "Does a video blogger need captioning? It's not easy to do."

So he suggested a novel approach: "What about community captioning? The video blogger posts his blog – and the web community provides the captions that help others."

This solution evokes the concept of Web 2.0, a collective term for services that let people collaborate and share information online.

The term Web 2.0 has also been used as a synonym for the Semantic Web – something that Berners-Lee has been writing about for many years. His enthusiasm for the Semantic Web was obvious at yesterday's press conference – and again, he sees potential in it for web accessibility.

He predicted great things for the Semantic Web in his 1999 book Weaving the Web. It describes an evolution in which machines become capable of analysing all the data on the web: the content, links and transactions between people and computers. "A 'Semantic Web,' which should make this possible, has yet to emerge," he wrote, "but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machine talking to machine, leaving humans to provide the inspiration and intuition."

This week's four-day conference is packed with talks and debates on the Semantic Web by academics and industry experts from around the world, addressing 1,500 delegates. Berners-Lee's vision is becoming a business case.

He talked yesterday of websites "marshalling the community" to improve accessibility. He continued: "The Semantic Web lets you build a browser that is optimised for a particular disability." A browser of the future would understand the raw data it is dealing with, rather than just displaying it. It would know how to make it accessible. Unfortunately, time did not allow him to elaborate.

When OUT-LAW asked whether he thinks further regulation is necessary to improve accessibility, Berners-Lee declined to take sides. Diplomatically, he pointed out that regulation is not his field of expertise. "What I would say is that everyone should reference the same guidelines," he said.

His point is that W3C has written the de facto standard; but governments and non-governmental organisations have seen fit to write their own versions. "You can't design a site and try to make it compete with 152 different sets of guidelines from 152 different states," he said. "Keeping the standards homogenous is really important."

In short, everyone should follow WCAG.

Event: Website Accessibility 2006
Edinburgh, 13 June
OUT-LAW has teamed up with Parallel 56 and User Vision to organise a national conference on best-practice public sector website accessibility. Hear from expert speakers on PAS 78, WCAG 2.0 and more.
Full details at Parallel 56's website

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.