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The World Wide Web Consortium has announced a road map for making rich Internet applications more accessible.

The Cambridge, Mass., organization introduced Sept. 26 a set of documents aimed at making it easier for Web site developers to build accessible Web content with technologies such as AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and DHTML.

The W3C has announced its WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative for Accessible Rich Internet Applications) Roadmap, along with two new specifications, as its first step to help bring a richer, dynamic Web experience to all users of the Web by providing a standard to enable the creation of more accessible applications, W3C officials said.

The first public working drafts of the Accessible Rich Internet Application suite include the WAI-ARIA Roadmap, WAI-ARIA Roles, and WAI-ARIA States and Properties.

Technologies such as AJAX have been known to break the accessibility features in some applications. The W3C is hoping to overcome this with its new specifications.

Developers are working to overcome AJAX accessibility issues. Click here to read more.

The W3C by the Protocols and Formats Working Group developed the WAI-ARIA Roadmap. The PFWG includes organizations such as Adobe Systems, America Online, IBM, Opera Software, Oracle, the Royal National Institute for the Blind and SAP.

The WAI-ARIA Roadmap helps define an approach for developing interoperability between rich Internet applications and assistive technologies—such as screen readers, speech dictation software and on-screen keyboards—used by people with disabilities. Moreover, the approach relies on technologies already developed or under development by the W3C, such as the XHTML Role Attribute Module.

In addition, the WAI-ARIA Roadmap presents a gap analysis identifying technologies that may still be needed to ensure accessible rich Internet applications, said Janet Daly, a spokeswoman for the W3C. And the two companion documents—WAI-ARIA Roles and WAI-ARIA States—explain how to bridge those gaps, she said.

“As people are demanding more from the Web—more information, more responsive applications and richer experiences—an explosion in technologies that exclude access to many people is growing,” said Rich Schwerdtfeger, an IBM distinguished engineer and author of the WAI-ARIA Roadmap, in a statement. “This new suite of documents being rolled out is significant because they will help developers gain access to the tools needed to support persons with disabilities on the Web.”

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