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Canadian of Government and Web accessibility

From: Chuck Letourneau <cpl@starlingweb.com>
Date: Thu, 05 Nov 1998 18:18:55 -0500
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To: w3c-wai-eo@w3.org
Please note: this is not a press release nor is it an official statement of
or by the Government of Canada. 

I am pleased to be able to announce that the Government of Canada is moving
to ensure that all of its Web sites and electronic information products and
services will be accessible to all.  

For a couple of years, the federal government has provided guidelines for
federal webmasters (and third party developers) to help them make web pages
accessible (my pre-WAI work).  The most recent of these guidelines (as yet
unpublished, but expected by the end of November) are based on the WAI Page
Author Guidelines. 

In a significant departure, many of these guidelines will soon become
official policy requirements.  The Treasury Board Secretariat (the central
policy-making body for the federal government) will develop, in
consultation with departments and agencies, a common look and feel for all
federal Internet/Intranet sites and electronic networks.  The Federal
Identity Program is to be applied consistently to electronic services,
including all Government of Canada Internet/Intranet sites, products and
deliverables.  As well, the Official Language Policy ensuring that content
and service are equally available in both official languages (English and
French) will be enforced.  Finally, and of most interest to us, the
standards will include accessibility requirements as promoted by the TBS
Access Working Group and the W3C/WAI.

To this end a "Common Look and Feel working group" of the Treasury Board
Secretariat's Internet Advisory Committee was struck in June, 1998, to
develop the standards and recommendations that will become policy. The
mandate for Common Look and Feel Working Group: To establish mandatory
standards and procedures for visually presenting, accessing, organizing and
navigating through the information displayed at federal Internet and
Intranet sites.  The working group will also guide the evolution of the
Canada site that will act as a model for federal institutions to follow as
a dynamic, distinctly Canadian information resource.

Among the factors considered by the Common Look and Feel WG was the need to
incorporate work already done by others, including the Access Working Group
of the Internet Advisory Committee (I am secretary of that group) and
international organizations (e.g. W3C and W3C/Web Accessibility
Initiative).  With respect to accessibility, the Look and Feel
Accessibility sub-group has recommended that some form of all Priority 1
guidelines in the WAI Page Author set be included in the policy.

The recommendations are in second draft at the moment and are not available
for public viewing.  I will alert the group when they become available.
The policy is expected to come into force sometime early in the new year.
There will be a grace period before full implementation is required -
perhaps as much as two years.  This seems to be well within the average
life cycle of a departmental web site.  All new sites or sites being
redeveloped will be required to comply immediately.

However, everyone involved agrees that there are "quick fixes" that can be
applied easily at the top level "Welcome" page and the English and French
"Home" pages for all primary departmental sites.  A sub-group of the Common
Look and Feel WG has come up with six quick fixes, one of which is the
requirement to provide all images on these primary pages with suitable
alt-text.


I am personally very pleased that the Government of Canada has decided to
act in this manner.  I am also ecstatic that the hard work and dedication
of everyone involved in the WAI is being recognized in the development of
these Government of Canada standards.

I will post or point to new information on this subject as it becomes
available.

Regards,
Chuck






----
Starling Access Services
 "Access A World Of Possibility"
  e-mail: info@starlingweb.com
   URL: http://www.starlingweb.com
    Phone: 613-820-2272  FAX: 613-820-6983
Received on Thursday, 5 November 1998 18:18:20 UTC

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