Which technologies are ‘accessibility supported’?

At this point you will probably wonder which web technologies are accessibility supported and which are not. And the answer is… nobody knows, not even the WAI! Now, the consultancy best phrase: ‘it depends’. How is this possible after 5 years of  WCAG 2 developing? Well, some reasons for this vagueness.

  • How many user agents (including assistive technologies) must support a web technology to be considered as ‘accessibility supported’?
  • What if a web technology is supported in one environment and not in other? You may only need a particular user agent, or a combination of many?
  • Which languages and dialects must support the user agent to support web technologies? E.g. Screen readers may not understand ‘Chinese’  content at all.
  • Backwards compatibility? E.g. Imagine that 3D web navigation technologies arise. Old computers and software won’t be capable to show that content. But that is not an obstacle to consider that this 3D technology (maybe) is accessibility supported.
  • Unless you provide all your users with the proper user agent to display your content, there must be different options for the users to access to that content, particularly if they cannot afford assistive technology. Usually assistive technology is expensive and not everyone can afford them. Beside, free or lowcost assistive technology don’t have the same performance as expensive equipment.

So you can deduct that it is not easy to define which web technologies are accessibility supported and which are not. The WAI understand this problem and trust the community to select them. Yes, each company, government or  association can evaluate. So prepare yourself for a bunch of resolutions. As the WCAG 2 says:

this lack of generally available yet robust assistive technologies is a problem that affects users, technology developers and authors negatively.

In the next post we will explain how to reduce this uncertainty.

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