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RE: The Commercialization of Web Accessibility

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From: Susan
Date: Dec 19, 2001 11:21AM




2) Accessibility should be used throughout the world, however only the
U.S.,
Canada and U.K have/or implementing some type of accessibility laws
"requiring" in a limited way that accessibility must be met. (If I
forgot a
country I apologize). This in turns creates an "unfair" playing field in
my
opinion. So for example, Sony Inc. is a Japanese company and is not
bound
by any law to create accessible content, so they don't have to worry nor
spend money for accessiblility issues on their web sites, however
Microsoft
is an American company that is bound by American law to provide
accessiblility on their web sites so they have to spend and worry about
accessiblility issues....(NOTE: this is an example to clarify the
point!)

Anyone interested in the UK situation as regards accessibility will find
the following article interesting reading.
http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/01-2/sloan.html

One of our local universities offers MSc courses as post-graduate
vocational training for people likely to go into some sort of web site
development position. That article suggests that sites which are not at
least single A compliant are breaking the law and have been for the last
2 years. I am a mature student doing that course on a part time basis
and so far I have heard accessibility mentioned in passing on two
occasions on different modules of the course. In February for the first
time there will be an optional course on accessibility, some 2.5 years
after the law on accessibility came into force. In fact the ideas behind
this course were developed while one of the lecturers spent some
considerable time in Australia. It's an optional module rather than
being one of the compulsory ones. I am afraid that this is fairly
typical of the reaction to accessibility as a subject in the academic
world in the UK.

Another thing that folk outside Europe might not realise is the way the
European Union encourages member countries to develop laws on certain
issues. There are already some laws which have developed because of this
encouragement which affect web site development including those on human
rights and data protection. The human rights act makes it illegal for
publicly funded organisations to discriminate against the disabled. In
other words a web site provided by an organisation funded by tax payer's
money cannot treat a more able person better than a less able person.
The data protection act causes problems when web sites are set up to
store personal details outside a country that does not have the same
standards in data protection. In practise this makes it so that American
payment systems that record buyers' addresses are illegal to use in the
UK. It is not impossible that laws will be encouraged by Europe that
will enforce accessibility including web accessibility in every country
in the European Union including France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal,
Spain, and Luxembourg.

Mind you it is a fact of life that some countries tie up companies in
many rules and regulations about health and safety whereas others have
no restrictions at all. I think of the many industrial premises which do
not meet standards required in the UK or US that have caused
environmental and health problems in Eastern Europe or Asia. Some have
hit the headlines when things have gone wrong e.g. Bhopal, Chernobyl but
others are running on quietly and people are suffering as a result. I
don't mean to open Pandora's box with making these comparisons just show
that web accessibility is not alone in facing such issues. I suspect
that if you picked an issue and viewed that idea on a global basis you
will see some unfairness. Sorry but unfairness seems to be a fact of
life although there are ways in which we gain from that unfairness and
ways that we lose.

Susan





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