Get it right on Web issues, please

I am writing because I have been disturbed by the lack of technical understanding in GCN stories about accessibility.

Your story, 'Feds might get short reprieve on Section 508' [GCN, June 5, Page 1], states, 'Web sites are widely seen as one of the easier items to make accessible because agencies need only include text details of the displayed graphics.'

If only addressing accessibility was that easy. There are many issues that a Web designer must address to ensure a site is accessible, and graphics is only a tiny part of the picture.

The article also states, 'But many sites do not define graphics, so screen readers cannot capture and provide the information to visually impaired visitors.' I don't know what defining a graphic means. It's possible the writer meant tagging a graphic with alternative text.

'The problem is compounded when a site uses icons and graphics for its links.' The link on a graphic without alternative text will still be read, so that doesn't make any sense. Possibly, the writer is referring to image maps in which a user must roll over an image to find hot spots that are links.

A June 19 story, 'Upgraded HCFA site gives users easier data access' [GCN, June 19, Page 12], states, 'The site is designed so that anyone ' can load the page quickly.' I think the writer means all of the pages in the site load quickly.

The article also refers to 'users who connect to the Internet via phone lines.' Last time I checked, most of us are still connecting via phone lines. I think the writer means through slow modems or maybe even text-only browsers.

Finally, the article states, 'The site also touts an upgraded screen reader.' The site doesn't offer a screen reader; it offers a link to a version of the site that has been designed for users with screen readers.

If GCN's staff is going to write to a savvy audience, it is going to need to understand the issues first.

Elaine Goheen


Editor's note: The writer works in the Web services group of a Cabinet department.

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