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[FYI] (Fwd) FC: Justice Department crackdown on web site content
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- Date: Sat, 1 May 1999 11:02:25 +0100
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Date: Fri, 30 Apr 1999 14:43:59 -0400
From: Declan McCullagh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: FC: Justice Department crackdown on web site content
[This is one of the most important stories to come along in a while.
Adam's article is very much worth reading. How will news organizations
-- or any site -- handle government-manded restrictions on multiple
languages on one web page and restrictions on animated graphics? Of
course any reasonable person wants to be as considerate as possible of
folks with disabilities, but this would seem to go much too far.
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 1999 12:08:30 -0400
From: Adam Powell <email@example.com>
Subject: DOJ crackdown on Web site content
New U.S. law requires Web sites to
become 'handicapped accessible'
By Adam Clayton Powell III
What do you think? Have your say in The Forum.
Webmasters, Uncle Sam
wants you to change your
Web site to make it more
accessible to those who
are blind, deaf and
otherwise disabled. And
for some, it's not a
suggestion: it's the law.
The new rules are
mandated by a
Section 508 of the
Workforce Investment Act
enacted by Congress last
The new rules will apply
within a few months to all Web sites operated by
government agencies and by
anyone who does any business with the federal
soon afterward to every Web site posted in the U.S.,
Members of the federal Web site commission told
yesterday that for
non-government-related sites in the U.S., the
would be voluntary, but
those who do not adopt them could soon face new
rules for all online
Under the new law, Web sites will be required to
restructure their content,
design and underlying technologies to allow
with disabilities who are
members of the public seeking information or
department or agency to have access to and use of
information and data that is
comparable to the access to and use of the
data by such
members of the public who are not individuals with
Exactly what that means will be spelled out by the
government next month,
when the commission established by the U.S.
Barriers Compliance Board publishes the new rules
Provisions are expected to include a ban on any
text and restrictions on animated graphics.
One preview of what the barrier board may publish
month is contained in
its own notices, which state that, in addition to
conventional html and pdf
versions available online, all online information
also be available from the
agency via audio text and TTY, as well as "cassette
Braille, large print, or
The federal guidelines follow publication in the
Register last summer of
the barrier board's intention to develop the new
And in September, the
board announced that a new federal committee had
appointed to help draft
the new requirements and that the committee would
meeting the following
Most of the committee members were representatives
disabilities, including such groups as the American
Council of the Blind, the
American Foundation for the Blind, Easter Seals, the
National Association of
the Deaf, the National Federation of the Blind and
Association. Also included were three members from
representing IBM, Microsoft and NCR.
The announcement also disclosed that the barrier
would draft the
guidelines with a "less formal, but certainly no
important, ad hoc
committee," whose members were not disclosed.
Members of the committee asserted that the federal
government has power to
regulate the form and content of online information
opposed to print,
where the government does not have such power ^x
government paid for the development of the Internet.
"The Internet is subject to market forces, but it
start through market
forces, it was started by the federal government,"
Jenifer Simpson, a
committee member and manager of technology
Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities,
interview with Ziff
Davis. Simpson added that the rights of the disabled
prevail over other
"This is really a civil rights issue," she said.
And if online publishers decline to adopt the
voluntarily, the guidelines could become mandatory
federal law for all
Web sites, according to Simpson and to Judy Brewer,
member who is also director of the Web Access
The new law applies to a broad range of Web,
transmission and retrieval hardware and software
technologies, specifically "any
equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of
equipment, that is used
in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation,
control, display, switching, interchange,
reception of data or
U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, in her memorandum
included in the definition of covered technologies
"computers (such as
hardware, software, and accessible data such as web
machines, copiers, telephones, and other equipment
receiving, using, or storing information."
The attorney general also announced the creation of
federal Web site,
www.508.org, accessible only from government
Webmasters ascertain whether they are in compliance
the new law. From
outside of a .gov or .mil domain, users were today
by a 403 error code,
reading "Forbidden. You don't have permission to
on this server."
Last month, the WAI published its own set of
guidelines that could be
adopted into federal law.
The first guideline requires Web sites to supply
alternatives for all images
"Thus, a text equivalent for an image of an upward
that links to a table of
contents could be 'Go to table of contents'," the
A second provision bars the use of color to convey
"people who cannot differentiate between certain
and users with devices
that have non-color or non-visual displays will not
receive the information."
Other requirements prescribe punctuation and
using multiple languages
on the same page, because that can hinder
discourage the "use (or misuse)" of tables and other
formatting that "makes it
difficult for users with specialized software to
understand the organization of the
page or to navigate through it."
Another provision requires Webmasters to "ensure
scrolling, or auto-updating objects or pages may be
or stopped" and to
design all pages so they can be operated without a
or other pointing
"Interaction with a document must not depend on a
particular input device such
as a mouse," reads the start of this provision.
Another Web site lets online publishers test their
using some of the
suggested guidelines that soon may have the force of
federal law behind them.
The Center for Applied Special Technology has posted
software it calls
Bobby, illustrated with an image of a jovial waving
policeman. That cheerful logo
doubles as a seal of approval that can be downloaded
used by Web sites
that meet Bobby's accessibility guidelines.
Bobby flunked a number of widely used Web sites,
the White House,
where the software identified "13 accessibility
that should be fixed in
order to make this page accessible to people with
disabilities." The software
also identified additional "accessibility questions"
regarding which the
Webmaster should "check each item carefully."
Unless those problems were fixed, warned the
message, the White
House Web site "will not be approved by Bobby."
Bobby may be waving with his right hand, but in his
hand, not visible in the
logo, may be a billy club ^x Section 508.
So, White House, be forewarned: Starting next year,
individual anywhere in
the U.S. will be able bring suit under Section 508
offending Web sites
operated by a government agency or by anyone who
business with the
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