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UN Uses International Disability Day To Focus On Website "E-Accessibility"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 5, 2006

UNITED NATIONS--The United Nations called on website designers everywhere to build accessibility into their webpages as part of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Monday.

“Access to information and communication technologies creates opportunities for all people, perhaps none more so than persons with disabilities,” said Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a prepared statement. "And, as the development of the Internet and these technologies takes their needs more fully into account, the barriers of prejudice, infrastructure and inaccessible formats need no longer stand in the way of participation."

Representatives of some advocacy groups who attended a session on "E-Accessibility" emphasized that failing to make information and communication technologies accessible keeps a large segment of the population -- those who have vision-related disabilities or physical disabilities that make using a mouse difficult or impossible -- from enjoying the same online freedoms and opportunities as everyone else.

Others pointed out that it should be in the interest of anyone who wants to get a message out -- especially retailers -- to make their technologies available to everyone who might want access to that message.

The same day, the UK-based accessibility consultancy Nomensa released the results of a study for which it reviewed 100 websites in 20 countries. The researchers found that only three percent of those websites met basic accessibility standards. The main problems with the websites were the lack of "ALT" tags, which are text descriptions of images that computerized screen readers can read out loud, and the overuse of a scripting language called JavaScript that cannot be read by many Internet browsers.

The occasion also marked the launch of a Steering Committee of the Global Initiative for Inclusive Technologies, which brought together representatives from commerce, disability groups, international organizations and universities to discuss possible worldwide standards for technologies.

“You don’t design accessible websites just for persons with disabilities, but for all of us,” said Frances West, Director of IBM’s World Wide Human Ability and Accessibility Center.

Related:
"Making the Internet more disability-friendly is good business, experts tell UN panel" (United Nations)

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=20843&Cr=disab&Cr1=
"UN reports on dismal state of web accessibility" (Out-Law.com)
http://www.out-law.com/page-7549
Nomensa
http://www.nomensa.com

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