logo de la wcag 2.0

Access to services on the Web: beyond recommendations and standards

Guidelines and their past

Since its creation in the mid-1990s by Timothy Berners-Lee, the W3C Consortium has worked to defend and maintain standards for the Web, as well as to create and develop new technology and standards to foster progress of this technological phenomenon which has changed all our lives for ever. The consortium soon launched a cross-cutting committee known as the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative), which works to ensure that the recommendations, standards, and newly created languages would be accessible to EVERYONE.

It wasn’t until 1999 that the WAI established its WCAG 1.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). These guidelines outline a series of recommendations on creating better access for persons with DISABILITIES (hearing, vision, mobility or speech impairments), facilitating their access to the Web, a tool which has become a communication standard between people and teams.

In the decade that followed, various institutions and governments have used the WCAG 1.0 guidelines to draft their own standards on how to create accessible websites; an issue that is especially relevant to the public sector and companies that provide public services. This is accompanied by a set of concepts related to USABILITY,which refers to how content is written, its simplicity and clarity, and the layout of website elements that help us understand how to use the website.

Despite the tireless work in this field conducted around the world mainly in developed countries, the increasing speed at which technology is introduced on the Web means that the recommendations, guidelines and standards often become obsolete or even fail to fulfil certain needs.

For instance, when the WCAG 1.0 guidelines were released, the concept of usability and usability-oriented standards was still in its infancy. The FLASH platform didn’t even exist, even though it is now on its way to becoming a distant memory, and the same is true of the now forgotten AJAX framework. That’s why recommendations such as these have gradually moved away from the technology used on the Web and which may even hinder or impede access by certain groups of people who are functionally diverse.

Moreover, the WCAG 1.0 guidelines focused on HTML and the technology used at the time of their release, and were perhaps a little too specific, which meant that developers were constrained to using complex elements that made their work more difficult.

As a consequence, there were times when the developer community, web managers and owners were reluctant to implement content that was accessible and easy to use.

The Present: WCAG 2.0

This state of affairs, rapidly acknowledged by the W3C working groups in general and those of the WAI in particular, stirred up much debate. Groups began working on new guidelines, and five years later in 2009 they released the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, ten years after WCAG 1.0.

Instead of drawing on specific technology, the new guidelines take a simpler and easy-to-understand approach, advising website developers on what to do and what not to do to improve accessibility and usability of websites.

And they do this in such a straightforward manner that it can be explained graphically in the following video starring David McDonald, one of the more active members of the working group that developed WCAG 2.0:

This light-hearted video explains, in a simple and concise manner, the PRINCIPLES and TOOLS introduced by this new set of guidelines.

The simple principles are as follows:

  1. Perceivable

Web content must be perceived regardless of functional diversity.

There must be alternatives to ensure that users can perceive web content with different technologies or devices (Braille, voice etc.)

  1. Operable

Complete access by way of the keyboard; give users the time they need to see and use the content; avoid content that could provoke attacks, spasms or convulsions; include means that will allow users to navigate and find content easily.

  1. Understandable

Understandable language; web page predictability; users should not be punished for their errors – if errors are made, make them understandable to users.

  1. Robust

Maximise compatibility with current and future applications, including assistive technologies.

Have we resolved present issues? Are we prepared for future ones?

Despite the great progress that the WCAG 2.0 guidelines have made with respect to their predecessors, we are still caught up in that same dizzying race of ever-advancing technology. Moreover, new elements are constantly being introduced into the Web, elements that are at times intelligent, and interconnected to form the Internet of Things.

New additions to the Web include new programming technologies, language extensions, added elements such as players, content platforms – the list is endless. Yet all of this continues creating barriers that are often at odds with the principles set forth by the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, which are still very much valid.

We can summarise the current situation in the following points:

Bringing technologies together for greater access

To address the situation described above, there is a team of people who have been working for some time within the field of technology alongside the world of standards, JOINING efforts on this issue.

The idea here was to filter contents to make the Web much easier to use and understandable for certain sectors of the population, creating solutions that naturally follow the WCAG 2.0 principles, and complementing said principles to enhance accessibility even more.

inSuit is the fruit of their work, a product which works even better on websites that originally complied with the above principles. The product also facilitates access for many people without the need for additional technologies which in many cases are quite costly. This product also allows the user to employ their own technical aids if they have them.

inSuit will do the following for users:

…And all of these elements working together or separately, in the combination chosen by the user, WITHOUT the need for the website author to worry about doing anything except adding a simple and short code to the pages of their website.

In short: inSuit TECHNOLOGY complements the accessibility usability principles, improving the user’s experience of the Internet. And in some instances, ensuring accessibility of websites that could not be accessed by certain persons even if the WCAG 2.0 principles had been incorporated into their websites in the first place.