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Federal Government Not Complying with Web Site Accessibility Requirements
ational Federation of the Blind Expresses Outrage, Demands Swift Action Baltimore, MD -- A study just been published online in the journal Government Information Quarterly has found that of 100 web sites operated by federal government agencies, over 90 percent do not comply with government accessibility guidelines and likely cannot be used by people who are blind or have other perceptual or motor disabilities. The study, entitled “Accessibility of U.S. federal government home pages: Section 508 compliance and site accessibility statements” and coauthored by Doctoral Student Abiodun Olalere and Professor Jonathan Lazar of Towson University, found that the home pages of over 90 percent of the Web sites they evaluated contained violations of the government’s own guidelines for compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. That law requires that government electronic and information technology be accessible to people with disabilities.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Blind Americans are outraged that the government is failing to comply with its own guidelines to make government information and services available to citizens with disabilities. Given the clear legal requirements of Section 508 and the fact that use of the Internet is critical to education, employment, access to government benefits and services, and all other aspects of modern life, there is no excuse for failure to follow and rigorously enforce these guidelines. We demand that officials in all branches of government take immediate steps to bring all federal Web sites into compliance with the law, and we pledge to continue to hold the federal government accountable if it continues to treat the blind and others with disabilities as second-class citizens.”
The study evaluated the home pages of one-hundred government Web sites across all three branches of the federal government, including executive agencies, independent agencies, government corporations (e.g. Amtrak), the United States Congress, the United States Supreme Court, United States federal courts, and “open government” Web sites like www.usajobs.gov and www.ready.gov. The authors utilized both automated-software tools and human-expert inspections on each home page, and determined that over 90 percent of the home pages were not in compliance with the Section 508 regulations.
Most of the accessibility problems were common ones that are easily resolved, such as unlabeled images, mislabeled forms or tables, videos without captioning, flash without any textual equivalents, and lack of keyboard equivalents for mouse-over actions. The authors noted that this is not a problem unique to one agency. Similar problems occur on multiple agency Web sites, and the core problem is the lack of consistent compliance activities and enforcement throughout the federal government.
The study makes several recommendations to increase compliance, including improved resources on complying with the guidelines; better documentation of best practices; publishing of information about which agencies are compliant and noncompliant with accessibility guidelines as part of the open government dashboard; and better enforcement and monitoring procedures within government agencies, such as the loss of Web-posting privileges for repeatedly posting inaccessible content.
With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people’s lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation's blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind.
------------------------------------------------------- Justice Department Issues Letter on Illegal Exclusion of People with HIV/AIDS
Washington, DC – The U.S. Justice Department sentletters to the attorneys general of all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories to request their assistance in addressing the illegal exclusion of individuals with HIV/AIDS from occupational training and state licensing. Persons with HIV and persons with AIDS are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which gives federal civil rights protections to persons with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, and state and local government services. The Justice Department has learned that public and private trade schools for barbering, cosmetology, massage therapy, home health care work and other occupations, as well as state licensing agencies, may be illegally denying individuals with HIV/AIDS admission to trade schools and/or occupational licenses because of their HIV status. However, because HIV cannot be transmitted by casual contact or by the circumstances present in these occupations, HIV-positive status is irrelevant. In his letter to the attorneys general, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez asked that they review their respective jurisdictions’ admission and licensing criteria for trade schools and licensing agencies to identify the existence of any criteria that unlawfully exclude or discriminate against persons with HIV/AIDS, and to take the steps necessary to bring all such programs into compliance with the ADA. “It is critical that we continue to work to eradicate discriminatory and stigmatizing treatment towards individuals with HIV based on unfounded fears and stereotypes,” Assistant Attorney General Perez said. “The ADA clearly protects individuals with HIV and other disabilities from this kind of exclusion or marginalization.” The department recently entered into a settlement agreement with Modern Hairstyling Institute Inc., a private cosmetology school in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, for delaying the admission of an HIV-positive individual. That settlement agreement requires the school to remove questions about applicants’ HIV/AIDS status and to promptly enroll the aggrieved individual in its cosmetology program. The department has also addressed related issues in its guidance entitled, “Questions and Answers: The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rights of Persons with HIV/AIDS to Obtain Occupational Training and State Licensing” (www.ada.gov/qahivaids_license.htm).
New ADA Regulations are Now In Effect The Department of Justice's revised Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, which apply to businesses of all sizes that serve the public, took effect on March 15th. The amended regulations contain many new or revamped provisions on general nondiscrimination policies. The new nondiscrimination provisions, except for those addressing hotel reservations, take effect immediately.Compliance with the hotel reservation provisions is not required until March 15, 2012.The rules also include the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards), which provide new and revised technical requirements for building accessibility.Newly constructed and altered facilities must be built in compliance with the 2010 Standards beginning March 15, 2012. The DOJ has developed a guide to assist small businesses to understand their obligations under the revised rules.ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business is an illustrated guide with easy-to-understand language that provides an overview for complying with the revised regulations. This publication is available at www.ADA.gov/regs2010/smallbusiness/smallbusprimer2010.htm. DOJ updated its Disability Law Indexwith the Department of Justice's new ADA Title II & Title III regulations that have now come into effect.The index was also updated to include the regulations that will become effective March 15, 2012. The Index contains federal statutes, regulations organized by subject and include court case opinions, and legal articles that help interpret federal disability-related laws. To view the Index click on the link above or you can copy & paste the following link into your browser: http://www.swdbtac.org/html/topical/index.html .