A Federal Law Helps People with Disabilities Untangle the World Wide Web. (Legislative Update)

Article excerpt

On June 21, 2001, legislation went into effect mandating all federal government Web sites be made totally accessible to users with disabilities. The law covers any electronic technology developed, used, or maintained by the federal government and applies to its millions of publicly accessible Web pages.

The law, Section 508 of the WORKFORCE INVESTMENT ACT OF 1998 (commonly known as Section 508), also requires that the federal government purchase computers, software, and electronic equipment such as copiers and fax machines that meet Section 508's new standards for accessibility. (According to Office of Management and Budget figures, the federal government is one of the largest single consumers of hardware and software products.) The private internet technology industry, therefore, despite being exempt from the law, now has a big stake in Section 508. Laura Ruby, the 508 coordinator at Microsoft, and head of a team of people whose job it is to make their company's products more accessible and meet Section 508 requirements, explains: "508 is going to raise the bar for industry," she said. …

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