W H E N
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) announced the launch of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) on April 7, 1997. The
purpose of the initiative is to promote and achieve Web functionality for people with disabilities. The WAI will involve the
establishment of an International Program Office (IPO):
- To develop software protocols/technologies
- Create guidelines for technologies, educating the industry, and conducting research and development
Additionally, in the United States, there are three laws that cover Web accessibility:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act states that all businesses
with 15 or more employees must make reasonable accommodation for
employees or potential employees with disabilities. This act
entitles individuals to sue their employers or prospective employers
if the software they use isn't accessible. Recently this act was
interpreted to also require commercial Web sites to be accessible.
- Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act has a similar effect on the
government and any organization receiving federal funding. New
legislation is in the works to strengthen enforcement of these
requirements. The Federal Government is the single largest purchaser
of computer software.
- Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act requires hardware and
software manufacturers to ensure that products are usable by
individuals with disabilities, or compatible with existing
accessibility aids commonly used by individuals with disabilities to
achieve access, if readily achievable. This may apply to any
hardware or software that transfers information over the Internet, a
network, or phone lines.
Because of these laws, you may face loss of sales to both corporate and
government customers, and you could be subject to lawsuits and/or fines.