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W3C WAI – 2019 year in review

Last year, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) was celebrated for the release of its updated Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 standard, providing additional guidance to mobile accessibility along with improvements in other areas. This year has seen additional resources built to support the standard along with significant updates to advice regarding the accessibility of technologies such as CAPTCHA. If you haven’t had time to follow all the significant updates of the W3C WAI this year, here’s a quick overview.

Advice on inaccessible CAPTCHA Note published

The biggest W3C WAI news for me personally in 2019 was that after several years of work, the Note that I’ve been involved in relating to the inaccessibility of CAPTCHA has been published. The purpose of this Note is to help developers understand the issues and implement accessible CAPTCHA solutions. 

As described by W3C, “First published in 2005 today’s 2.0 publication extensively updates the earlier version to bring our analysis and recommendations up to date with CAPTCHA practice today.”

As the lead editor for the Note, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank fellow editors Janina Sajka, Jason White and Michael Cooper for the opportunity to be involved with the update along with the many contributions provided by the general public during the feedback process. For more information on CAPTCHA and its impact on people with disabilities, please refer to the excellent ABC article The internet thinks you’re a robot, and other ‘dark patterns’ people with disabilities face online.

Translation efforts expanded

This year saw W3C WAI ramp up its translation of standards and supporting resources into other languages. As noted in the W3C media release, “Over 20 new translations of W3C WAI accessibility resources are listed at: All WAI Translations  You can get to that page from the “All Translations” link at the top of WAI web pages.” This is an extremely important development as prior to this year, languages such as Arabic were not well supported due in part to the strict rules that governed translation efforts. The new flexibility around language translation has expanded the number of people able to undertake this work and we’ve seen the welcome results of that effort this year.

Accessibility Conformance Testing (ACT) Rules 1.0 standard released

This year has also seen the launch of the Accessibility Conformance Testing (ACT) Rules Format 1.0 as a “W3C Recommendation” web standard. 

As stated in the Recommendation Abstract, “The Accessibility Conformance Testing (ACT) Rules Format 1.0 defines a format for writing accessibility test rules. These test rules can be used for developing automated testing tools and manual testing methodologies. It provides a common format that allows any party involved in accessibility testing to document and share their testing procedures in a robust and understandable manner. This enables transparency and harmonization of testing methods, including methods implemented by accessibility test tools.” 

It’s great to see this guidance made available to help provide consistency in the way online content is tested for accessibility.

Cognitive guidance for web content reaches first draft

One aspect of digital access that I get asked about a lot is if there are any plans to improve the guidance for people with cognitive disabilities. This year marks the start of what I suspect will be a critical contribution to providing support in this area, W3C has released a draft document titled Making Content Usable for People with Cognitive and Learning Disabilities – Working Draft to help provide guidance for cognitive disabilities not generally addressed in other W3C work. While it is a draft, I’d strongly recommend taking a look at the work of the COGA Task Force and I’m looking forward to seeing how this work develops in 2020.

Introduction to Web Accessibility MOOC commencing in 2020

Speaking of things to look forward to in 2020, the last announcement I’d like to draw your attention to is the launch by W3C WAI  of a four-week free self-paced course designed to provide a basic overview of broad web accessibility concepts designed for technical and non-technical audiences.

Enrolments for the course are open now and will be available on 28 January 2020. The course itself is free but the completion certificate has an additional charge. While the course is offered worldwide, there are some access restrictions in select countries.

It’s great to see W3C WAI build a course from its own excellent curricula resources and to see some familiar names, including a PCWA Alumnus and one of my former staff from my Media Access Australia days involved in the project.

Thankyou for a great 2019

As this will be my last article for 2019, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for your ongoing support of my work including the Centre For Accessibility’s fantastic Australian Access Awards event. Looking forward to continuing to support your digital access needs in 2020.

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