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Accessibility Overview

What do we mean when we say that a site is or is not accessible? The objective of Section 508 is to ensure full access to online information to any impaired individual who is working for the government or in the public sector, regardless of the disability. The disabilities in question—visual impairment, hearing impairment, and restricted locomotion, primarily—affect a wide range of people in the U.S. According to a 1997 study by the U.S. Census [*], almost 1/5th of the population (19.7%) suffers from some disability. Moreover, disabilities are seen to rise with age: 35.7% of Americans age 55 to 64 years old have a disability, as do more than half (54.5%) of those over the age of 65. These figures do not include those who are suffering from temporary disabilities, such as a broken arm. However, these people are also helped by Section 508; an accessible web site is navigable both by folks who are able to use a mouse and by those who are not.

[*] Source: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/disable/sipp/disab97/ds97t1.html

Befitting the numbers, an entire industry has risen to supply the disabled with assistive technology. Some such technology is built in to the browser, such as the ability to use arrows and other keys to navigate a site. Other technology, such as screen readers, is more special purpose and must be added on. A screen reader is a software component that reads the page out loud for a web visitor. One example is Window-Eyes from GW Micro.


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