The global Internet is a vast repository of electronic information waiting to be accessed. The information available has been growing exponentially, and this growth has been fueled to a large extent by the availability of easy-to-use navigational tools like the various point and click WWW hypertext browsers.
The high visibility of browsers such as the Netscape Navigator and the original NCSA Mosaic (graphical WWW browsers) amongst others has led to a common belief that the Internet and the WWW are synonymous with programs like Mosaic. Since access to Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) has been a serious problem for people with visual impairments in the last few years, the above has resulted in a general feeling that vast portions of the WWW are inaccessible. We point out that the accessibility of the information available on the WWW is separate and distinct from the accessibility of various navigational tools.
This is not to say that making clients such as Netscape and Mosaic accessible is unimportant; we point out that though the former is necessary for universal accessibility of information on the NII, it is not sufficient. This is because even if the various popular browsers are made accessible, information that is archived as purely visual presentations, e.g., as Postscript or PDF (Portable Document Format) files will continue to remain inaccessible. Here is an outline of the rest of this paper. Section 2 looks at WWW clients and making them accessible. Section 3 addresses the question of archiving information in a form that will ensure universal accessibility. We illustrate the various points with examples of both accessible and inaccessible resources currently available on the WWWTeX. Section 3 sets forth some guidelines for information providers to ensure that the services they provide are usable by the maximum number of users. We conclude the paper with some closing remarks in section 3. The paper also contains a bibliography, but with one difference; since this is a paper about publishing on the NII, all the references listed are online resources. You can access a version of this paper in HTML, -with all the references activated as hot links- on the WWW by accessing the author's home page at Url: Hot Link.