What is the W3C? How Did The W3C Get Started?

The W3C was started in 1994 to lead the Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability.

  1. W3C Stands for the World Wide Web Consortium
  2. W3C was created in October 1994
  3. W3C was created by Tim Berners-Lee
  4. W3C was created by the Inventor of the Web
  5. W3C is organized as a Member Organization
  6. W3C is working to Standardize the Web
  7. W3C creates and maintains WWW Standards
  8. W3C Standards are called W3C Recommendations

How The W3C Started

The World Wide Web (WWW) began as a project at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), where Tim Berners-Lee developed a vision of the World Wide Web.

Tim Berners-Lee – the inventor of the World Wide Web – is now the Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

W3C was created in 1994 as a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), with support from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and the European Commission.

Standardizing the Web

W3C is working to make the Web accessible to all users (despite differences in culture, education, ability, resources, and physical limitations)

W3C also coordinates its work with many other standards organizations such as the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Wireless Application Protocols (WAP) Forum and the Unicode Consortium.

W3C is hosted by three universities:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S.
  • The French National Research Institute in Europe
  • Keio University in Japan

W3C Members

Because the Web is so important (both in scope and in investment) that no single organization should have control over its future, W3C functions as a member organization.

Some well known members are:

  • IBM
  • Microsoft
  • America Online
  • Apple
  • Adobe
  • Macromedia
  • Sun Microsystems

The Full List of Member Organisations includes a variety of software vendors, content providers, corporate users, telecommunications companies, academic institutions, research laboratories, standards bodies, and governments.

W3C Recommendations

The most important work done by the W3C is the development of Web specifications (called “Recommendations”) that describe communication protocols (like HTML and XML) and other building blocks of the Web.

Each W3C Recommendation is developed by a work group consisting of members and invited experts. The group obtains its input from companies and other organizations, and creates a Working Draft and finally a Proposed Recommendation. In general the Recommendation is submitted to the W3C membership and director, for a formal approval as a W3C Recommendation.

UK Government recommendations:

‘A great deal can be achieved by reading through the W3C guidance on this topic (accessible website design)’

Guidelines for UK Government websites
Illustrated handbook for Web management teams

What Is The WAI (Website Accessibility Initiative)?

The Website Accessibility Initiative (WAI) outlines the international guidelines on accessible web design.

The WAI is affiliated with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and works with organisations around the world to increase the accessibility of the web through five primary areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools, education and outreach, and research and development.

As part of this work the WAI published the first version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in 1999. These are accepted as the definitive set of international guidelines used for building accessible websites. All other guidelines and standards are derived from these.

UK Government recommendations:

‘The page must comply with the WAI ‘A’ standard’

Guidelines for UK Government websites
Illustrated handbook for Web management teams

What Is WCAG? (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines)

There are two versions of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG 1 contains 14 main guidelines with a total of 65 in all. WCAG 2, still in draft format, has reorganised and combined many of the WCAG 1 guidelines to create 21 new ones.

Each guideline has a one or more ‘checkpoints’ which developers should consider to ensure the accessibility of a Web page. Each checkpoint has a priority level based on its impact on Web accessibility.

The WCAG provides a number of examples and techniques to help Web developers to implement the guidelines. There is also a downloadable training course entitled the Curriculum for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0. The course is a few years old and needs updating. Saying that, it does provide a good foundation to the topic.

WCAG Priority Levels

There are 3 WCAG priority levels. Compliance with the recommendations of each level ensures greater accessibility of Web pages.

Priority 1 – Web developers MUST satisfy these checkpoints or some groups of people will find it impossible to access information on their site. This is considered to be the absolute minimum level of compliance.

Priority 2 – Web developers should satisfy these checkpoints or some groups of people will find it difficult to access information on their site. This is considered to be the preferred level of compliance.

Priority 3 – If Web developers satisfy these checkpoints the majority of users will be able to access ALL of the information on their site. This is considered to be the optimum level of compliance.

WCAG Conformance

The WCAG guidelines have three levels of conformance.

  1. Conformance Level “A”: all Priority 1 checkpoints are satisfied. This is known as ‘WCAG A’ compliant.
  2. Conformance Level “Double-A”: all Priority 1 and 2 checkpoints are satisfied. This is known as ‘WCAG AA’ compliant.
  3. Conformance Level “Triple-A”: all Priority 1, 2, and 3 checkpoints are satisfied. This is known as ‘WCAG AAA’ compliant.

There are 14 main WCAG guidelines.

Other Reading

If you want to procure, or design and build sites with accessibility in mind in the UK, you’ll find the following documents useful:

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