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Federal website usability not yet up to speed
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Oct. 29, 2002 -- U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz of Miami has dismissed the suit filed by Robert Gumson and Access Now ("Website issues in court again," Accessible Society E-Letter 10/8/2002). She says the Americans with Disabilities Act applies only to physical spaces, not to the Internet. (Read the story at )

Other laws such as Section 508 of the Rehab Act, though, do explicitly require some websites to be accessible. But much of the federal government is still not up to speed when it comes to web access and usability.

"Both Congress and the Bush administration have made more accessible Web sites a core mandate of e-government," writes Federal Computer Week's Brian Robinson. Section 508 "forced many Webmasters to think seriously about Web design and usability for the first time."

A conference Oct. 18-19 hosted by Accessible Environments, Inc. and the Rhode Island School of Design was a first step to bringing together the two worlds of digital design and accessible technology (learn more at ). "But talking about usability and making sure it happens are two different things. Usability means more than coming up with a good site design. It requires follow-through, and that's where many agencies - short-staffed and with little time or money for training - often come up short," Robinson reports.

"Agencies have been so focused on concerns such as online security that only a handful have spent the energy necessary to make sure their Web sites are accessible and useful." Read Robinson's story at

Testing re-designed websites to see that the access features really work often falls through the cracks, though. ( And agencies continue to try find ways to automate the process, with mixed results.

Read more about Section 508 at

The Defense Department now offers a user-friendly Web site offering assistive technology accommodations for people with disabilities who work at DOD and other agencies. Visit the site at

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