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Media: INTERNET WORLD NEWS, March 31, 2000]

From: Kathleen Anderson <kathleen.anderson@po.state.ct.us>
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2000 19:46:05 -0500
Message-ID: <38E546CD.F20DBECC@po.state.ct.us>
To: wai-ig list <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

-------- Original Message --------
From: IWNews <IWNews@iwnews.iw.com>
Subject: INTERNET WORLD NEWS, March 31, 2000

Friday, March 31, 2000
Vol. 2  Issue 63

*Today's Headlines (scroll down for full story)

Feds Issue Web-Accessibility Proposed Standards

By Nate Zelnick

Certain fringe elements believe that behind the scenes secret 
three-letter government agencies are controlling the world.
The conspiracists think these agencies go by names like CIA
or NSA, but the most powerful three-letter agency of them all 
is the GSA ( http://www.gsa.gov ), the General
Services Administration. 

Because GSA buys everything for the millions of federal
employees, it creates its own market conditions that shape
prices and standards for everyone else. So when the new
accessibility standards that were published in Friday's
Federal Register become the standards for all agencies in 60
days, they will be well on their way to becoming the de facto 
standards for everybody else. 

Contrary to some truly terrible reporting earlier this year, 
the standards do not ban the use of images, video, audio, or
other rich media that might cause problems for people with
visual or auditory disabilities. Instead, they call for
careful attention to how information is structured, so it can 
be "read" by anyone, even if it's read through a
special device. The specifics -- which cover far more than
Web design issues -- are posted at http://www.access-board.gov/ 
( http://www.access-board.gov/ ). 

In essence, the rules say that any site developed by or for
a federal agency needs to provide text alternatives to
graphical elements, sound, and color cues in order to ensure
that everyone can navigate and retrieve information. This
begins with using the ALT attribute of the image element to
provide alternative text, but really boils down to applying
common sense to a site's basic design and structure. For
developers who have been struggling to make sites
cross-browser or cross-platform, the easiest way to comply
will be to adopt clean, generic HTML practices that separate
presentation of content from the content itself. 

What's really interesting about these standards is that Web
developers should be doing this anyway to serve their own
interest, even if they callously disregard the moral
imperative of providing universal access. If you want to
deliver a Web page to a cell phone, television, or
Internet-enabled toaster, you'll have to follow the same
separation of content, structure, and presentation that the
standards imply. 

The new standards were created by a committee of disability
advocacy organizations, technology companies, and the World
Wide Web Consortium, which made Web accessibility a key part
of its mission almost from the beginning. Following Friday's
release, there is a 60-day public comment period after which
the rules -- altered to reflect any necessary changes -- will 
go into effect.

Copyright (c) 2000 by Internet World Media,
A Penton Media, Inc. Company.
Received on Friday, 31 March 2000 19:46:59 UTC

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