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information technology resources. It requires that federal agencies consider the needs of
disabled users when they spend money on computer equipment or other computer
resources. What this boils down to is that federal websites must be designed in an acces-
sible fashion.
Not only did Section 508 change the rules of the game for many web designers (anyone
involved with federal websites), but it also raised the profile of accessibility in general.
Thanks in part that people didn't understand the implications of Section 508 at first, peo-
ple started thinking a lot about accessibility and what it meant for the Web.
For more information on Section 508, see http://www.section
Alternative Browsers
Just as there are a number of disabilities that can make it more challenging for people to
use the Web, there are a number of browsers and assistive technologies that are designed
to level the playing field to a certain degree. I discuss some common types of assistive
technologies here so that when you design your web pages you can consider how they'll
be used by people with disabilities.
Disabled users access the Web in a variety of ways, depending on their degree and type
of disability. For example, some users just need to use extra large fonts on their com-
puter, whereas others require a completely different interface from the standard used by
most people.
Let's look at some of the kinds of browsers specifically designed for disabled users. For
users who read Braille, a number of browsers provide Braille output. Screen readers are
also common. Instead of displaying the page on the screen (or in addition to displaying
it), screen readers attempt to organize the contents of a page in a linear fashion and use a
voice synthesizer to speak the page's contents. Some browsers also accept audio input—
users who are uncomfortable using a mouse and keyboard can use speech recognition to
navigate the Web.
Another common type of assistive technology is a screen magnifier. Screen magnifiers
enlarge the section of the screen where the user is working to make it easier for users
with vision problems to use the computer.
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