Printer Friendly

Opening the web for disabled users: federal accessibility regulations bring spin-off benefits to K-12 schools. (The Online Edge).

Up until now, the explosive development of integrated multimedia on the Web for K-12 teaching, learning and administrative applications tragically made the Internet even less accessible to disabled students and staff. Barriers for people with hearing, visual and physical disabilities include screen features that cannot be perceived by colorblind users, rapidly changing displays that are difficult for dyslexic individuals to understand, and mouse devices that may not be usable with certain physical disabilities.

While the original text-based Internet could be made accessible to blind and hearing-impaired users through the use of assistive technologies such as audible and Braille-output screen readers, the emerging Web denies full participation to an estimated 750 million people worldwide with various types of disabilities. However, things are changing dramatically, thanks to federal regulations that have spin-off benefits for K-12 schools.


A driving force to Web accessibility came in June when the Section 508 amendment was added to the Rehabilitation Act of 1974, prohibiting federal agencies from using electronic information inaccessible to people with disabilities. This meant that government Web sites had to be made accessible, including many that are used heavily in K-12 education such as the Library of Congress ( and the NASA Education Program (

Accessibility requirements apply as well to Web-linked products and services purchased by the government, such as Macromedia Flash and Dreamweaver (www.macromedia. com). These same products are also used by K-12 site developers. The U.S. Department of Education then directed that Web sites of higher education grantees conform to Section 508 standards, and other funding agencies are following suit.

Other areas of the law also pertain to accessibility, such as the broader Section 504 that gives disabled individuals equal access to "a college, university, or other post secondary institution, or public system of higher education," and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ( adahom1.htm). Higher education institutions are therefore designing, diagnosing and retrofitting Web sites to meet the standards, and the results will benefit education at every level. New higher education options will open for your disabled students, and K-12 schools may add similar functionality to their own sites.


The Access Board, an independent federal agency, developed the basic Web accessibility standards using guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium and its Web Accessibility Initiative. Compliance requires making Web pages communicate the same information in alternate ways, such as providing text equivalents for non-text elements including images, sounds, animations and graphs. Information conveyed through the use of color must also be available without color, and requests for more time should be possible for timed responses. Similarly, blind users may be aided by sound tracks added to film clips, and written transcripts on separate Web pages may help hard-of-hearing users. The standards also require the insertion of special formatting commands so the Web pages will work with a variety of assistive input and output devices. The National Center for Accessible Media offers an online list of such devices, including Connect Outloud synthesized speech from Freedom Scientific ( and Window Eyes from GW Micro (


* The Access Board,

* Designing More Usable Web Sites,

* Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards, sec508/508standards.htm

* Getting Started: Making A Web Site Accessible,

* Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center,

* National Center for Accessible Media,

* Section 508: The Road to Accessibility,

* Technical Assistance to Ensure Successful Implementation,

* Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, wai-webcontent

* Web Accessibility Resources, resources.html

* World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative,

Odvard Egil Dyrli,, is senior editor and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Professional Media Group LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Dyrli, Odvard Egil
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Previous Article:Leading sensibly: this California superintendent uses a measured approach to education while creating high-performing students. The result has netted...
Next Article:Cash cows or marketing mania? Here's a framework on how to craft a school-business partnership that benefits both parties. (Public Opinion).

Related Articles
Spinoff to permit employee stock purchases.
Is your site accessible? Wheelchair ramps for the information superhighway.
Access Excess.
Why the ramp matters.
Internet case against might impact charitable Web sites.
An overview: individuals with disabilities and the interscholastic athletic program.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters