Accessibility Is a Global Concern

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Maximum Accessibility: Making Your Web Site More Usable for Everyone
By John M. Slatin,, Sharron Rush
Table of Contents
Chapter 3.  Accessibility in Law and Policy


Although Section 508 has received wide attention in the global community of people concerned with Internet policy and common standards, strategies outside of the United States have been just as powerful and, in some cases, more effectively implemented. As more government services came online, nations throughout the world developed accessibility policies. The WAI indexes information about these global efforts on its page titled "Policies Relating to Web Accessibility" (see http://www.w3.org/WAI/Policy).

Governments from Japan to Portugal have endorsed the concept and principle of universal access and have implemented policies to support their endorsement. Let's look at a few of them. Australian government initiatives, for example, provide a good example of proactive measures to assure access to the Internet for all citizens.

Accessibility Is Good Business in Australia

Although Australia passed the Disabilities Discrimination Act (DDA) in 1992, there was debate about whether the provisions of the DDA were sufficient to ensure equal access to online information and opportunities and whether the Act could be extended to apply to the Internet. Under the jurisdiction of the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), DDA provisions were explicitly extended to online information. In a report issued in 1999, HREOC confirmed that:

Provision of information and other material through the Web is a service covered by the DDA. Equal access for people with a disability in this area is required by the DDA where it can reasonably be provided. This requirement applies to any individual or organization developing a World Wide Web page in Australia, or placing or maintaining a Web page on an Australian server.

So, while Section 508 in the United States applies to federal Web sites and has been unevenly adopted by state and local governments, the Australian government has extended the standards beyond government services to include all commercial sites as well. It is well worth noting that this has not had a debilitating effect on the development of e-commerce or other Australian business activity on the Web.

European Union Incorporates Accessibility into eEurope Action Plan

In June 1999, the Portuguese parliament became the first European nation to pass a resolution specifically mandating Web accessibility. Also in 1999, as part of its eEurope initiative, the European Union European Commission issued a proposal titled "eEurope An Information Society for All," which proposed that the European Commission and Member States would commit themselves to making the design and content of all public Web sites accessible to people with disabilities. The eEurope Action Plan 2002, adopted by the Feira European Council in June 2000, is a wide-ranging initiative designed to speed up and extend the use of the Internet to all sectors of European society. The action plan includes five targets for promoting "participation for all in the knowledge-based society." One specific target area is the accessibility of Web sites for people with disabilities. The plan emphasizes that "public sector Web sites and their content in Member States and in the European institutions must be designed to be accessible to ensure that citizens with disabilities can access information and take full advantage of the potential for e-government." [8]

[8] From the eEurope Action Plan 2002, accessed May 17, 2002, at http://europa.eu.int/information_society/eeurope/action_plan/pdf/actionplan_en.pdf.

An array of European institutions, including universities and the 15 European Union Member States, are executing the Action Plan. The Commission's goal of integrating Web accessibility within national and institutional policies for public information services and standards began with the adoption of the WCAG 1.0 and the recommendation for policy alignment among Member States. A High Level Group on Employment and the Social Dimension of the Information Society, which is composed of representatives from all the Member States, was mandated to monitor these developments. An eAccessibility Expert Group was established to support the work of the High Level Group. The eAccessibility Expert Group provides written and oral input to a review of progress of the Member States' adoption and implementation of WCAG 1.0. This review describes a variety of approaches, plans, and methods for using the Guidelines. The eAccessibility Expert Group has also agreed to organize monitoring exercises among the 15 Member States.

Canada Raises the Bar

The Canadian government has adopted WCAG 1.0 checkpoints through the Priority 2 level a very impressive commitment. With the passage of the Access to Information Act of 1985, the Canadian government established an explicit intention to provide information in accessible formats to all citizens. Since 1995, when the deputy ministers of the Treasury Board's Information Management Subcommittee approved the government-wide Internet strategy, Canada has been progressive in extending this commitment to include Web-based information. The original Canadian government Internet strategy initiative recognized the importance of including everyone. As a result, accessibility was a feature incorporated in original guidelines and templates for early government information sites as they were being developed. Therefore, when accessibility became a legislatively mandated feature of government sites in 1998, the established habits and precedents of accessible design supported a very effective accessibility policy implementation process.

Launched in spring 2002, the new Canadian government site (http://canada.gc.ca/main_e.html) has done an excellent job of implementing the accessibility principles proposed in 1998. Although we have only begun to explore the site as this book goes to press, we are pleased with the overall consistency of the site design. In addition, policy makers have provided a system to ensure that those responsible for putting government information on the Web have access to a high degree of support and guidance to ensure accessibility, usability, and timeliness.

Policy Implementation in the United Kingdom

The British Disability Discrimination Act (British DDA) of 1995 formed the basis for a campaign by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) to ensure equal access to government services by users who are blind or have other disabilities. Even though the British DDA does not directly address the Internet, the RNIB successfully persuaded government ministries of the vital importance of inclusion. In December 1999, when Minister of State at the Cabinet Office Ian McCartney announced UK Online a major initiative to ensure that everyone in the United Kingdom who wants it will have access to the Internet the needs of people with disabilities were recognized and addressed. With the announcement, the government established departmental e-Ministers, an overall governmental e-Minister, and an e-Envoy. This New Media Team has the responsibility of realizing the UK Online initiative. The e-Ministers report monthly to the overall governmental e-Minister, who reports to the Prime Minister. In cooperation with efforts of the EU, the British New Media Team developed recommendations and an Action Plan for delivery of the UK Online strategy. Reports that have been presented to the Prime Minister to date are available from the Web site of the e-Envoy at http://www.iagchampions.gov.uk/index.htm.


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    Maximum Accessibility(c) Making Your Web Site More Usable for Everyone
    Maximum Accessibility: Making Your Web Site More Usable for Everyone: Making Your Web Site More Usable for Everyone
    ISBN: 0201774224
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2002
    Pages: 128

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