Internet standards organization World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has released its first public draft of the “Media Accessibility User Requirements” document, which details what is required to make web-based media like audio and video accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Media Accessibility

The internet is like a clearinghouse of information. Almost everything we know can be found cataloged in some digital storage bin, providing an almost infinite source of education and entertainment. For individuals with disabilities however, the Internet doesn’t always seem quite so wondrous, especially for rich content like video. The W3C’s Protocols and Formats Working Group is trying to change this.

The W3C invited experts from Applied Testing and Technology, Inc. and representatives from Apple and Microsoft to author the new media accessibility draft, but many more organizations participated in the accessibility discussion. The document consolidates the information the W3C HTML5 Accessibility Task Force collected, breaking down the needs of users with disabilities by disability type and explaining the alternative content technologies that have been developed to help these users gain access to the content of audio and video. Although the document is not a roadmap for developing an authoring tool, it does explain how content technologies fit in the larger picture of accessibility, both technically within a Web user agent and from a production process point of view. In addition to the draft, the working group created a checklist of accessibility requirements.

The second version of accessibility guidelines for text-based web content, WCAG 2.0, has been available since 2008 and has been implemented by many tools. As the media accessibility guidelines continue to mature, we can expect vendors to embrace them and provide a richer browser experience for individuals with disabilities.

What’s Next?

Now that the first public draft is complete, the public is invited to comment on the document before February 10. The working group is particularly interested in:

  • Are the use cases for media accessibility clear and complete?
  • Do the features to enhance media accessibility meet the use cases?
  • Are the technical requirements for media accessibility complete and achievable?

Comments can be mailed to [email protected] or using the W3C’s online form.

In addition to the Media Accessibility User Requirements, the W3C has published updates to its document “Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” and “Understanding Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.” The documents provide additional guidance on how to conform to the WCAG 2.0 Standard.