Education Department hit over Web site access

Complaint alleges USALearns.org Web site is inaccessible to the blind

The National Federation of the Blind is accusing the Education Department of failing to comply with accessibility requirements for disabled people on the department's USALearns.org Web site.

The 50,000-member federation filed the administrative complaint Oct. 27 with Education that alleged violations of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, according to a news release.

Under Section 508, federal agency communications, including Web sites, must be accessible. In practice, that means having special features and compatibility with screen readers and other information technology tools and devices used by people with disabilities.

The federation asserts that USALearns.org is inaccessible to blind people who use text-to-speech screen access technology or Braille displays.

Education officials were not immediately available for comment.

The USALearns site offers free information and assistance to people to learn English vocabulary and grammar. The site was originally funded by Education, and also received funding from the state of California, the site states. The site lists its developers as the Sacramento County Office of Education and the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

Advocates for people with disabilities have noted that several federal Web sites have problems with meeting Section 508's requirements.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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