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Press Release on Barrier to Participation in the Digital Economy Raised by New Digital Signature Law

From: Icdri <icdri@icdri.org>
Date: Mon, 3 Jul 2000 13:57:22 -0400
To: "WAI IG" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

 I have been asked to forward this statement to the list for those who would
be interested.


Mike Burks


The statement below concerns the New Digital Signature bill signed into law
last Friday by President Clinton.  It has the potential to raise significant
barriers to both people with disabilities and those with alternate access
devices.  It should be noted that some analysts feel that in the near future
most web access will occur using these types of devices. As the law stands
now there is a very good chance that the Digital Divide between people with
disabilities and electronic and information technology will widen
considerably and in addition people using alternate access devices, to the
Internet will be at risk as well.

For further information on this issue please read the commentary by Cynthia
Waddell to be found at:
http://www.icdri.org/questions_about_electronic_signa.htm .

Those organizations both US and International who wish to support this
position should consider issuing a public statement, and those within the US
might wish to  contact their elected representatives in Congress.  Please
email your statements to: mailto:icdri@icdri.org and ICDRI will forward them
to the Internet Society and will post them on their web site to be found at

Please forward this message to whomever would be interested in this


Bob Cline
Director of Technology

ICDRI  in Support of ISOC/ISTF Position on Digital Signature Law

The International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet is in full
support of the statement below. Please note that the shortcomings of this
law will also effect those using alternate Internet access devices such as
cellular phones and  PDAs.


Landmark U.S. Digital Signature Legislation Falls Short with Regard to
Persons with Disabilities

Washington, D.C.; July 3, 2000 - While praising passage of the Electronic
Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (S761) by the U. S. Congress
as a significant step forward in many areas, the Internet Societal Task
Force (ISTF) and its parent organization, the Internet Society (ISOC), have
expressed concern that the legislation does not adequately take into account
the needs of persons with disabilities.

The issues involved are not only limited to persons with disabilities, but
may have an adverse impact on those people using alternate Internet access
devices such as cell phones and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs).

Cynthia Waddell of the International Center for Disability Resources
<http://www.icdri.org/> and a leading member of the ISTF states: "For a
person with a visual disability to access an electronic contract, the
document needs to be coded for accessible web design when it is created. It
would do well to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines posted by
the W3C at <http://www.w3.org/WAI>."

Persons with visual impairments are at a disadvantage if a contract is not
properly encoded. In some cases, they may not be able to take advantage of
the benefits of digital signatures as a means to enhance the conduct of
business and commerce using the Internet. They also run the risk of entering
into a legal and enforceable contract that they may not able to fully
comprehend. More alarming, these consumers may not realize that they are
unable to read portions of the contract.

"We commend the U.S. Congress for this further recognition of, and support
for, the importance of the Internet in conducting day to day business," said
Don Heath, President and CEO of the Internet Society. He added, "However, if
the Bill were to be amended to embrace accessible web design so that the
widest audience of consumers could benefit from electronic contracts, it
would result in a huge benefit for the disabled around the world, and put
the U.S. in a clear leadership position in this area. Likewise, we hope that
future laws in this venue address accessibility issues before they are


The Internet Society (ISOC) <http://www.isoc.org> is a professional
membership society with organizational and individual members in over 170
countries. It provides leadership in addressing issues that confront the
future of the Internet, and is the organization home for the groups
responsible for Internet infrastructure standards, including the Internet
Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), and
the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF).

The Internet Society is dedicated to ensuring the open evolution,
development and use of the Internet for the benefit of all peoples of the
world, and to this end assumes a leadership role in developing and
disseminating Internet policy on technical and societal issues worldwide,
providing Internet education and training, and striving to represent the
best interests of the Internet and its users. A network of Chapters in 60
countries (with many more in formation) supports the work of the global

The Internet Societal Task Force (ISTF) <http://www.istf.org> is an open
organization of people who are committed to furthering the mission of the
Internet Society (ISOC) and work to identify ways in which the Internet can
be a positive force in social and economic dimensions.



Michael Burks
Internet Societal Task Force
5212 Covington Bend Drive,
Raleigh, NC 27613 USA
Tel: +1 919 870 8788
Email: mburks952@worldnet.att.net


Lance Laack
International Policy Coordinator
Internet Society
11150 Sunset Hills Road
Suite 100
Reston, VA 20190-5321
Tel: +1 703 326 9880
Fax: +1 703 326 9881

4, rue des Falaises
CH-1205 Geneva
Tel: +41 22 807 1444
Fax: +41 22 807 1445
Email: lance@isoc.org

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Received on Monday, 3 July 2000 14:43:26 UTC

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