Digial accessibility and standardization
Digital accessibility is a concept encompassing a large set of aspects including disability. Accessibility covers in facts other aspects like multilingual and multicultural facets as well as nomadicity in terms of access constraints to remote information. Physical accessibility of disabled people to digital resources is becoming a core question when it affects communication capacities using computer interfaces and multimedia resources. For this respect, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 produced by W3C provide a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. These rules will make the content accessible to a wider variety of people with disabilities, including blind and visually impaired people, deaf and hard of hearing people, people with learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, motor limitations, speech impairments, speech limitations, photosensitivity and people with a combination of these functional limitations. Following these rules will also make web content often easier for users in general. They should impact on conditions for providing useful but also interoperable devices and solutions for a wide range of impaired people.
In fact, beside standards, there are a number of key conditions for responding effectively to disability aspects:
- First, as with all accessibility issues, it is important to organize information in a standardized and structured way (i.e. XML);
- Second, disability budgets being not extensive, and on the other hand disabled people having to face the most unpredictable interfaces possible, terminals should be inclusive as large as possible of disability forms and aspects;
- Third, in many cases, the digital mediation services proposed to disabled persons have to interchange correctly with personalized devices adapted to the kind of individual disabilities of the user. These mediation devices must be rigorously standardized in order to be interoperable;
In order to optimize information and cultural digital mediation with respect to handicaps, it is also essential to identify a typology and specifications of handicaps from a cultural, technological and normative mediation standpoint. The recommendations of the W3C-WAI constitute an exceptional repository of guidelines answering the majority of the requirements for digital accessibility. As far as the W3C-WAI standards are concerned, their quality is due to the militant involvement since 1997 of a community of computer scientists, Web administrators and users including many disabled people. This gives a consistent set of "rules of good practice" absolutely essential because they are independent from the techniques. They constitute quasi-standards which all the ISO, IEC or ITU committees refer to. Each of these standardizing bodies specifies its normative guidelines for accessibility starting from its proper focus. ISO-IEC / JTC1-SC36 is for instance considering accessibility issues in education throughout standards edited by its WG7.
Inclusive design, design for all, digital inclusion, universal usability and similar efforts are related concepts addressing a wide range of issues to make technology available and usable by all, regardless of individual capabilities, age, economic status, education, geographical location, language, etc. Nevertheless, at W3C-WAI accessibility focuses on people with disabilities - people with hearing, cognitive, neurological, physical, vocal and visual impairments. The WAI Guidelines explore the overlap between inclusive design and web accessibility, and help managers, designers, developers, policy makers, researchers and others to maximize their efforts in these overlapping areas. Numerous problems and questions are very exhaustively documented on the W3C-WAI website (economic, technical, institutional, legal, ergonomic, social, ethical ...). It allows the very many interested people (managers, human resources, managers mediations, users, industrial developers to make the right decisions to achieve an inclusive design useful for accessibility in general including multilingual and multicultural considerations.