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U.S. to Impose Accessability Standards on Websites?

By Matthew Guenther in News
Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 12:31:45 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Found this recently, seems the U.S. Government is planning to make easy disabled access to government web sites a requirement under the law. There is also speculation that this may be applied to the private sector, as a part of a disabilities communication access act. Good or bad idea? How would this be enforced?


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U.S. to Impose Accessability Standards on Websites? | 16 comments (16 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Worth reading and talking about, th... (none / 0) (#1)
by Paul Dunne on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 10:41:35 AM EST

Paul Dunne voted 1 on this story.

Worth reading and talking about, though any competent webmaster should be making disabled-accesible sites already, simply by following the rules of good design.

I would love an explanation of the following clause from the new rules:

"[p]rovide at least one mode that minimizes the cognitive, and memory ability required of the user."

Puts a whole new meaning on the phrase "WWW for Dummies", eh?
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/

Re: Worth reading and talking about, th... (none / 0) (#13)
by Demona on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 10:08:43 PM EST

As someone on alt.sysadmin.recovery noted, "Luserhood is being enshrined in law." Definitely needs clarification. Whoever wrote that doesn't seem to have been engaging their own clue gear.

-dj

[ Parent ]

I suppose you could require buisnes... (none / 0) (#2)
by Nyarlathotep on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 11:30:39 AM EST

Nyarlathotep voted 1 on this story.

I suppose you could require buisnesses to have ALT tags. That way a blind persons terminal could display brail to describe the image. This seems a litle heavey handed to me since it is mostly the job of the disabled person web browser to present the information in a reasonable way, I doubt they will be able to apply these laws to no commercial web pages, i.e. just because you are standing on the corner hganding out flyers dose not mean you are obligated to hand out brail flyers too.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!

Can never be enforced on the "priva... (2.50 / 2) (#3)
by Demona on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 11:52:25 AM EST

Demona voted 1 on this story.

Can never be enforced on the "private sector" except maybe for high-profile corporations that have lots of government contracts, without hitting grave constitutional issues. And of course, private individuals can never be "required" to do any such thing. That said, I've been writing the most accessible HTML I know how ever since I started learning it, and there are precious few excuses for not doing so other than ignorance and laziness.

generally a good idea (1.67 / 3) (#4)
by xah on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 12:41:19 PM EST

For government web sites, the style and flash of the hypertext layout is unimportant. Content on such sites is useful to everybody, and everybody should be able to get access to it.

As for private web sites, I think e-commerce sites need to be accessible to all. I believe e-commerce is gonig to have a huge role, potentially larger even than regular commerce. It's thus crucial for the living standard of disabled people to have these sites accessible.

Can you imagine the trouble a blind person has clicking on the little icons when he shops at amazon.com? It's probably impossible.

Other private web sites, like personal pages, should not be so restricted. Wise webmasters will make their sites accessible, however, to increase traffic.

Should this done be law? Only if necessary. The government agency concerned IMHO should issue a policy statement on this matter. Then, if in 1 or 2 years time the sites above haven't become accessible, they should issue the regulations pursuant to the ADA, codifying the policy goal into law.

Re: U.S. to Impose Accessability Standards on Webs (2.00 / 1) (#5)
by Wil Mahan on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 12:56:38 PM EST

While I agree that accessability standards are in general a Good Thing, forced standards would be almost impossible to enforce, and would probably end up doing more harm than good.

Imagine what would happen if every small change a company made to its website had to be approved by the US government. In addition to being a slow beurocratic process, smaller companies would be reluctant to create their own websites if they did not have the resources to ensure that it would be 100% accessible.

I think the accessability standards are best left the way they are now--optional. The government should stay away from trying to enforce any regulations on web sites.

Re: U.S. to Impose Accessability Standards on Webs (none / 0) (#7)
by rajivvarma on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 02:55:29 PM EST

I think the accessability standards are best left the way they are now--optional. The government should stay away from trying to enforce any regulations on web sites.

While I dislike general government intervention, I believe US Government should at least try to get a majority of web sites located within the United States to be compliant with accessibility standards. It shouldn't really be a burden on the web site designers, and it would probably take a short amount of time to implement. Even making a text-only site would help a bit.
Rajiv Varma
Mirror of DeCSS.

[ Parent ]
Re: U.S. to Impose Accessability Standards on Webs (none / 0) (#9)
by rusty on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 03:30:20 PM EST

I believe US Government should at least try to get a majority of web sites located within the United States to be compliant with accessibility standards

I don't agree with this. I do agree that government web sites should meet accessability standards, because these are public services. It's like requiring wheelchair ramps on public buildings. This is clearly a Good Thing.

But to attempt to enforce such standards on all sites would just be interference. That would be like requiring every building to have wheelchair ramps. It would be prohibitively expensive, and meddlesome, I think. I agree that web developers should try to comply with accessability standards, but the internet is based on voluntary compliance with open standards. Does my mail server have to be SMTP compliant by law? No. But it is, because (almost) everyone sees the value in complying with standards. I think, as has been said elsewhere, that open standards are the best solution to this.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: U.S. to Impose Accessability Standards on Webs (none / 0) (#14)
by rajivvarma on Sun Feb 27, 2000 at 01:34:48 AM EST

Hello:

Of course, I don't want the US Government to force web sites located within the US to comply with the accessibility standards, but I don't think the government should approach this with a laisez-faire mentality. The easiest way to implement this would be to use open standards, just as you said Rusty. This is a tough subject, but with some relative ease, I think it could be worked out.
Rajiv Varma
Mirror of DeCSS.

