Internet Accessibility: Lead By Example
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Handicap accessibility is an often ignored, though possibly quite important, standard among web hosts. New accessibility standards are now mandated by law, which will hopefully grab the attention of hosts and site designers. Preparing your site to be handicap accessible as well as providing customers with tools to make their sites accessible could be a promising avenue for business.
The quest to bring the world of printed information within the grasp of the blind and visually impaired began sometime in the early 19th century, when a new system of printing was pioneered by the blind, French-born creative genius Louis Braille. This technique of ‘finger reading’, as it was known, is still in use in almost every conceivable language across the globe today.
Although the medium through which information is stored, viewed and shared has changed dramatically with the invention of the Internet, this concept of opening up information as much as possible to ensure that people with disabilities of any kind have access to it is as alive today as it was when Monsieur Braille was laboriously and single-handedly devising his raised-dot alphabet.
The limitations experienced by the disabled in their interaction with web pages was recognised in as early as 1997, and following the creation of a powerful new method for controlling the visual presentation of web pages (CSS1) and the new tags that HTML 3.2 offered, the Web Accessibility Initiative was launched in early 1997.
One of the key aims of the initiative was to outline an accessibility standard that addressed issues raised by organisations that supported the disabled, and in 1999, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 1.0 was formally recommended by the W3C. It existed in pre-working draft versions under various names as early as January of 1998, and it was this year also that saw the passing of a legal bill to amend section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1978, although affected agencies were given a compliance deadline reaching into the middle of 2001.
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