W3C Web Accessibility Initiative and related topics: 2015 in review

As 2015 draws to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the significant things that have happened this year. Reflecting back on the announcements from W3C WAI and other accessibility-related movements, it’s been a year of celebration as new web standards start to make their mark. There has also been a notable shift in the accessibility conversation as people start looking forward to the access implications of the emerging technologies of the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Arguably the most significant announcement of 2015 was the release of the long-awaited Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) 2.0 in September as a web standard. As highlighted in my commentary piece ATAG 2.0 is here and there's lots to celebrate, the remarkable thing about ATAG 2.0 is that it’s likely to be useful for tools and technologies that did not even exist when the working group first started the ATAG refresh. It will ensure that authoring tools can be used by people with disabilities to produce accessible content, which is likely to have profound implications for the large companies that produce the tools used by ICT professionals every day, and will provide guidance for the software or app developer who wants to create something usable and accessible.

In other parts of WAI, the User Agents Working Group (UAWG) 2.0 draft continues to evolve, providing additional support for ensuring that accessibility is included in environments such as browsers and media players. This year has also seen an increase in supporting documentation for WAI-ARIA, and Indie UI continues to evolve to provide a common framework for interacting with content in a consistent and accessible way.

During 2015 we have also seen updates relating to the provision of training materials, with the Web Accessibility Tutorials providing improved guidance for forms and tables. There was also a first draft of the SVG Accessibility API Mappings 1.1 and a number of updates throughout the year of the WCAG 2.0 Techniques. WAI has also started to pull together more of its resources to provide guidance in regards to Mobile Accessibility: How WCAG 2.0 and Other W3C/WAI Guidelines Apply to Mobile.

While this year saw much work in WAI, there has been some concern raised about the progress of translating WCAG 2.0 into other languages. In July I looked at this issue in my column Does WCAG have a language barrier? A recent trip to Saudi Arabia and some academic research highlighted the difficulty in sourcing information relating to WCAG 2.0 and associated resources in Arabic, and the page that keeps a list of current translations was out of date at the time. With the significance of WCAG 2.0 as a web and ISO standard continuing to grow in importance among international policy and legislative frameworks, it’s important that there is a greater focus on this in the New Year.

Outside of specific WAI work, it’s been interesting to follow the trends and discussions about accessibility. Debate in the WAI-IG mailing list led to discussion of the topic Why does PDF accessibility make people angry?  And it was a lot of fun looking into the implications of the Internet of Things (IoT) in my most popular article for the year, Will your toaster become WCAG compliant?

Here in Australia, 2015 marked an important year as the government starts a new chapter in its accessibility journey after the National Transition Strategy (NTS) concluded at the end of 2014, with guidance now coming from the Digital Transformation Office and a more definitive requirement of WCAG 2.0 Level AA across all Federal government agencies. Accessibility was front and centre early in the year with the settlement of the Coles case in which a blind woman lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission due to the inaccessibility of online grocery shopping. 

More specific to MAA, it’s been great to continue delivering the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility Compliance course in partnership with UniSA, now in its fourth year. It’s been rewarding to continue delivering the course throughout 2015, and a big thank you to the students that participated. Enrolments for the next course are now open for February.

Finally, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this column every month. I hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year and will look forward to talking again about all things accessibility in 2016.