[ Parent ]
Accessability Standards (4.30 / 2) (#6)
by Inoshiro on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 01:59:50 PM EST

Why not just standard standards?

CSS coupled with HTML 4 provide a nice little "paradigm" (woah, buzzword alert) for any kind of content. The CSS specifies how it should look, and the HTMl specifies what it is. If a user is blind, they can just slap their "audio-reader" CSS sheet onto their browser, and enjoy the content. The alt tag for img, etc, also allow for accesiblity from things like Lynx. Standards compliance is the best way of being accesible, so why use half measures? Why not just mandate PROPER web standards, as it kills two birds with one stone?

If you want to read more, check out the alertbox -- which is a great little site for any web usability person or webmaster to read.

--
[ イノシロ ]
Re: U.S. to Impose Accessability Standards on Webs (none / 0) (#8)
by rongen on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 03:28:27 PM EST

I did some work for the Canadian government a while ago and learned
they are in the process of developing guidelines for more
disabled-friendly web sites as well. One of the main focuses is on
tables, and thier use to impose a style or organization on
information. This can really screw up a text-to-speech system or
whatever. The information will still be there, it just won't be
presented to the viewer (or listener) in a logical order.

Frames are also a potential stumbling block for the blind or otherwise
challenged reader. It makes sense to eliminate these for government
sites. It makes it easier to print the documents (by avoiding tons of
frames a web site will print like a book without all the frame
navigation on the side every time). Anyway, these seemed to be the
major areas they were looking at.

One of the guys high-up in the group that was looking into this at the
time gave a talk to the group I was working for. He didn't mention
style-sheets during his presentation. I asked him about this later and
he replied that many people who are disabled also have a lower income
(or effectively do since coping with thier disability often creates
costs beyond what a non-disabled person might encounter). They are
often using a system that may be older but "works for them". What use
has a blind guy for the latest whizzbang video card and Netscape 4.7?
He is more likely to be using LYNX and a text-to-speech system (or a
brail thing). So style sheets were not even really thought of as
important compared to frames and table issues... Although this will
probably change dramatically in the coming years as stuff gets cheaper
and style-sheets become a great way of imposing required structure on
web-pages...

read/write http://www.prosebush.com
Re: U.S. to Impose Accessability Standards on Webs (none / 0) (#12)
by Demona on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 09:40:08 PM EST

Style sheets, when properly implemented, can be utilized by any web client -- and that may very well be a "non-traditional" user agent, as opposed to the bowsers (no sp) most folks are familiar with. From w3.org's Accessibility Guidelines:
...the presentation of the header might be a bold block text in the margin, a centered line of text, a title spoken with a certain voice style (like an aural font), etc.
So good design that separates content from presentation -- or at the very least, degrades gracefully and allows the essential information to be communicated regardless of user agent or browsing situation -- is still appropriate.

[ Parent ]
CSS == *very* important (none / 0) (#15)
by ramses0 on Sun Feb 27, 2000 at 02:15:51 AM EST

Actually, when properly used, CSS can completely eliminate accessibility issues, and their use is -especially- applicable for browsers which do not support them!

Take a look at...

http://ramses0.dhs.org/directory_resources/directory.css

...and...

http://ramses0.dhs.org/directory/view/showclass.php3?user_class_uid=7

The following link shows what it looks like in lynx, and you'll just have to trust me that as far as accessibility is concerned, you can't beat CSS.

Click this formerly ridiculously huge link! If you'll look at the style-sheet (or just hit "print"), you'll see that CSS lets you selectively display content based on the media type. In my case, there's no need to print the navigation toolbar when it's on paper, so I tell CSS to not print it. Simple, elegant, and useful.

IMHO, if users want flash (the concept or the web-plugin), they should get better software. However, content providers (like slashdot and kuro5hin) should provide the most wonderfully marked up and CSS compatible text as they possibly can.

For example, (sorry about this rusty ;^)= ... really, scoop should not be using tables to control the presentation of content. A better way to do it would be:

[ul style="list-style-type: none"]

[li]...comment goes here...

[ul style="list-style-type: none"]

[li]...reply goes here (recursively)...

[/li]

[/li]

To box the story postings, try [div style="border: 1px solid black"] ...story title... [/div]

It takes a little work to learn the ins and outs of CSS, but once you have, it's a heckuvalot easier than [table] [/table] all over the place. It also has the advantage of looking just as good in lynx as it does in any modern browser. The only drawback is that anybody still using a v3.0 browser has to live with the little dots next to comments. Oh well. Such a tragedy ;^)=
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]

Is kuro5hin accessable? (none / 0) (#10)
by rusty on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 03:32:11 PM EST

I was wondering if kuro5hin.org is disabled-accessable? I know it works fine in lynx (right Paul? :-), does that mean it can be read easily by a text-to-speech engine? Is there anything I'm not doing that I should be?

____
Not the real rusty
Re: Is kuro5hin accessable? (none / 0) (#11)
by Demona on Sat Feb 26, 2000 at 04:44:35 PM EST

I can also verify that kuro5hin works great in Lynx, which I use for 90% of my browsing. A good starting point would be to feed your page to Bobby for basic style checks, and then use the WWW consortium's Web Accessability Initiative documents for going into more detail.

-dk

[ Parent ]

Re: Is kuro5hin accessable? (none / 0) (#16)
by Paul Dunne on Sun Feb 27, 2000 at 04:25:41 AM EST

I'd go so far as to say that kuro5hin looks "enhanced for lynx". Hey, are Demona and I the only two people using lynx here? Do you collect browser stats, Rusty?
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
U.S. to Impose Accessability Standards on Websites? | 16 comments (16 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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