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Open Source Community Paves Way for Developers to Improve Internet Access for the Aging, Disabled


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Aiming to ease the barriers that the aging or people with disabilities experience in participating in internet activities, the OpenAjax Alliance (OAA) has announced it has created new open source tooling technology to help software developers make it easier these users to access and use Web 2.0-enabled business, government and consumer websites. The new tooling technology simplifies the way web applications are tested for compliance with current accessibility standards and guidelines, helping to speed up delivery of new accessible internet applications. Previously, developers had to complete their code and run various reports to determine if their application was compliant with accessibility standards. Using the new tooling technology, applications are tested dynamically, as developers build the code, providing real-time feedback on compliance.

A recent survey suggests that a full 69% of companies have realized measurable business benefits from Web 2.0 in their dealings with employees, customers, suppliers and industry experts. However, millions of people with sensory, age-related, and other disabilities worldwide have been unable to fully participate in this evolution because of barriers to access and use. OAA maintains the new tooling technology will help narrow the Web 2.0 digital divide for many segments of the global population by facilitating consistent, industry-wide interpretation of standards such as the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0).

"From a development perspective, tooling has been the missing link," says Michael Squillace, co-chair of the OpenAjax Alliance Accessibility Tools Task Force and IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center software engineer. "WCAG 2.0 gave us the criteria for Web 2.0 accessibility, and technical specifications like WAI-ARIA helped us understand how to enable rich internet applications for accessibility. But, there hasn't been a reliable way to ensure compliance or validate correct implementation of specifications for accessibility. This rules format makes that possible. It's a significant achievement."

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