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Website design for disabled users (section 508)

by Michael Smith
TeraTech http://www.teratech.com/

Are you familiar with US Govt Section 508 and how it affects your website design? This is a law that is going to ultimately affect all web programmers since Congress is trying to make the Accessibility for the Disabled not only apply to Federal Government Agencies websites, but to all public and private sector web sites...

The following Email was sent in October. It included the memorandum from President Clinton that directs Federal Departments and Agencies to make their Intranet and Internet websites accessible to people with disabilities, per section 508, by July 27, 2001. The Section 508 standards for this web accessibility have not yet been approved but is expected by the end of December.


ยง 1194.22 Web-based intranet and internet information and applications.

(a) A text equivalent for every non_text element shall be provided (e.g., via "alt", "longdesc", or in element content).

(b) Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.

(c) Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup.

(d) Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.

(e) Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server_side image map.

(f) Client_side image maps shall be provided instead of server_side image maps except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape.

(g) Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables. (h) Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers.

(i) Frames shall be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation.

(j) Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker.

(k) When a text-only web page is provided as an alternative to a page containing graphics, the content of the text-only page shall be updated whenever the primary page changes.

(l) All information essential for comprehending the content of a page, and interacting with the page, must be available when script execution is turned off or not supported by a browser.

(m) When a webpage requires that an applet, plug-in or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with 1194.21(a)(1-11).

(n) When electronic forms are designed to be completed online, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form including all directions and cues. Inaccessible electronic forms may be used, if an alternative accessible electronic form with equivalent information, field elements, and functionality is also provided.

(o) A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.

(p) When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate more time is required.

Executive Memorandum

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

July 26, 2000


SUBJECT: Renewing the Commitment to Ensure that Federal Programs are Free from Disability-Based Discrimination

On the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we have much to celebrate. This landmark civil rights law has increased opportunities for employment, education, and leisure for millions of Americans. Our country is stronger as a result.

As we celebrate the ADA, we cannot forget that it was built on the solid foundation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Act) (29 U.S.C. 701 et seq .), as amended, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in Federal programs and activities. One important goal of the Act for the Federal Government is to set an example for the rest of the country by being a model employer and providing exemplary service to its customers with disabilities. While this goal remains constant, the nature and structure of government have changed in the decades since the inception of the Act. New agencies have been formed, while others no longer exist. Government is more efficient and doing more with less.

The time has come to reaffirm the Federal Government's commitment to ensuring that agencies' programs are free from discrimination. The means we use to accomplish our goals should be tailored to the changing nature of government.

I call upon the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Interagency Disability Coordinating Council (IDCC), and the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities (Task Force) to provide leadership to Federal agencies in meeting their common goal: to ensure that today's Federal programs, including programs of employment, continue to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.

To meet this goal, I hereby direct the DOJ and the EEOC, in close consultation with the IDCC and the Task Force, to develop priorities under which agencies will focus on specific programs or types of programs to ensure that they are readily accessible to persons with disabilities in accordance with the requirements of sections 501, 504, and 508 of the Act (29 U.S.C. 791, 794, 794d). As the initial steps, agencies are directed to do the following:

(a) Make all programs offered on their Internet and Intranet sites accessible to people with disabilities by July 27, 2001, consistent with the requirements of the Act and subject to the availability of appropriations and technology; and

(b) Publish by various means, including by incorporation on all agency Internet home pages, the name and contact information for the office(s) responsible for coordinating the agency's compliance with sections 501 and 504 of the Act (29 U.S.C. 791, 794).

I direct the IDCC to coordinate executive agencies' efforts to make the Federal Government's electronic and information technology accessible to persons with disabilities.

I designate the Administrator of General Services and the Secretary of Defense to participate in the IDCC, in addition to those members set out by statute (29 U.S.C. 794c).

These steps will enable Federal agencies to work together as they renew their ongoing commitment to ensure that Federal programs do not discriminate against people on the basis of disability.

Nothing in this memorandum is intended in any way to limit the effect or mandate of Executive Order 12250 of November 2, 1980, which conveys certain authorities upon the Attorney General, or Executive Order 12067 of June 30, 1978, which conveys certain authorities upon the Chair of the EEOC.

This memorandum is for the internal management of the executive branch and does not create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable by a party against the United States, its agencies or instrumentalities, its officers or employees, or any other person.

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