|| October 22, 1997
| Beth Gaston
|| NSF PR 97-64
| 703) 306-1070
NSF EFFORT TO INCREASE ACCESS TO THE WEB
BY PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
The National Science Foundation, with cooperation from the
Department of Education's National Institute for Disability and
Rehabilitation Research, has made a three-year, $952,856 award to the
World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative to
ensure information on the Web is more widely accessible to people with
Information technology plays an increasingly important role
in nearly every part of our lives through its impact on work,
commerce, scientific and engineering research, education, and
social interactions. However, information technology designed
for the "typical" user may inadvertently create barriers for
people with disabilities, effectively excluding them from
education, employment and civic participation. Approximately 500 to 750 million people worldwide have disabilities, said Gary
Strong, NSF program director for interactive systems.
The World Wide Web, fast becoming the "de facto" repository
of preference for on-line information, currently presents many
barriers for people with disabilities.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), created in 1994 to
develop common protocols that enhance the interoperability and
promote the evolution of the World Wide Web, is working to ensure that
this evolution removes -- rather than reinforces -
National Science Foundation and Department of Education
grants will help create an international program office which
will coordinate five activities for Web accessibility: data
formats and protocols; guidelines for browsers, authoring tools
and content creators; rating and certification; research and
advanced development; and educational outreach. The office is
also funded by the TIDE Programme under the European Commission,
by industry sponsorships and endorsed by disability organizations in a
number of countries.
"I commend the National Science Foundation, the Department
of Education and the W3C for continuing their efforts to make the World
Wide Web accessible to people with disabilities," said
President Clinton. "The Web has the potential to be one of
technology's greatest creators of opportunity -- bringing the
resources of the world directly to all people. But this can only be
done if the Web is designed in a way that enables everyone to
use it. My administration is committed to working with the W3C
and its members to make this innovative project a success."
"The World Wide Web Consortium realizes the critical
importance of the Web for people with disabilities, and is
committed to making the Web Accessibility Initiative a success,"
said Judy Brewer, new director of the W3C International Program
Office. "We are proud to host this unique partnership. Through
the International Program Office, we will be coordinating with
industry, government, and disability communities to ensure that
needs related to accessibility are addressed throughout the
consortium's work, and that the message of an accessible Web is
carried as broadly as possible."
"Computers can be a vital tool to remove barriers for people with
disabilities," said NSF's Gary Strong. "If designers take
into consideration that people have varied needs, the payback can be
NSF-funded basic research in computer science and
engineering can have countless applications for people with and
without disabilities, he said.
"Such research will help move the nation toward an age where
powerful, networked computers provide useful information in a
usable format for all citizens," Strong said.
Issues of accessibility are timely this month: October is
National Disability Employment Awareness Month; the Access Board
will soon be releasing its guidelines for accessibility of
telecommunications products under Section 255 of the
Telecommunications Act; and, the National Research Council
report, "More Than Screen Deep," addressing the issue of every
citizen interfaces, has recently become available.
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