Monday, April 26, 2010

W3C Testifies on Web Accessibility to US House

Seal of the House of Representatives
W3C

I might have posted this last week, considering this was scheduled to happen on Thursday, April 21, but then the time shifted from 10am to 1pm, and then no notes went up.

Judy Brewer, Director of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) was scheduled to appear (testify) before the US House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. The hearing itself has an equally brief name, Hearing on Achieving the Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the Digital Age — Current Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities. The W3C was kind enough to post a press release.

Despite the lack of notes appearing online at the federal site, her testimony (or the advance, pre-written testimony) is available as an Acrobat document.

Some quotes from her four page statement:

WAI is supported in part by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research at the US Department of Education; the European Commission; WAI Sponsors; and W3C Member organizations.
The US Access Board has stated its intent to harmonize the web portions of its Section 508 regulations with WCAG 2. WCAG has been referenced in a Department of Justice ADA technical assistance manual, and in negotiated ADA settlements within the banking, retail and sports sectors.
Barriers include missing alternative text for images, missing captions for audio, forms that "time out" before you can submit them, images that flash and may cause seizures, text that moves or refreshes before you can interact with it, and websites that don't work with assistive technologies that many people with disabilities rely on. The impact on people with disabilities when there is a lack of accessibility ranges from exclusion from social networks, to missed school admissions, lost jobs, and inability to access life-saving health care information.

She outlines the following opportunities to improve and accelerate web accessibility:

  • publishing existing data on the compliance of federal websites with Section 508 requirements, and conducting new studies that evaluate gaps in ADA compliance across Title II and Title III entities;
  • communicating the applicability of the ADA to the Web more clearly, with updated guidance reflecting the benefits of standards harmonization at international, federal, and state levels;
  • promoting development of improved authoring tools that facilitate the production of accessible web content, and that include accessible templates for website development;
  • continuing research and development on accessibility techniques for new technologies, improved accessibility supports for cognitive disabilities, and more affordable assistive technologies.

In the end, this entire session appears to have been just an FYI session, but without notes yet on what happened, you'll have to do what I am doing, and just wait for them to appear to see if there were any clear calls to action.

UPDATE (April 27, 2010): I am taking the link from the first comment below and including it: "A Letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary" by John Foliot. It links to the accessible transcripts that he created.

2 comments:

  1. Documents were posted but I encourage you to read the open letter by John Foliot to John Conyers, Jr., Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, eloquently and respectfully stating that the documents "range from bad to impossible to process by many members of the disabled communities (and significantly the blind community); the very communities most interested and affected by the deliberations and recommendations of that Committee." John converted the documents to HTML, which are linked from his post:

    http://john.foliot.ca/a-letter-to-the-u-s-house-of-representatives-committee-on-the-judiciary/

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  2. David, thanks for the link, I've added it into the post. Sadly, I did not realize the links in the witness list were to transcripts, not bios. Relying solely on a tool-tip to convey that is rather pointless since it requires interaction with each link. Especially since the fake subhead "Hearing Documentation" has nothing below it.

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