5-2 Web–based Information and Application Accessibility

Web–based information and applications are based on access guidelines developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (http://www.w3c.org). The standards aim to ensure that such information is also available in an accessible format. This means use of text labels or descriptors for graphics and certain format elements. HTML code already provides an alternative text attribute (or “alt” tag) for graphics which can serve as a verbal descriptor for graphics. Web–based information and application accessibility standards also address the usability of multimedia presentations, image maps, style sheets, scripting languages, applets and plug–ins, and electronic forms.

The standards apply to federal Web sites but not to private sector Web sites - unless a site is provided under contract to a federal agency; in that case, only that Web site (or portion) covered by the contract would have to comply. Accessible sites offer significant advantages that go beyond access. For example, those with “text–only” options provide a faster downloading alternative and can facilitate transmission of Web–based data to cell phones and personal digital assistants.