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Making the web accessible for everyone

The W3C announced today that the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) version 2.0 has become a “W3C Recommendation” … i.e. the standard has completed its development and is available for general use [1].

How does the standard help?

The standard helps in three main ways:

  1. It makes it easier for people with “visual, auditory, physical, cognitive and neurological disabilities, and older Web users with accessibility needs” to use the Web, or Web applications that use Web technologies, such as many of SAP’s solutions
  2. It provides support (unlike version 1.0 published in 1999) for newer Web technologies such as images, audio, and video, as well as for rich internet applications. It also has extensibility features to make it easier to implement support for Web technologies yet to be developed
  3. It lowers the cost of developing applications since developers will eventually need to use just one way of making Web pages accessible to people with disabilities. It is also likely that tools will make developing accessible applications even easier.
Why is this standard important?

The last point is important because there is currently legislation, which can vary from country to country, that require software be usable by people with disabilities such as the so-called “Section 508” legislation in the USA. If your software isn’t compliant with the legislation then it can mean you can’t sell it as businesses can be fined if they require their employees use non-compliant applications. SAP’s solutions, such as NetWeaver, are compliant.

WCAG 2.0 has a lot of support including the US Government and the EU. It is likely that these and other governments will add compliance with WCAG 2.0 into legislation as a recommended way of meeting software accessibility requirements.

WCAG 2.0 and SAP

SAP has been heavily involved in the development of WCAG 2.0 – Alex Li was a founding member of the working group in the W3C and has worked extensively in its development – in part to make sure that WCAG 2.0 works just as well for business applications as for the Web. SAP has also already incorporated much of WCAG 2.0 into its product development standards that govern how SAP developers develop their applications.

Making it work

To realize the full benefits of WCAG 2.0, Web pages will need to change and assistive technologies, that understand the changed pages, will need to become readily available. This will obviously take some time.

But having one standard for Web accessibility, used by everyone, everywhere is a goal worth striving for. WCAG 2.0 brings that goal one step closer.

David Burdett
PS I represent SAP on the W3C Advisory Committee

[1] The W3C calls all its completed standards a “recommendation” on the grounds that they can’t force people to adopt a standard … they can only recommend …

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