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508, Accessibility & Obstacles

From: William R Williams <wrwilliams@fs.fed.us>
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 10:11:52 -0700
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <OFC741C0AE.E1500571-ON88256D25.00571525@r5.fs.fed.us>

Hello,

I have been a member of this mailing list -- primarily lurking -- for a
couple of years now, off & on, and am always impressed by the knowledge(s)
reflected in the postings to this list. Consequently, my hope in sending
this message is that someone can provide genuine advice on how to best
approach the whole issue of accessible website development in the (U.S)
federal sector.

I work as a "web developer" with a large agency in the U.S. federal
government and feel quite fortunate to be involved in this work. It seems,
however, as if my employer is only interested in giving "face value"
importance to accessible web design and development. As you know, we are
required to meet the provisions of Section 508 for accessible E&IT; yet, in
advocating for compliance (and professional-level development), my job has
been nothing short of a nightmare since June 2001, when the law took
effect. I've been accused of "undermining" the web efforts, being "on a
crusade," arrogant, striving for nirvana, or coding "web minutiae" (while
implementing WCAG guidelines), and untold other derogatory statements have
been hurled my way. Meanwhile, people have said that the need for tasks
such as implementing "document structure" and using valid mark-up are
subject to interpretation. The bottom line: I just don't understand the
resistance, the pretentions -- and this has created an uncertainty, on my
part, about what is and/or what is not, accessible information.

For example, as an "agency," we take our lead from a "Department." The
department's view of 508 can be gleaned at the URL cited below:

http://www.ocio.usda.gov/irm/508/sec508.html

Now, I ask you: are the files linked under the label "USDA's Method to
Achieving Section 508 Compliance" accessible or not? As PowerPoint
presentations, they have some clear usability concerns, surely, but can
they be read by AT devices? And, is the alternative statement for the
graphic in that "Training & Events" section sufficient to meet the
requirement for "functional equivalience"?

If the answers are no, why would a presentation on Section 508 by a
governmental department be offered in a format that is not accessible? What
could be done about this?

It's said that Lotus Notes/Domino is our coorporate software for database
development, but I believe that (our) version 5 will not allow compliance
in anything but the most elementary "web page"; for example, is the URL
below accessible?

http://wwwnotes.fs.fed.us:81/r5/regional/r5_rac_work.nsf

We have Notes applications all over the place, internal and external, that
have been developed in version 5. We have experimented with a CMS, from
divine, inc. and, although I cannot lead you to the software interface
(which is just sadly non-compliant), the following websites have been
produced from that system - can you consider these accessible:

http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/eldorado/
http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/tahoe/
http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/lospadres/

I really apologize for the length of this posting, and my level of
frustration -- I don't want to come across as a "whiner", but only want
others to understand that the "feds" aren't really on-board with this, in
my opinion. Even still, your feedback and advice or suggestions on ways to
persevere is appreciated. And I'll be lurking on, learning from, this list.

Bill Williams

p.s. the opinions expressed above are mine and should not be interpreted as
representing those of my employer.
Received on Tuesday, 13 May 2003 13:15:45 GMT

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