Web sites will put accessibility on display
- By William Matthews
- Dec 21, 2000
When the June 21 deadline arrives for meeting the new accessibility standards,
the first places to draw notice likely will be federal government Web pages
and the online forms that enable e-government.
Most federal agencies began working last summer to bring their Web sites
into compliance, so substantial progress has been made. However, a significant
new requirement calls for interactive electronic forms to be usable by persons
Electronic forms are an increasingly popular way for people to apply to
government agencies for services, benefits or jobs. But at present, interaction
between forms and screen readers can be "unpredictable," the Access Board
Software maker Adobe Systems Inc. warned that some methods of making interactive
forms compatible with screen readers could pose security risks for users'
The standards also require that Web page authors include links to special
add-on or "plug-in" programs that may make Web pages accessible. The requirement
is aimed at Web content such as multimedia or Portable Document Format files,
the Access Board said.
"This provision places a responsibility on the Web page author to know that
a compliant application exists" and to provide a link to it, said the board,
officially the Architechtural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.
Most of the Web accessibility standards are aimed at ensuring that government
Web pages will be accessible to people with vision impairments, according
to the Access Board. Thus, most of the standards deal with making Web pages
usable to computer screen readers and refreshable Braille displays.
The key to this is attaching text descriptions to Web page images. Thus
the accessibility standards require a "text equivalent for every non-text
Other Web page requirements include:
* Providing synchronized alternatives to video in multimedia presentations.
* Banning the use of color as the only means of conveying information.
* Coding tables with row and column headers so they are intelligible to
screen readers and Braille displays.
* Providing methods that let users skip repetitive navigation links.
* Avoiding screen flicker or flashing lights that can trigger seizures in