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media:[Fwd: [webwatch] PR Newswire: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service First to Provide Fully Accessible Site]

From: David Poehlman <poehlman@clark.net>
Date: Sat, 08 Apr 2000 10:10:42 -0400
Message-ID: <38EF3DE2.AE7CCA18@clark.net>
To: wai-ig list <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [webwatch] PR Newswire: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service First to
Provide  Fully Accessible Site
Date: Sat, 08 Apr 2000 01:01:36 -0700
From: Kelly Ford <kford@teleport.com>
Reply-To: "webwatch" <webwatch@telelists.com>
To: "webwatch" <webwatch@telelists.com>

Hi All,

I apologize for the length of this press release.  However I thought it 
worth sharing because of a couple things that it says that I believe 
deserve more attention by those working to implement section 508 of the 
Rehab Act and web accessibility in general.  I'm basing my comments on the 
proposed rules for section 508 and the W3C web content accessibility 
standards.  Sharing of this information is not meant to negate the efforts 
or awareness of accessibility displayed by this federal agency.

Paragraph (c)(11) of the proposed rules for section 508 states:

(11) Pages shall be usable when scripts, applets, or other programmatic 
objects are turned off or are not supported, or shall provide equivalent 
information on an alternative accessible page.

The explanatory text for this paragraph appearing earlier in the proposed 
rules states:

Paragraph (c)(11) provides that scripts, applets, or other plug-ins must 
not be essential to reading or navigating a web page. When the content or 
navigation of a web page relies on scripts or requires that a user have a 
specific plug-in installed, the result can be an inaccessible page. If the 
page cannot be created with text attributes for navigation and content that 
do not require a plug-in, then an alternate text page may be the only 
solution.  The Board recommends that access features be incorporated into 
all web pages without resorting to alternative text pages. This provision 
is consistent with the recommendations of the advisory committee.

The web site described below has multiple files available exclusively in 
the PDF format.  In fact much of what I'd term the interesting content is 
available only as PDF files.  The starting page has at least one 
presentation distributed as a Powerpoint feature.  The web site, in no 
location that I could find, references the Adobe conversion software for 
PDF files and my attempt to convert several files yielded mixed results as 
usual.

To me I find it hard to call this a "fully" accessible web 
site.  Navigation itself is very accessible but much of the site's content 
depends heavily on specialized software that works with mixed results in 
terms of accessibility.

I personally wish that the proposed 508 regulations had stronger language 
to deal with issues like PDF files.  I don't consider them accessible 
myself because of the vagaries of the Adobe conversion options.  At the 
very least users should be pointed to instructions on how to attempt to 
convert PDF files to text if they are to be used.

Anyway I thought folks might find this of value because of the references 
to 508, web accessibility and because of the issues I've raised.  Perhaps 
those in the federal government dealing with implementation of 508 can use 
these sorts of examples for the day-to-day realities that need attention.

Kelly


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service First to Provide Fully Accessible Site
(PR Newswire)



     FORT SNELLING, Minn., March 31 /PRNewswire/ -- The Great Lakes-Big
Rivers
Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set a major milestone with
completion of a Web Accessibility Initiative which makes its entire website
accessible to those with varying degrees of primarily visual disabilities.
The site is the first among all Department of the Interior agencies to
complete such an initiative.  The website address is: http://midwest.fws.gov
     The project included the addition of special coding and descriptions to
nearly 2,000 web pages.  This coding allows people with visual and hearing
disabilities to gain a better understanding of photos, charts and other
images
and sounds found on the website.  Specialized reader software converts those
elements into a useable format so more people can benefit from information
on
the conservation efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
     "Accessible websites are essential for people with disabilities so they
can have equal access to the many resources available on the web," said
Peggy
Nelson, Regional Office Equal Employment Specialist.  "With recent lawsuits,
such as the National Federation of the Blind vs. America Online, attention
has
shifted to ensure that existing websites are accessible to everyone."
     Nelson added that people who use reader software to view materials on
the
Internet often endure frustration since the program tries to interpret
coding
as words.  That frustration can lead them to seek out needed information
elsewhere, or they are not able to obtain the information at all.
     Regional Web Manager Larry Dean said, "Section 508 of the
Rehabilitation
Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1998, requires Federal agencies
to make efforts to ensure electronic information is accessible to all
citizens.  That same year we developed a regional accessibility policy,
proceeded with editing our website and made certain that new webpages met
the
standards. This also meant establishing guidance on how to build accessible
websites for new webpage designers in field offices around the Region."
     Dean also developed a "How To" handbook that describes the steps needed
to
address accessibility when making the initial page design.  "That handbook
is
the first item our web designers receive when they contact me about building
their own webpages," he said.  "Since we've begun distributing this
handbook,
our people have had few problems creating accessible homepages.  And I'm
pleased that we are one of only five Federal agencies nationwide with an
accessible site, and definitely the largest of them to complete this
project.
At the time of our completion and formally registering as Bobby compliant,
there were only 288 sites in the world registered as accessible.  Since our
registration that number has climbed to nearly 700 sites in the world."
     "It's very satisfying knowing that we are making our information
available
to all and that our visitation numbers since the accessibility project began
indicate that we've grown into a trusted source for natural resource
conservation information," Regional Director Bill Hartwig said. "We watched
our hits jump from 800,000 per year at the project's start, to last year's
record four million.  And we're currently on pace to range between six and
10
million hits in 2000."
     Hartwig added, "We've always been proud of the fact that our site
includes
a wealth of information about the Service and the species and habitat we
work
with.  In addition, we offer the public an opportunity to provide feedback
on
areas that are still in the conservation planning stages.  Their voices are
heard via our website.  Their online comments are added to those we receive
through regular mail and by telephone concerning topics like land
acquisition
plans and species recovery plans that are available for public review."
     Dean noted that plans for the site include further developing the
two-way
communication opportunities so more members of the public who visit the site
can not only learn about the successes and ongoing projects, but provide
their
insight into those efforts.
     "We've seen considerable interest in our work with endangered species
in
this region; natural resource damage assessment studies which outline the
appropriate steps to restore the habitat, wildlife and fish injured by
various
forms of contamination; interest in the studies of declining moose
populations
in northern Minnesota; interest in our national wildlife refuges; and many
other areas," he said.  "And now that we've completed this accessibility
initiative and are continuing to develop the site, we know that we can reach
another important audience."
     The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants
and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The
Services manages the 93 million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System of more
than 520 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other
special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64
fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The
agency
enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act,
manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant
fisheries,
conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign
governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal
Aid
program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on
fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
     For further information about the programs and activities of the U.S.
Fish
and Wildlife Service in the Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region, please visit the
Company's home page at: http://midwest.fws.gov

SOURCE  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Contact: Larry Dean, Regional Web Manager of The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov ,  Web site:
  http://www.fws.gov/r3pao ,  Web site:  http://midwest.fws.gov
/
Received on Saturday, 8 April 2000 10:10:57 GMT

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