Software central to accessibility standards, cost
- By William Matthews
- Dec 21, 2000
Software is expected to consume most of the $1 billion it may take each
year for federal agencies to comply with the new accessibility standards,
the federal Access Board reports.
Buying new software to meet the accessibility standards has been estimated at as much as $510 million a
year. Buying hardware that meets the standards is expected to cost $337
Because software forms the brains of computers and other office equipment,
it is often the key to whether equipment is usable by people with disabilities.
Here are just a few of the dozens of accessibility standards that apply
* Software must provide commands that can be executed by a keyboard. For
example, print or save commands must be executable with keystrokes.
* Programs cannot disrupt the accessibility features of other products.
* Programs must provide information regarding add-on assistive technologies.
* Colors cannot be the only means of conveying information.
* If animation is used, the same information must be provided in a non-animated
The Access Board officially the Architectural and Transportation Barriers
Compliance Board said it tried to develop standards that tell software
and hardware makers what their products must do while leaving it to the
manufacturer to decide how best to meet the requirement.
However, the standards include many basic requirements, including:
* Equipment that produces sound as part of its function must be equipped
with adjustable volume controls.
* Controls on office equipment such as copying machines must have operating
controls that can be distinguished by feel.
* Controls must be usable by persons with limited dexterity.
* Products must have standard ports and connectors.
* Products must have at least one mode of operation that does not require
the user to have sight.
In a concession to industry lobbyists, the Access Board said "back-office"
equipment such as telecommunication switches, servers and other system components
normally operated only by service personnel need not comply with the regulations.
The standards also allow the IT industry to develop "equivalent facilitation"
to meet requirements. This means that companies are encouraged to find different
or better ways to meet the standards.