Tool tests sites' accessibility

TekInsight.com, which develops Internet applications for federal, state

and local government, has developed a service through which agencies can

check whether their Web sites are accessible to people with physical disabilities.

The company will test pages for compliance with the standards in Section

508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act, which mandates that federal agency

Web sites, along with other equipment, be equally accessible to disabled

employees or citizens.

To do tests and produce an extensive report on around 100 Web pages

would cost approximately $10,000, with any remediation that's needed being

a separate action and charge, according to the company. If a number of user

interface files have to be changed, that process could take up to four weeks.

But if just one file controls the user interface for all Web pages, remediation

might last just one day.

"You don't necessarily need a large investment of time or money to backtrack

on a Web site and make it compliant," said Kyle Tager, TekInsight.com's

vice president of e-government services. "It's more a case of changes having

to be made to the basic user interface, and you seldom have to make changes

to back-end systems."

And it's not just a case of bringing a site up to the level of compliance.

TekInsight actually found that its first customer, Somerville, Mass., had

made its site 508-compliant, but in doing so, had made it confusing for

some of its disabled users to navigate.

The Section 508 mandate only covers federal agencies, and those sites

funded with federal dollars. However, Tager said, many state and local governments

receive federal funds for certain activities, and analysts are predicting

the requirement will eventually trickle down to them also.

Still, even without a mandate, state and local governments are independently

looking to boost the accessibility of their sites to disabled citizens,

as was the case with Somerville, Tager said.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached

at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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