In the past three decades, the general method of delivering and receiving information has shifted from paper-based, typewriter-generated, hand-edited, and printing-press-produced publications to more technology-mediated, intelligent, WYSIWYG software-generated forms and interactive design. The Web has expanded its horizon as a gateway in carrying and delivering information to include audio and video formats. Further, the advent of the Web 2.0, or social networking/virtual community via the Web has changed the nature of the Web not only as an information carrier, but also a tool for all to use, share, and participate. Consequently, the concept of delivery of, access to, and interaction with information has changed to reflect this phenomenon. The new forms of utilizing the Web that have made it easier for non-disabled people have often created barriers for people with disabilities because, in a large part, the standard methods of access and delivery are inaccessible for people with disabilities. The disability rights movement in the United States originated during the post World War II era when large numbers of veterans who were disabled in the war joined the efforts of parents seeking education and independent living options for their children with disabilities (Slatin & Rush, 2003). The notion of access to information involving the civil rights of people with or without disabilities arises from the fact that access to information through technology has increasingly become a necessary tool for success and a source of opportunity in education and employment. With the unprecedented opportunities they created for people with and without disabilities, it has become apparent that information technologies have a tremendous potential for allowing people with disabilities to participate in mainstream activities and to support their ability to live independently. The legal foundation for protecting the right to access for persons with disabilities has been established through a series of federal and state laws, and court decisions. These laws provide a legal ground on Web accessibility implementation.
Laws, Regulations, Standards, And Guidelines
Under the provisions of laws, some of the legal milestones that have direct impact on Web accessibility are Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI): Established by W3C and the Yuri Rubinsky Insight Foundation in 1997, the WAI works with organizations around the world to promote Web accessibility in five key areas: technology, guidelines, tools, education and outreach, and research and development.
W3C: The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops interoperable technologies such as: specifications, guidelines, software, and tools to lead the Web to its full potential. W3C is a forum for information, commerce, communication, and collective understanding.
Assistive Technology (AT): A term includes assistive, adaptive, enabling and rehabilitative devices and the process used in selecting, locating, and using them to access information. AT promotes greater independence for people with disabilities by enabling them to perform tasks that they are normally unable to accomplish, or have great difficulty accomplishing.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1.0): The official set of guidelines published by the W3C to assist Web content developers in the creation of accessible Web sites. The guidelines established three priority levels with 64 checkpoints for Web developers to meet.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0): WCAG 2.0 is organized around four design principles of Web accessibility. Each principle has guidelines, and each guideline has success criteria at level A, AA, or AAA. The basis for determining conformance to the WCAG 2.0 are the success criteria. Currently the WCAG 2.0 is still at its Working Draft stage. It is expected to become W3C Recommendation (Web Standard) in early 2008.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): U.S. public law enacted 1990 ensuring rights for people with disabilities. This legislation mandates reasonable accommodation and effective communication.
Section 508: Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act is U.S. legislation that establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured or used by the federal government.