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While Ive been growing increasingly excited by the new functionality available in HTML5 like native support for video and audio, I really hadnt thought about what new Accessibility support there might be. With a number of reviews currently underway and revised Accessibility Standards legislation expected across North America and Europe in the next few years, it seems an important topic to investigate.

On Tuesday, I attended a briefing with the CTO for Accessibility for IBM Software, Richard Schwerdtfeger.

One of the first things Richard talked about in his brief tour of new accessibility functionality was the <track> tag. In HTML5 you can define multiple tracks for a single media element enabling you to include video caption tracks, described audio tracks, advanced navigation and more. Despite some browsers being slow to include support, the groundwork is now set to be able to supply video and audio content to users who would not otherwise be able to take advantage.

Check out for a comparison of HTML5 feature and attribute accessibility support in Windows Browsers.

Mr. Schwerdtfeger has the laudable goal of making all of IBMs Internet Applications as accessible as desktop applications. They developed a tool to assist their web developers identify Accessibility issues which they then repackaged for sale to the public. Its called Rational Policy Tester and there is a demo.

The next great challenge will no doubt be in keeping up with mobile devices. Continuing to solicit increased sematics inclusion from browser manufacturers is essential, but how do you plan for keyboard accessibility on a touch-screen device?

Now Im curious…

Im going to investigate the improved Accessibility features Apple included in iOS5… Id really like to be able to launch and control applications with voice command. Ill report my experiences in an upcoming post.

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