APPLICABILITY OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA) TO PRIVATE INTERNET SITES

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Twenty-five percent of the people will experience a period of disability by age 55 and the percentage increases with age. The population of older U.S. citizens is one of the fastest growing propositions that are attempting to take advantage of the Internet. Many older individuals will be impacted by the lack of accessibility as the aging process results in a need for a Web that can accommodate their special needs.

The World Wide Web can be a powerful medium for knowledge and economic power to people with disabilities. The potential for using technology to level the playing field for people with disabilities is unprecedented. The Internet has become a place of accommodation. Many State and local governments are transitioning to the Internet to process a variety of administrative services. If we are making these transitions using taxpayer money, we must make sure that those who are paying for it can take advantage of that transition and can participate.

The U.S. Government has taken a leadership position by implementing accessibility guidelines aimed at ensuring that Web sites operated by firms doing business with government agencies are accessible. Once implemented, these changes are likely to have a sweeping effect on commercial Web sites as well. Many commercial Web offering tools do not have the capability for Web masters to correct accessible design problems. These deficiencies result in Web engineers who are not exposed to technology that teaches them how to create accessible Web pages. The problem is even more difficult for an engineer who is disabled.

There is also a serious lack of educational focus on accessibility in all levels of education for those interested in pursuing a career in Web development. In the early days of the Internet, it was all text based and pretty much universally accessible. The Web has now become a place full of graphical images, clicks, online forms, animated text and music.

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