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ACM Groups Urge Actions to Broaden Web Accessibility

Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession


Virginia Gold

Cameron Wilson

ACM Public Policy Office


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Joint Statement Says Better Internet Access Will Spur Global Competitiveness

NEW YORK, January 16, 2008 – As information on the Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) becomes more critical for an array of commercial and leisure activities, several ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery) groups have jointly developed a statement to encourage equitable and inclusive access for everyone including people with disabilities. Acknowledging that a majority of private and commercial Web sites have some access limitations, the ACM groups have committed to being leaders in the call to improve access to the Internet and Web. Their goal is to increase Internet access as a means to attract broader participation of talented people in the global economy.

The ACM groups have issued a statement urging the following actions:

· Increased awareness of the value of accessibility

· New Federal policies to increase Web accessibility

· Continued Federal R&D funding for more accessible IT systems

· Additional low-cost Web development tools from the IT community

Signatories to the statement are the U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM) and members of ACM’s Special Interest Groups on Accessible Computing (SIGACCESS), Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI), and Hypertext, Hypermedia and the Web (SIGWEB). Also signing the statement is the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), launched by ACM in 2005 to ensure that teachers have the tools they need to get students interested in computer science careers.

"The technical community has the resources to make commercial Web sites accessible without undue regulatory and monetary burdens," said Harry Hochheiser, a member of the USACM Executive Committee and Assistant Professor of Computer and Information Sciences at Towson University. He cited the work of the World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative and its accessibility tools as well as the U.S. Rehabilitation Act, which includes standards to assure accessibility to users with certain disabilities.

A 2006 United Nations global accessibility audit of 100 prominent websites in 20 countries found 97 percent of Web sites failing some basic accessibility requirements. .

"Based on current tools and technologies, we can do more to improve Web accessibility, but the technology community cannot do it alone. The Federal Government should work to enact policies that balance increased participation and robust innovation," Hochheiser concluded.

The USACM joint statement stresses that the benefits of universal access to the Internet and Web go beyond helping those with perceptual and motor impairments. "Striving for universal access results in streamlined Web site design that relies on clear, simple language, consistent navigation mechanisms, and text descriptions for graphic elements," said Jonathan Lazar of ACM SIGCHI, a signatory to the statement. "It also assures enhanced access to knowledge for users of all ages and expands e-commerce opportunities for all users," said Lazar, Associate Professor of Computer and Information Sciences at Towson University, and director of its Universal Usability Laboratory.

"The continuing evolution of Internet technology into our daily lives has raised the accessibility issue as a significant challenge to the computing community," said Clayton Lewis, a member of ACM SIGACCESS, another signatory to the statement. He noted that understanding and practicing universal access facilitates commercial business opportunities with Federal agencies as well, since the Federal Government currently uses high standards to govern their Web presence. "Minimal regulation has helped foster the spread of Internet technologies, but we urge the Federal Government to step in and increase awareness of the value of building accessibility into commercial and private systems as well," said Lewis, Professor of computer science at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Additional information about universal Internet accessibility policy recommendations and a fact sheet on the dimensions of the issue and the resources currently available to address it are at .

About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is an educational and scientific society uniting the world’s computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.


The ACM U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM) serves as the focal point for ACM's interaction with U.S. government organizations, the computing community, and the U.S. public in all matters of U.S. public policy related to information technology. Supported by ACM's Washington, D.C., Office of Public Policy, USACM responds to requests for information and technical expertise from U.S. government agencies and departments, seeks to influence relevant U.S. government policies on behalf of the computing community and the public, and provides information to ACM on relevant U.S. government activities. USACM also identifies potentially significant technical and public policy issues and brings them to the attention of ACM and the community.


The ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction is the world's largest association of professionals in the research and practice of computer-human interaction. SIGCHI serves as a forum for ideas on how people communicate and interact with computer systems. This interdisciplinary group of computer scientists, software engineers, psychologists, interaction designers, graphic designers, sociologists, and anthropologists is committed to designing useful, usable technology, which has the potential to transform individual lives. SIGCHI has over 60 local chapters for HCI professionals across five continents, publishes the SIGCHI Bulletin quarterly, and co-sponsors conferences and workshops to advance the field of computer-human interaction.


ACM's Special Interest Group on Accessible Computing, SIGACCESS promotes the interests of professionals working on research and development of computing and information technology to help persons with disabilities. The SIG membership (from both academia and industry) focuses on the application of technologies to serve the needs of persons with vision, motor, hearing, and speech impairments; cognitive limitations, including learning disabilities; and issues of aging. Topics on advanced technologies, assistive technologies, and design form the core of the research topics. The SIG also strives to educate the public to support careers for disabled persons.


ACM’s Special Interest Group on Hypertext, Hypermedia, and the Web, SIGWEB supports the multi-disciplinary field of hypertext and hypermedia, facilitating its application both on the World-Wide Web and in independent, distributed and stand-alone environments. It provides a forum for the promotion, dissemination, and exchange of ideas concerning research and applications among scientists, systems designers and end-users.

In addition to the established Web and Hypertext themes, SIGWEB actively explores ideas at the intersection of hypermedia and Digital Libraries, Software Engineering and the Humanities.

About CSTA

The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) is a membership organization that supports and promotes the teaching of computer science and other computing disciplines by providing opportunities for K-12 teachers and students to better understand the computing disciplines and to more successfully prepare themselves to teach and to learn. CSTA provides its members with resources, research, and professional development opportunities.

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