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web accessibility

From: Robert Neff <rneff@moon.jic.com>
Date: Tue, 8 Sep 1998 21:55:08 -0400
Message-ID: <004d01bddb94$dfdbab00$4b109cce@rcn.jic.com>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Here is another article from web review magazine on web accessibility.  I have inserted the both the URL and the text.
Making the Internet accessible for persons of all abilities
by Joseph Lazzaro
Sept. 4, 1998 

How would you log onto the Web if you couldn't see your computer monitor? For thousands of persons with disabilities, the Web remains the best hope for full and equal access to information. But far too many Web sites are unreadable black holes where no man or woman dare tread. 

The World Wide Web has grown into one of the most potent forces on the globe for information distribution and commerce. Internet technology is being utilized by millions of individuals and thousands of companies every day to conduct business and access information, and this trend is increasing rapidly with no signs of slowing. The Web is changing the face of many day-to-day activities, and has all ready altered the way we work, learn, and even play. No longer the province of the few privileged elite, the Web has become mandatory for anyone who wants to succeed in our information-driven culture. 

"The WAI is developing suggested guidelines for browsers, Web authors, and authoring tools, as well as sponsoring an extensive education and outreach campaign." 

Unfortunately, many Web sites are not a friendly place for countless persons with disabilities who rely on adaptive technologies like speech, braille, alternative keyboards, and other devices to access computers and the online world. This is not because there is some fundamental incompatibility that prevents adaptive technologies from working with Web sites or browsers. The problem is a result of a lack of sensitivity and knowledge of adaptive technology and the special needs of the disability community among Webmasters. The good news is that this problem can easily be rectified, and we know how to fix it. This is not really a technological logjam. It's one of awareness and education. 

The purpose of this article is to educate Webmasters on the importance of designing Web sites that are accessible to everyone, no matter their abilities. It's the right thing to do. But if simple altruism isn't enough for you, I have some statistics that may help to change your mind. 

That's the fact, Jack 
According to United States government statistics, there are about 35 million persons in the country with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities. The World Health Organization puts the figures for worldwide disability numbers much higher -- at around 750 million. 

"Java Accessibility is expected to be of greatest benefit for blind users employing speech output systems, and persons utilizing voice recognition technology." 

You should be aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal regulations require public entities to provide an accessible environment for their consumers and patrons. This can include Web sites of public institutions such as schools, libraries, government agencies; any public entity receiving state or federal funds; and the list is growing.

Knowing this may help you avoid a lawsuit and increase goodwill toward your product or service in the community. Being aware of this fact of law may give your company the upper hand when bidding on contracts or other services. It doesn't take a college education to figure out that the disability community is a large segment of the marketplace, one far too great to simply ignore.

So why are thousands of businesses and organizations on the Net doing exactly that? I believe it's mainly out of ignorance, and a false belief that making objects accessible is an expensive undertaking. 

Nothing could be further from the truth! 

The real story is that access can be had almost for free if you plan accessibility into your Web site at the very beginning. It's expensive to add access as an afterthought, as something clumsily bolted on after the site is up and running. Such retro-fitted solutions are often less robust, less reliable, and are more difficult to revise or upgrade. 

The good news is that you can make your Web site accessible by taking advantage of free guidelines and tools that can steer you and your customers to a more friendly World Wide Web. I'll describe how this can be accomplished by applying Universal Design, a methodology for making hardware and software that everyone can operate, no matter their abilities. To help those bored with guidelines, I'll spotlight a Web site testing program that tells you exactly what's wrong with your page in terms of disability access. It doesn't get any easier than that! 


Designing for a Wider Universe
The W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is helping to provide standards for making sites more accessible. Meanwhile, Bobby can be used to check your site to see just how accessible it is. 

Java Accessibility
See how adaptive technology, in the way of Java applications, are improving the accessibility of the Internet and other applications for persons with disabilities. 
Received on Tuesday, 8 September 1998 22:02:02 UTC

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