Agriculture's TARGET focuses on 508 training for webmasters

Agriculture's TARGET focuses on 508 training for webmasters

BY TONY LEE ORR | GCN STAFF

Katherine Richardson expected a few people for the Web accessibility training classes the Agriculture Department's TARGET Center arranged for department webmasters.


At USDA's TARGET Center, program manager Mark Wilner demonstrates assistive technology that magnifies screens and adjusts colors.
But when a standing-room-only crowd mobbed the Washington center to learn how to make Web sites operable for disabled users, she had to turn away some technophiles.

'I told them that we would definitely be holding more classes,' said Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Technology Accessible Resources Gives Employment Today Center.

The center's ability to pack a crowd just by word-of-mouth publicity says a lot about the impact of pending Section 508 regulations, she said.

In the future, the TARGET Center's training course will be more of a road show, since the class is better suited to small crowds and discussions about specific site problems, Richardson said.

Aimed at webmasters and Section 508 coordinators, the classes include a history and overview of the regulations but mostly focus on the technical side of Web design, she said.

Kathy Eng, a TARGET Center rehabilitation engineer, tells class members to close their eyes, then loads a Web site and engages a screen reader so webmasters can understand the barriers some users face on the Internet, Richardson said.

Skinning a cat

Some designers are getting back to basics to make their sites accessible, and others are finding different ways to help the visually impaired perceive charts and graphs easier via screen readers.

The National Cancer Institute's Cancer Mortality Maps and Graphs site uses PopChart[D] from Corda Technologies Inc. of Lindon, Utah.

The site, at www.nci.nih.gov/atlasplus, ranks 40 types of cancer for which statistics are sorted by age, gender, time period and ethnicity.

The program's descriptive text makes the new site the National Institutes of Health's first Section 508-compliant Web page, said Dan Grauman, a visually impaired computer specialist at NIH.

The site can create more than 5 million chart and graph combinations. PopChart[D] forms the same charts for visually impaired users by creating a drill-down menu to make specific data accessible by using a mouse, company officials said.

Descriptive text, which is automatically formatted using preset parameters, lets the screen reader explain the contents of a chart or graph to a user.

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