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Voluntary Compliance To Web Access Standards ‘Inadequate’

Voluntary application of technical standards on accessibility of web sites to people with disabilities has proved “inadequate”, suggesting more formal regulation is needed, the US government has said.

In a document issued as part of a public consultation process on four new proposed regulations to extend the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to improve technology access for disabled people, the US Department of Justice said: “Voluntary standards have generally proved to be sufficient where obvious business incentives align with discretionary governing standards as, for example, with respect to privacy and security standards designed to increase consumer confidence in e-commerce. There has not, however, been equal success in the area of accessibility.”

Overall, it says: “It is clear that the system of voluntary compliance has proved inadequate in providing website accessibility to individuals with disabilities” ( http://www.ada.gov/anprm2010/web%20anprm_2010.htm ).

As well as web accessibility – covering online goods and services – the four ‘advance notices of proposed rulemaking’ (ANPRMs) cover captioning and video description in cinemas; equipment and furniture; and the widening of how emergency (911) telephone calls can be made.

On captioning and video, comments are invited on the types of technology that could be used in cinemas to make film screenings more accessible, including closed captioning and audio description equipment. The department proposes a ‘sliding compliance schedule’, whereby the percentage of cinemas offering such technologies would increase from 10 per cent in year one to 50 per cent in year five.

The ‘equipment and furniture’ notice covers accessibility of ATMs (cash machines) and point-of-sale devices, asking for public comment on access technologies such as voice-operated and tactile systems.

The ‘Accessibility of Next Generation 9-1-1’ notice examines the possibility of internet-based text or video emergency calls being put through to an operator directly, rather than the individual having to go through a third-party telecommunications assistant who relays the call, as is currently the case.

All notice summaries can be viewed at:
http://www.ada.gov/anprm2010.htm .
And public comments are invited by the end of the year at:
http://www.regulations.gov/ .

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