Staying On Top of Digital Accessibility Technologies: Deque at the W3C

There’s an old adage that states “The only thing constant is change”, and when it comes to the world of Digital Accessibility that axiom is spot-on. Technology continues to grow at a rapid rate, with new devices and standards emerging all the time. Staying on top of those changes is critical to our mission at Deque. It’s how we’re able to provide our clients with the best digital accessibility solutions available. W3C

One way we like to stay involved is through our continuous work with the The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).  This international community is dedicated to developing open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web.

The W3C standards are continually being updated as technology evolves, and many of us at Deque are actively involved in working with these changing standards. So what exactly is happening these days at the W3C? Check it out:

New Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – One critical area of activity is producing new Techniques for successfully meeting WCAG requirements. HTML 5 was standardized at the W3C, creating new avenues of exploration to solve old problems. There’s an active Working Group at the W3C that collects, tests and publishes these new techniques. For our part,Deque has a number of SMEs and engineers actively involved in those discussions and work efforts.

But that’s not all. There are 3 different Task Forces that have since sprung from the Working Group. Each of these task forces focuses on specific areas of accessibility that require additional Success Criteria, as well as “Techniques to Meet”, and “Understanding The Success Criteria” documentation. We call this trio the Mobile Accessibility Task Force, the Low Vision Task Force, and the Cognitive Disabilities Task Force. Deque has representatives actively involved in all of those efforts, from writing and proposing new success criteria to the creation of test suites and techniques. along with the attendant documentation, so that content authors and developers can continue to advance digital accessibility. Being involved at this level of detail allows our team to stay on top of all these new requirements. It also paves the way for the road ahead – ensuring that when these requirements become standardized, we’re prepared with both software solutions and internal Subject Matter Expert awareness and training.

Updating Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) – The W3C ARIA standard plays a crucial role in ensuring that today’s web applications (delivered to both the desktop and to mobile devices) can be made accessible to the millions of non-sighted users around the world. Thanks to rapidly advancing technology, non-sighted who increasingly are becoming dependent on an ever-growing universe of online services.

Right now, many of Deque’s SMEs are currently involved in the W3C ARIA Working Group, actively working on an ARIA 1.1 release. And in addition to this work, we’re already hearing discussions about creating the next generation ARIA 2.0. At Deque we have representatives actively involved in these efforts – from proposing and finessing new ARIA attributes – to writing and publishing unit tests to allow ARIA 1.1 to reach a successful completion. It’s fun and interesting work, exploring and pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved today! Our Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are also involved in other ARIA activities

Preventative Planning Activities – One of our principles regarding accessibility at Deque is to prevent issues from cropping up before they become real problems. In keeping with this idea of preventative planning, a number of our senior Deque SMES are also involved with other activities at the W3C.  We want to make sure that  a voice representing accessibility concerns are “at the table” for other W3C standards work. For example, right now Deque has representatives involved at the W3C covering issues like Web Payments, Digital Privacy, the Internet Of Things, Web on TV, and more.

We have a pro-active approach to W3C activities that benefits both parties – both Deque subject matter experts and those involved with the W3C. Our SMEs contribute to the body of knowledge and expertise at the W3C that enables web technologies to become increasingly accessible to more users. Our direct involvement with these efforts allows us to be prepared to use best-of-breed solutions to assist our clients. It also helps us ensure that our software is the most updated and effective that it can be.

John Foliot is a Principal Accessibility Strategist at Deque Systems. A 16-year veteran of Web Accessibility, John has previously held accessibility-related positions at JPMorgan Chase and Stanford University and the Canadian Federal Government. John is also actively involved with the W3C – the international internet standards body – where he previously co-chaired a subcommittee on the accessibility requirements for media elements in HTML5. Currently he is involved in accessibility work related to Cognitive disabilities, CSS and SVG accessibility, emergent standards related to HTML5.1. John is actively involved in the strategic discussions around – the next-gen version of WCAG 2.0.

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