Vendors tout 508 tools

With a June 21 deadline for government agencies to make their Web sites accessible to people with disabilities, dozens of companies are touting products and services designed to find and fix inaccessibil-ity problems.

Here are a few examples as described by their vendors. Federal Computer Week has not tested these products: n A company aptly named 508Compliant (www.508compliant.com) will evaluate Web sites for compliance with Section 508 accessibility standards and fix any problems it discovers. In March, 508-Compliant was offering to analyze up to 100 Web site pages within 10 business days for $1,995. Fixing compliance problems costs extra.

n The $1,295 price tag alone is a good reason to check out Hiawatha Island Software Co.'s AccVerify software (www.hisoftware.com). AccVerify uses a Web crawler to search and check pages. It creates a log detailing areas of noncompliance, and can distinguish between Section 508 requirements and W3C Priority One compliance, the company says. n Adobe Systems Inc. (www.adobe.com), whose PDF files have long caused problems for screen readers, has issued Acrobat 5.0 software. This new version of Acrobat creates PDF documents that can be read by screen readers using either Acrobat 5.0 or Acrobat Reader, Adobe officials say. For users with vision impairments, the new Acrobat supports high-contrast viewing and text enlargement. Enhanced keyboard shortcuts are intended to make it easier for those with motor impairment to use. Adobe also is making a free plug-in available for adding navigation tags to PDF files created with Acrobat 4.0 or earlier versions.

n Accessibility needn't always involve computers and Web pages. Boston-based SpeechWorks (www.speechworks.com), for example, uses speech-recognition software to deliver automated information and answers by telephone. The same sort of information readily available at Web sites — advice on passport renewals and Social Security benefits, for example — can also be delivered by automated phone systems. The Internal Revenue Service has hired SpeechWorks to deploy a multiple-language automated telephone system that lets taxpayers check the status of their refunds 24 hours a day. n Responding to the need for Section 508-compliant applications, American Management Systems Inc. (www.ams.com) has developed Momentum Financials, a program for managing federal agency financial and administrative operations. Screen-reader-compliant, the program can be navigated with a keyboard and is compatible with standard word processing and spreadsheet packages, AMS says. n Filing performance reports is a way of life for federal managers, and Section 508 offers no respite. However, Interliant Inc. (www.interliant.com) does. The company's "compliance monitor" scans Web sites for 508 compliance, and its "Web extensions" enhance Web sites by adding information and services geared for disabled users. Perhaps most appealing to government Web managers, Interliant promises to "help agencies respond to the attorney general's biennial reporting requirements."

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