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Reflections on the Development of a Holistic Approach to Web Accessibility
The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has a well-established framework for addressing accessibility based on three components: the accessibility of Web content, accessibility support in browsers and accessibility support in authoring tools, with a corresponding set of guidelines for each. These guidelines have been successful in raising awareness in Web accessibility at a political level, but have been less successful than might have been expected influencing the wider promotion and adoption of accessibility in Web technology. This is increasingly apparent as Web content becomes increasingly heterogeneous in terms of source, type, author and function. Standards, policy and guidelines overwhelmingly focus on accessibility of the end product - i.e. the Web page or site - and not the process used to create it. This is at odds with the transformation of Web-based user goals from receipt of static information to communication, and receipt or delivery of services and experiences. Thus it is the accessibility of the end goal that should be critical, and is dependent on the quality of the route(s) available to reaching that goal - making assessing accessibility of a technical unit such as a Web page less relevant. Instead, we argue a holistic approach is necessary - one that views positively, where appropriate, aggregation of alternatives in a way that allows each route to provide the best possible chance for disabled users to achieve the end goal, even if individual routes may themselves exclude certain groups. Since 2004 the authors have developed a framework for addressing the accessibility of Web resources, inspired by the holistic use of Web technology in e-learning, building on WAI guidelines but providing the flexibility needed to address the limitations of the guidelines and the diverse ways in which the Web is now being used. This paper reflects how the influence and impact of WCAG has changed over time, and, by reviewing the authors' work conducted in recent years, considers how a more holistic approach to Web Accessibility in a Web 2.0 world can best be achieved.