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Internet use is essential in today’s business environment. However, the Internet can create barriers for individuals with disabilities, especially for people unable to operate a standard keyboard or mouse. Assistive technology such as alternative keyboards and speech output can help, but only if a website is developed to be accessible and compatible with assistive technology.

The ADA does not specifically address website accessibility because it was enacted before the ubiquitous nature of the Internet. However, there are general guidelines and standards available to web developers to enhance the usability and accessibility of websites.

The World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative has developed in-depth guidelines and is a leader in web accessibility with a wealth of resources on its website. www.w3.org/WAI Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act has legally binding web and other information technology accessibility standards that apply to federal agencies. www.section508.gov Finally, some states have implemented their own laws for website accessibility, for example Illinois state agencies are required to follow the Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act standards.

A business can also use automated evaluation and repair tools to assess an already existing web site. Keep in mind however, many website accessibility issues are subjective and cannot be assessed without manual inspection, for example a software tool can identify when ALT text is missing, but it cannot determine if the text of an ALT tag is appropriate. It is also important to include people with disabilities as “testers” for accessibility as they can provide valuable feedback on the usability of the site.

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This site may link to materials developed by federal agencies and/or their grantees. Several of the links provided will take you to external websites. The content and materials available on this website is property of the Great Lakes ADA Center. This tool was developed under NIDILRR grant #90DP0091-01-00.