Web Design

Accessibility

Last updated Mar 1, 2004.

By Meryl Evans

Whether or not a site needs to be accessible depends on the organization, country, and law. In the United States, all federal government Web sites must comply with Section 508. Some states, such as Texas (Senate Bill 801), have a law requiring local government sites to be accessible.

Then, there is the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), whose impact on Web sites has yet to be clearly understood. A judge indicated that it didn't apply in the case of Southwest Airlines, in which a person who is blind sued the company for not ensuring that its site is accessible. However, this doesn't mean the ADA does not apply because it applied in another case against MARTA, Atlanta's public transit system as well as Priceline.com and Ramada.com.

Law or not, it makes good business sense to have an accessible Web site. It's always possible that it could become a law for businesses to have accessible Web sites and starting now will stave off high costs to redesign for compliance like the infamous Olympic-sized Web site issue. The developers neglected to add that they needed ALT tags for people who use screen readers to visit the official Web site for the Sydney Olympic Summer Games. The price tag to fix it was in the million-dollar range.