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lynx-dev US guidelines for disabled WWW access

From: Philip Webb
Subject: lynx-dev US guidelines for disabled WWW access
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2000 18:40:47 -0500
User-agent: Mutt/1.2.5i

AP th 001221 1652
Guidelines Set for Web Accessibility -- IAN HOPPER
WASHINGTON -- Most federal agencies will have to redesign their Web sites
 within the next six months to comply with guidelines issued Thursday
 that will make the pages more accessible to people with disabilities.
   The rules are designed to make it easier for the blind, the deaf and
   those with other disabilities to use federal technology services such
   as Web sites and databases.
   "I think this is a truly significant step forward. It helps not only
   the disabled, but all federal workers", said Sally Katzen, deputy
   director for management at the White House's budget office and
   chairwoman of the federal council of information technology officers.
   "This is where the federal government should be".
   Many of the changes will be easy, officials said, and reflect good Web
   design practices. But others, especially involving devices that can't
   currently accept alternate methods of input, may be costly to change.
   Advocacy groups for people with disabilities said they were pleased
   with the standards.
   "These regulations are necessary to implement the law at minimal
   cost, and fairly", said Brewster Thackeray, spokesman for the
   National Organization on Disability, adding that they should also help
   the disabled find work in the government.
   The rules "will ensure that the Web sites are accessible", said
   James Gashel, director of governmental affairs at the National
   Federation of the Blind in Baltimore. "These standards will be
   absolutely ideal".
   Gashel, who is blind, said he frequently has trouble using flashy
   graphics-laden Web sites. He uses a device that reads the text of a
   page to him, and he uses his computer keyboard to select links or skip
   through long passages.
   While the Web's programming language includes a way to associate a few
   words to explain each image - invisible to the casual user when the
   graphics load on a page - many Web designers fail to include that data.
   The new standards require that those graphics be labeled. The rules
   also state that areas in color should be provided also without color,
   and that complicated tables and similar Web constructs should have
   text legends.
   Many federal sites offer government documents in Adobe Acrobat format,
   showing the document as an image faithful to how it looks in print.
   But these files also are unreadable for Gashel, so the sites must soon
   also offer them in plain text.
   Gashel and federal officials pointed out that these practices will
   benefit more than the disabled. For example, people who browse the Web
   on handheld wireless devices, which can't show pictures or color,
   would be able to navigate federal Web sites more easily.
   Only federal Web sites and property are affected by the guidelines,
   which were devised by the interagency U.S. Access Board. They take
   effect June 21.
   Doug Wakefield, who helped devise the standards at the Access Board,
   could not say how many federal Web sites will be affected but
   estimated that hundreds of agencies and at least 4,000 Web sites, some
   with many separate pages, will be included.
   The most expensive elements to change will be self-contained systems
   like the Park Service's mobile information kiosks. Overall, Wakefield said,
   compliance could cost the government  USD 100 - 600 M .
   "This has never been tackled before, so it's very hard to even
   establish a baseline for something this new", he said.
   Future products, like biometric scanners that use fingerprints or
   retinal scans to verify a person's identity, also are covered. The
   scanners will need to offer an alternate form of identity verification
   for the disabled.
   So few of those devices are currently used by the government,
   Wakefield said, there won't be a high cost of replacement.
   "It's fairly new, so it can be designed in as they go along", he
   said. "In this case, the awareness will be there before the technology".
   US Access Board:
   National Organization on Disability:
   National Federation of the Blind:
SUPPORT     ___________//___,  Philip Webb : address@hidden
ELECTRIC   /] [] [] [] [] []|  Centre for Urban & Community Studies
TRANSIT    `-O----------O---'  University of Toronto

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