FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: 
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Category: 
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

Federal Government Not Complying with Web Site
Accessibility Requirements, Study Indicates

National Federation of the Blind Expresses Outrage, Demands Swift Action

Baltimore, Maryland (May 19, 2011): A study that has just been published online in the journal Government Information Quarterly has found that of one-hundred Web sites operated by federal government agencies, over 90 percent do not comply with government accessibility guidelines and likely cannot be used by people who are blind or have other perceptual or motor disabilities.  The study, entitled “Accessibility of U.S. federal government home pages: Section 508 compliance and site accessibility statements” and coauthored by Doctoral Student Abiodun Olalere and Professor Jonathan Lazar of Towson University, found that the home pages of over 90 percent of the Web sites they evaluated contained violations of the government’s own guidelines for compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  That law requires that government electronic and information technology be accessible to people with disabilities.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Blind Americans are outraged that the government is failing to comply with its own guidelines to make government information and services available to citizens with disabilities.  Given the clear legal requirements of Section 508 and the fact that use of the Internet is critical to education, employment, access to government benefits and services, and all other aspects of modern life, there is no excuse for failure to follow and rigorously enforce these guidelines.  We demand that officials in all branches of government take immediate steps to bring all federal Web sites into compliance with the law, and we pledge to continue to hold the federal government accountable if it continues to treat the blind and others with disabilities as second-class citizens.”

The study evaluated the home pages of one-hundred government Web sites across all three branches of the federal government, including executive agencies, independent agencies, government corporations (e.g. Amtrak), the United States Congress, the United States Supreme Court, United States federal courts, and “open government” Web sites like www.usajobs.gov and www.ready.gov.  The authors utilized both automated-software tools and human-expert inspections on each home page, and determined that over 90 percent of the home pages were not in compliance with the Section 508 regulations.

Most of the accessibility problems were common ones that are easily resolved, such as unlabeled images, mislabeled forms or tables, videos without captioning, flash without any textual equivalents, and lack of keyboard equivalents for mouse-over actions. The authors noted that this is not a problem unique to one agency.  Similar problems occur on multiple agency Web sites, and the core problem is the lack of consistent compliance activities and enforcement throughout the federal government.

The study makes several recommendations to increase compliance, including improved resources on complying with the guidelines; better documentation of best practices; publishing of information about which agencies are compliant and noncompliant with accessibility guidelines as part of the open government dashboard; and better enforcement and monitoring procedures within government agencies, such as the loss of Web-posting privileges for repeatedly posting inaccessible content.