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E-Government Initiative Websites Are Not Entirely Accessible, Researchers Find
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 19, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC--The Bush administration's web-based e-government initiatives are not entirely accessible to Internet users with disabilities, as required by federal law, according to a study by a technology magazine and a web accessibility services firm.

The study, released Monday, was conducted by SSB Technologies Inc., which sells accessibility software and services, along with the technology magazine Federal Computer Weekly. A representative of the National Federation of the Blind was also involved in evaluating the e-government initiatives, not only to determine if they complied with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, but also to find out if they were usable.

The federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was amended in 1998 to ensure accessibility to information technologies for all Americans. Under Section 508, all information-based products or services used or purchased by the federal government after June 21, 2001 must be universally accessible. This includes fax machines, phones, computers and websites.

The researchers found that not one of these e-government initiative websites were entirely accessible, as required by federal law.

Many agency sites were found to have increased their accessibility over the past few years, and appeared to be following the spirit of the law, the researchers determined.

The problem was in the details: Government website designers seemed to have hit the limit of what they could do with their current level of understanding of accessibility.

"They have made an excellent first pass at 508 and have accomplished a lot, but there are problems that remain," said Chris Henderson, senior accessibility consultant at SSB Technologies. "Those problems seem to be complicated enough that they need to develop some additional expertise."

Researchers also learned that websites which technically comply with the law's accessibility requirements are not necessarily usable by people with disabilities.

"Making government accessible -- online" (Federal Computer Week)
"Accessibility pitfalls" (Federal Computer Week)
"Accessible doesn't mean usable" (Federal Computer Week)
"Accessibility development and evaluation tools" (Federal Computer Week)
EGov: The Official Web Site of the President's E-Government Initiatives
Section 508: The Road to Accessibility


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