The IT Accessibility committee merges the interests and initiatives of The Forum's activities previously referred to as "accessibility" and "digital divide." In so doing, it addresses the broader issues of access as they relate to state and local government migration of information and services to the Internet or other electronic delivery formats.
In June 2004 the NYS Office for Technology (OFT) issued their latest accessibility policy, P04-002, Accessibility of State Agency Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications. It is OFT's policy to separate policy documents from the technical specifications the policy governs, so in addition to P04-002, OFT issued Mandatory Technology Standard S04-001, comprised of 14 individual standards, derived from both the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and U. S. Section 508.
The IT Accessibility committee maintains a comprehensive resource on the the Forum's web site. The Accessibility Resources site contains links to policies and may other web sites, and commentary on the state standards. The content from that site formed the basis for much of the material found on this Wiki.
Standard 1 Text Equivalents for Non-Text Content
The Issue: Many web sites use a visually pleasing mixture of text and visual elements (photographs, illustrations, graphical representations of text, charts, etc.) to convey information to the visitor. Unless those visual elements are accompanied by a text equivalent for the information they impart, visitors with visual impairments or visitors using a non-visual device to access the web site will not receive all the information provided.
The issue: Approximately 8% of males and .5% of females have some form of color vision deficit (according to ). The majority of people who have a color deficiency can see color, but they have difficulty distinguishing between certain colors. There are different types of color blindness; problems distinguishing between reds and greens is the most common type.
Additionally, people who are blind often use screen reader software to read web pages. Screen readers do not convey color information when it is used for highlighting or denoting text and are not able to convey information about colors used in graphic images. Therefore, if color alone is used to convey important information, the user may not correctly receive that information. Also, some people may use devices to view the web which do not display colors, such as PDAs or web-enabled cell phones.
For individuals who are color blind, as well as people who have low vision, sufficient contrast between foreground and background is very important for them to accurately see text and other information.
Standard 3 Document Structure
The Issue: HTML and related technologies supported by the web are established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and are documented as standards for structured markup languages. These standards are the common languages that allow the web to be truly worldwide. In order to make sure that New York State agency web pages are accessible to the widest possible audience, it is important for developers to ensure that these documents adhere to published standards.
Standard 4 Navigation and Links
The issue: Individuals who are blind or significantly visually impaired generally use the keyboard for navigation and screen reader software which converts text on the screen to speech. Screen reader software allows users to hear rather than see web pages. Some individuals with mobility impairments use only the keyboard or other non-mouse device, which simulates the actions of a keyboard, for navigating web pages. When using the keyboard only and/or a screen reader, efficient navigation of web pages is a challenge.
Using the keyboard, a user can Tab through all active links on a web page. Screen readers read the text associated with the link when it receives the focus with the TAB key. If there are lengthy lists of navigation buttons or other elaborate navigation schemes on a web page, it becomes very time consuming for a user to Tab through and/or listen to these same navigational links on each page. Standard 4 is designed to allow users who use the keyboard only to efficiently navigate within and among web pages.
Standard 5 Flicker/Blink
The Issue: A large share of the web community views moving, flickering and blinking objects as annoying and rude. Users may try to turn off or hide any such objects on the screen before perusing the content. Other visitors simply avoid pages with elements that they find annoying. Beyond the accessibility issue for people with disabilities, where such elements make the page difficult to use properly, web designers who persist in using flashing objects may find the visitor count drop simply because it annoys users.
Standard 6 Timed Responses
The Issue: People relying on assistive technology to traverse a page may require more time to interact with a page. Pages that refresh in a short period of time, or pages that require tasks to be completed in a limited amount of time may pose problems for those who cannot see the page, or those with motion disorders that make manipulating a page difficult. At the very least, visitors to such a page should be warned about any time limits they may face.
Standard 7 Tables
The Issue: Individuals who are blind or significantly visually impaired generally use a type of non-visual software that will convert text on the screen to speech. Many developers of web sites use tables for display purposes and this can create serious issues for the visually impaired user if the text in the table does not linearize correctly — that is, if the text is not in logical order. If tables are used the developer must provide contextual cues that allow the user to understand the relationships between the data elements contained in the table>.
Standard 8 Frames, Context and Orientation
The Issue: Unless developers explicitly label frames in a meaningful way, people with vision impairments or those using a non-standard web client can lose their orientation in a frame-based web site.
Standard 9 Image Mapping
The Issue: Image maps are visual by nature, and pose difficulties for individuals with vision impairments. They are also problematic for individuals without fine motor control.
Standard 10 Audio Only
The Issue: Audio-only content excludes the deaf, the hard-of-hearing, people whose equipment does not have sound capabilities, people in loud environments, and people who have cognitive difficulties that make the processing of auditory information difficult.
Standard 11 Multi-Media
- Standard 11.1: Audio
- Standard 11.2: Video/Visual
- Standard 11.3: Web Cast (other than Public Meetings)
The Issue: As broadband access becomes more ubiquitous, more web sites are beginning to add multi-media content to the static web pages on their site. While this expands agencies' options in terms of information delivery to the public, it poses yet one more obstacle to individuals with disabilities.
Standard 12 Scripting
The Issue: While combining scripting with web pages offers the possibility of creating truly dynamic web pages, there are some pitfalls for individuals with disabilities, and those using alternative access devices.
Standard 13 Forms
The Issue: Properly designed HTML forms are one of the easiest ways for people with disabilities to provide information. The problem arises when people designing HTML forms lay them out for visual appeal instead of functionality and ease of use.
Standard 14 Downloadable/Embedded Objects
The Issue: One of the advantages of the web is that it can be manipulated as a means of conveying files and documents in other formats — as witnessed by the popularity of the Adobe PDF® document. PDF documents can be the easiest way of ensuring that all of those viewing them see EXACTLY what the creator intended, they can ensure that the document cannot be manipulated or tampered with, they can be used to organize a set of scanned images into the form of a document, giving computer users access to documents created prior to the modern age. Unfortunately, it requires some expertise and some additional work to create a PDF document that will be accessible to those individuals using the latest in screen reading technology. For those without the latest softwarepackages, those PDF documents will not be usable.
On a public web site, an agency must remember that they cannot anticipate what the visitor will be using. Some people may be using older technology incapable of running Adobe Acrobat altogether, or they may be using a PDA, web-enabled cell phone, or even Web TV to view your web site. These browsing options do not allow the user to run Acrobat, or many other of the "browser helper applications" or plug-ins that many other browsers — and web developers — take for granted. For these reasons, it is important to offer any information provided in a proprietary format such as PDFs, Word documents or Excel spreadsheets in an alternative format. That alternative format will depend on the nature of the original document. For example, the accessible alternative for an Excel spreadsheet providing a loan calculator function might be a sheet of step-by-step instructions for performing the same calculations manually.