The World Wide Web is getting more and more into our lives and our society. It is now possible to do almost all the imaginable things via the Web. But there are people who are not able to use the benefits of World Wide Web because of the fact that they are differently abled. In order to make the Web accessible to the people with disabilities, the concept of Web Accessibility has taken shape. The W3C or the World Wide Web Consortium, which is the body that oversees and publishes web standards, has formed the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) committee. The job of this committee is to standardize and publish WAG (Web Accessibility Guidelines).
If a site follows these web accessibility guidelines, it can provide equal access to the features and functionality of the website to one and all. The guidelines are to be followed in the designing, development and maintenance of the websites in order to ensure optimum compliance with the guidelines. Let us take a simple example. We put images in our websites. Now people who are visually challenged and use a text to speech software solution to interact with the computer cannot understand the images. The concept of web accessibility requires that you must provide alternate text explaining what the image is all about. This alternate text would be read out by the text to speech software solution and the visually challenged people would be able to understand what the image is all about.
The Web accessibility features tend to provide support for five major types of disabilities. This includes visual disabilities where people are fully or partially blind or color blind. The second are mobility disabilities where people have problems in using their hands properly, thus restricting the ability to scroll or click. The third is auditory disabilities where people have problem in hearing the sounds. The fourth is the possibility of photo epileptic seizures caused by flashing things. The fifth area of focus is the cognitive or learning disabilities like dyslexia.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 was published in 1999 but with the passage of time and advent of Web 2.0 technologies and concept of user generated content they have grew out of date. After five years of patient research, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 has started to emerge. These new guideline improve web accessibility considerably and they are based on the 1.0 guidelines which means that the sites which have implemented first set of guidelines can implement the second set with considerable ease.
If you want your web site to be able to cater to everyone using the web, it is highly recommended that you should provide web accessibility features in it.