Feeds

New web accessibility guidelines will be ignored, says critic

'All the cool kids already know about it'

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

New guidelines on web accessibility are nearing completion after years of delay, according to the body behind them. But outspoken critic Joe Clark says the guidelines will be ignored when they are published.

The first version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0) were published first in 1999 by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

No final update has been published in the intervening eight years, but the W3C has told OUT-LAW Radio that a final draft will be ready in a few months, and the finalised version 2.0 of the guidelines is expected in 2008.

"I expect that another last call working draft will come out in the coming months then how long it progresses after that really depends on the community," said Shawn Henry, outreach co-ordinator with the W3C body behind the guidelines, the Web Accessibility Initiative. "I hope we're close and I hope that the community realises that. I think there is a very real possibility that this is it and we'll be able to move forward from here."

Henry said after the release of the last call working draft, the final WCAG processes could take just a few months. "I think there is a good chance it will be published in 2008," she said.

The delay has partly been caused by the processes used to produce WCAG. Henry said its producers have to respond in some way to every comment or criticism made about the guidelines through its formal processes.

"With each working draft we typically get hundreds of comments, so it's really impossible to say when it will be done because it depends on how many comments we get each time."

One of WCAG's fiercest critics, though, said the guidelines could face a stiff challenge when they are published because the web world has moved on since the first version was published.

"WCAG 2 will have a more limited audience. There are competing standards," said Joe Clark, a web accessibility consultant who criticised earlier drafts of WCAG 2. "There is the revamp of the Section 508 [of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973] regs, there is the European standard for accessibility, and there is the Japanese standard nobody ever talks about."

Henry said the W3C was working closely with these other standards bodies to ensure that all of the new standards work with WCAG. "I think it is likely that there will be greater harmonisation with those standards and WCAG 2.0." She added that these other standards are still being developed.

Clark also said the popularity of interactivity in websites that has gone under the banner Web 2.0 has also had its effect on the world of standards. He said these more complex sites demand better computer code, which in itself is more accessible.

"All the cool kids already know about web accessibility and they just automatically make reasonably or very accessible websites as a matter of course," said Clark. "They never look at WCAG anything, they never look at any of the guidelines. We are living really in a post-guideline era. All the standardistas already know what they have to do, and some trivial or even some significant rewording of WCAG is never going to affect them because they are never going to crack these things open."

Despite the criticisms it has faced over the long delay and complicated language of earlier drafts, Henry said the passing years have seen the internet has become a place that is more accessible to people with disabilities.

"Basic awareness is hugely different over the last 10 years," she said. "But there is still a long way to go."

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

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

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.