W3C issues handicap guidelines for the Web

The World Wide Web Consortium on Wednesday released the first-ever set of technical guidelines for developing Web sites that are accessible to the handicapped.

The W3C guidelines, which officials said are suggestions for developers, not mandatory steps, consist of 14 points of accessible Web design. They include the dictum that sites should contain text that corresponds to audio and images, and offer specifics on how to make changes on sites created in a variety of technical formats.

The guidelines also encompass handicap accessibility for hand-held Internet devices and cellular phones.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 are the culmination of an 18-month effort by W3C officials to guide Web developers through the often-confusing process of making sites open to users with visual, hearing or other disabilities, said Judy Brewer, head of the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative. "It has always been difficult to know, when making a site more accessible, which changes are critical," W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee said in a statement on the guidelines. "These guidelines answer that question, and set common expectations" for site developers, Berners-Lee said.

Also, on the heels of yesterday's release of the guidelines, the Center for Applied Special Technology on Thursday unveiled an updated version of its "Bobby" tool for gauging handicap accessibility on Web sites. The new version supports the W3C's new guidelines, CAST officials said.