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Inside CSULB
Vol 57 No. 16 : Sept. 1, 2005
Vol 57 No. 16 | Sept. 1, 2005
Chair Shines in World Wide Web Consortium

Wayne Dick

Wayne Dick

Every Friday, Wayne Dick meets people from Boston, Australia, Europe and many other places around the world without ever leaving Southern California. “The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) works out of MIT,” explained Dick, chair of Computer Science and Computer Engineering at CSULB. “I work directly with its Educational Outreach Working Group, a part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), so on Fridays I wake up and do a teleconference with people who are calling in from around the world.”

WAI is one of four domains of the W3C, which was created in 1994 to develop common protocols that promote the evolution of the World Wide Web and ensure its interoperability. The HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) specifications are two of the most familiar outcomes of W3C’s work. As a member of the Education and Outreach Working Group, Dick plays an important role in making recommendations for accessibility, particularly as it relates to people with disabilities.

“Actually, the Web is wonderful. By and large, the balance is way in favor of people with disabilities,” said Dick, who is visually disabled. “For one, we can shop online. I can’t drive a car, so to be able to shop without driving is an enormous improvement in my life.”

According to Dick, there are three sets of accessibility guidelines for structuring the Web: content accessibility, which deals with the organization of the page; authoring tool guidelines that cover software for creating Web pages and making sure the produced content is accessible; and user agent accessibility guidelines for browsers and anything that helps users perceive and use the Web page.

There are many types of disabilities, including movement, hearing and tactile difficulties, to consider when discussing accessibility. Some Web forms have timed interfaces, which can close or move the page or the form before the user is ready. People who are prone to seizures have trouble with flashing content and need to run anti-flicker software since normal browsers do not turn these events off.

Dick believes that everyone can benefit from inventions or technological advances that assist the disabled Web user. “Forty-six percent of the employees on this campus are over 50,” Dick said. “That’s a lot of aging eyes in this population. Well, wouldn’t you like to have the print just a little bit bigger and maybe the lines spread out just a little bit farther and maybe read it in color that’s just a little bit more comfortable for you? It’s possible, now.”

Recently, Dick spearheaded the introduction of a product called Web Adapt2me, which allows users to adapt their Web viewing experience to their needs.

“WebAdapt2me allows for speaking text, so you can actually read along as the text is being spoken,” he explained. “It allows you to magnify, and that’s pictures and text. It allows you to control the set text size independent of your magnification so you can leave all your figures small and just enlarge the text. You can have pop-up images or none. You can hide any background that comes along that you don’t want to look at. You can have the controls on your browser larger. And it allows you to hear sounds when you’re typing because some people need audio feedback to know they’ve pushed the keys.

“Early on, I understood that computer science can make a difference in people’s lives, that it was going to remove a lot of the barriers,” Dick continued. “Thanks to all of these advances and activism, I believe that in my lifetime, we’re going to remove all barriers for people with disabilities who want to use the Internet.”

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