W3C Web content accessibility guidelines become ISO IEC international Standard

Issue 44 – November 2012

As the Web becomes an increasingly important tool for fulfilling everyday tasks, a new ISO/IEC Standard will increase accessibility for people with disabilities. The new ISO/IEC 40500:2012 Information technology – W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 will also make the Web more usable for all.

Originally developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the guidelines included in the Standard address the challenges that people with disabilities may face – including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, and photosensitivity.

For example, the guidelines recommend that text alternatives be provided for any non-text content, so that people using assistive technology can benefit from all the information. They also require that pages be designed in a way to help prevent seizures, and emphasise characteristics such as predictability and readability.

'This important accessibility Standard, which is already widely deployed internationally, can now benefit from additional formal recognition from ISO/IEC national bodies,' notes Jeff Jaffe, W3C CEO. 'Such recognition is expected to increase internationally harmonised uptake of WCAG 2.0 by governments, business, and the broader Web community.'

Karen Higginbottom, Chair of the joint ISO/IEC committee that developed the Standard (ISO/IEC JTC 1, Information technology) says, 'By adopting WCAG 2.0 we benefit from the expertise of the W3C and avoid reinventing the wheel. We also hope that ISO/IEC recognition will encourage greater convergence around WCAG 2.0, further driving development of supporting tools and software. And this is important as ISO/IEC 40500 will enable more people to participate and benefit from the Web.'

Following the introduction of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an increasing number of countries have been seeking solutions to information technology accessibility for people with disabilities. WCAG 2.0 has been adopted or referenced by many governments and organisations.

'The ISO/IEC approval increases the avenues for adoption of W3C technology and guidelines,' noted Judy Brewer, Director of the Web Accessibility Initiative at W3C. 'In some countries, policies require that nationally adopted technical Standards must be ISO/IEC. Formal approval by JTC 1 of WCAG 2.0 will increase deployment, reduce fragmentation, and provide all users with greater interoperability on the Web.'

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Summarised from an ISO media release, 26 October 2012.

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