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ComputerWorld Article in Print - Congress Considers ADA's Relevance to Web

From: Kathleen Anderson <kathleen.anderson@po.state.ct.us>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 13:59:01 -0500
Message-ID: <008701bf77e6$b8e593e0$e924f79f@STATE.CT.US>
To: "'Web Accessibility Initiative'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
In the print edition, there is also a sidebar called "Accessibility
Resources" containing the following:
HTML Writers Guild
World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative

The article also appears online at:


Congress Considers ADA's Relevance to Web

Feds expected to issue rules for users' accessibility

By Patrick Thibodeau
02/14/2000 WASHINGTON

The federal government is on the verge of requiring its own Web sites to
comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits
discrimination against people with disabilities such as impaired vision or

Are business Web sites next?

Next month, the government will issue accessibility rules governing the Web
sites run by federal agencies. For example, streaming audio or audio files
will have to be accompanied by text. The rules may also require captioning
for video and restrict the use of color to display information.

Advocates for the disabled say making a Web site accessible -- such as
including text with audio or video files -- isn't difficult. Moreover, they
say commercial Web sites that aren't accessible are losing out on customers.

"What we need is achievable; what we are asking for is reasonable," said
Gary Wunder, a programmer/analyst at the University of Missouri and a board
member of the National Federation of the Blind.

It's possible that the federal rules could become models for broader
regulations affecting the private sector.

But for now, the legal issues for business Web sites are "exceedingly
unsettled," said Elizabeth Dorminey, an attorney at Wimberly, Lawson,
Steckel Nelson & Schneider PC in Athens, Ga.

The U.S. Department of Justice has determined that the ADA covers Web sites.
But Dorminey said the ADA covers only "public accommodations," not the
Internet. Others disagree, and the issue is now in court.

In what may be the key case, the National Federation of the Blind filed a
lawsuit against America Online Inc. last fall charging that the company's
online service violated the ADA. At the time the lawsuit was filed, Dulles,
Va.-based AOL said it was working to improve accessibility.

Congress is also investigating. At a hearing last week, Dennis Hayes,
creator of the Hayes modem and now chairman of the U.S. Internet Industry
Association, urged the House Judiciary Committee's constitution subcommittee
to focus on voluntary efforts through standards bodies.

Hayes warned that basing regulation on the technologies of today could limit
the development of better access tools.

"It will take years to work out in courts how the ADA will apply," Hayes
said. "In those same years, the standards can proceed much more rapidly."

The World Wide Web Consortium, a vendor-neutral standards body, last year
released technical guidelines for improving Web accessibility.

Kathleen Anderson, Webmaster
State of Connecticut
Office of the State Comptroller
55 Elm Street, Room 101
Hartford, Connecticut  06106
voice: (860) 702-3355  fax: (860) 702-3634
email: kathleen.anderson@po.state.ct.us
URL: http://www.osc.state.ct.us
CMAC Access: http://www.cmac.state.ct.us/access
Received on Tuesday, 15 February 2000 13:59:09 UTC

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