Index Number: 31969
From: Kelly.Pierce@ican.com (Kelly Pierce)
Computer Accessibility Guidelines
The accessibility guidelines for computers listed below are the
requirements the Federal government uses when purchasing computers. These
guidelines were drafted in response to Section 508 of the Rehabilation Act as
amended in 1986. The Technology Related Assistance to Persons with
Disabilities Act requires all states receiving funds for a tech act project
comply with the 508 guidelines listed below. The act includes all individuals
who would use the computer on a regular basis. If the computer is intended
for use by the public, it must meet the functional criteria listed below.
these would include computing services at state universities, information
kiosks, and grants awarded by a state entity (such as a state library system)
so that local governments may provide services through computers. Look around
your community and if you can't use a computer-based service because of your
disability and if the guidelines below could make you a user,, it may be time
to advocate for your rights.
First find out the name and telephone number of the tech act project in
your state. If you can only call local, call your nearest Center for
independent living. If that contact is unsuccessful or unproductive, call
RSNA at 703-524-6686. This organization assists most or all of the projects
in the country. I have contacted RSNA myself and have found the staff quite
helpful and extremely willing to assist me. Find the name of the director of
your state's project. Call or write him or her. Tell them that you are
filing a complaint and are aware of their obligation to ensure accessibility
to state-funded computers and services. Tell the director that you expect
access and a time frame of when it will be delivered.
Mention to the director that you are aware that the tech act requires the
project to provide advocacy services to ensure systemic change. (My state,
Illinois, will spend about 40 to 60 thousand dollars in litigation and other
advocacy services for assistive technology. I am going to see that part of
this many is going for work for my community's needs.) Ask for this advocacy
from the project.If no response is forthcoming within two to four weeks or
there is no plan to provide access, file a Section 504, 508 and Americans with
Disabilities Act complaint with the Office of Civil rights of the U. S.
Department of Education. Information access for all is not a privilege or
courtesy. It is a right.
From FIRMR Bulletin 56, Managing End User Computing
For Users With Disabilities, Appendix J (GSA 1989):
These specifications are organized by functional
requirement into three categories: input, output, and
documentation. This organization reflects the major areas
that need to be addressed during agency acquisition
planning and procurement. All the capabilities set forth
in these specifications are currently available from
industry in various degrees of functional adequacy except
for access to screen memory for translating bit-mapped
a. Input. Access problems concerning the input interface
to a microcomputer differ by the type and severity of the
functional limitation of the employee. Some users with
disabilities are capable of using a keyboard if it can be
modified slightly. Other users with disabilities require an
alternate input strategy. The following is an overview of
common input alternatives, and other input functional
requirements which should be considered:
(1) Multiple Simultaneous Operation Alternative.
Microcomputers have numerous commonly-used
functions that require multiple, simultaneous striking of
keys and/or buttons. Sequential activation control
provides an alternative method of operation by enabling
the user to depress keys or buttons sequentially.
(2) Input Redundancy. Some programs require a mouse
or some other fine motor control device for input.
However, some users with motor disabilities cannot
operate these devices. An input redundancy feature
provides the functionality of these devices through the
keyboard and/or other suitable alternative input devices
(e.g., voice input).
(3) Alternative Input Devices. The capability to connect
an alternative input device can be made available to a
user who is unable to use a modified standard keyboard.
This feature supplements the keyboard and any other
standard input system used. The alternative input
capability consists of a physical port (serial, parallel, etc.)
or connection capability that allows an accommodation
aid to be connected to the system to augment or replace
the keyboard. For example, an alternative input device
can be customized as the most effective method of input
(e.g., switches, eye scan, headtracking) for the user while
supporting transparent hardware emulation for standard
input devices (i.e., keyboard and the mouse).
(4) Key Repeat. A typical microcomputer generates
repetitions of a character if that key remains depressed.
This is a problem for users without sufficient motor
control. A key repeat feature gives a user control over
the repeat start time and rate by allowing either the
timing parameters to be extended, or the repeat function
to be turned off.
(5) Toggle Key Status Control. Microcomputer toggle keys
provide visual feedback indicating whether a key is on or
off. A toggle key status feature provides an alternative
mode to visual feedback to show the on or off status of a
(6) Keyboard Orientation Aids. To orient a visually
impaired user to a particular keyboard, a set of tactile
overlays should be available to identify the most
important keys. The tactile overlays can be in the form
of keycap replacements or transparent sticky tape with
unique symbols to identify the various keys.
(7) Keyguards. To assist a motor disabled user, a
keyguard should be available to stabilize movements and
ensure that the correct keys are located and depressed.
A keyguard is a keyboard template with holes
corresponding to the location of the keys.
b. Output. Auditory output capability, information
redundancy, and monitor display should be considered as
(1) Auditory Output Capability. The auditory output
capability on current microcomputers is sufficient to beep
and play music. However, some users with disabilities
may require a speech capability. A speech synthesizer is
required to generate speech on today's computers. The
capability to support a speech synthesizer should
continue to be available in future generations of
computers or this capability may be internalized through
an upgrade of the computer's internal speaker. The
speech capability should include user adjustable volume
control and a headset jack.
(2) Information Redundancy. Currently, several programs
activate a speaker on the microcomputer to provide
information to the user. However, some programs do not
have the capability to present this information visually to
the hearing impaired user. This feature provides
information redundancy by presenting a visual
equivalent of the auditory information presented.
(3) Monitor Display. The requirement to enhance text
size, reproduce text verbally, or modify display
characteristics is crucial for some users with visual
disabilities. To ensure that this access continues, the
following capabilities are required:
(a) Large Print Display. There should be a means for
enlarging a portion of the screen for the low vision user.
The process uses a window or similar mechanism that
allows magnification to be controlled by the user. A user
can invoke the large print display capability from the
keyboard or control pad for use in conjunction with any
work-related application software. If applications
software includes graphics, then enlargement of graphic
displays should also be available.
(b) Access to Visually Displayed Information. The
capability to access the screen is necessary to support the
speech and/or Braille output requirement of many blind
users. Currently, blind users are able to select and review
the spoken or Braille equivalent of text from any portion
of the screen while using standard applications software.
Third party vendors should continue to have access to the
screen contents in a manner that can be translated and
directed to any internal speech chip, a speech synthesizer
on a serial or parallel port, or a Braille display device.
Information that is presented pictorially also needs to be
available in a manner that, as software sophistication
improves, it may be eventually translated using alternate
(c) Color Presentation. When colors must be distinguished
in order to understand information on the display, color-
blind end users should be provided with a means of
selecting the colors to be displayed.
c. Documentation. The vendor should be responsive in
supplying copies of the documentation in a usable
electronic format to disabled Federal employees.