During his campaign and throughout his term so far, President Obama has been an active advocate for people with disabilities. He has a very promising agenda regarding the rights, education and employment of disabled Americans. However, one area not mentioned on the agenda was the accessibility of Whitehouse.gov. Many accessibility advocates were very disappointed in this sites failure to meet Section 508 standards, particularly because an enormous amount of Obama’s campaign strategy involved the internet. He is also using the web to keep people informed about what is happening in his Presidency.
Recently, I visited Validsites.org, a place where accessibility flaws are pointed out and organizations are given tools to fix them. Here, there is a blog post entitled “Somewhat open for questions – some constructive criticism.” It seems that though the President has good intentions, allowing improved and more open communication with the people, the mode that is being used, namely Google moderator does not come close to complying with Section 508. The Validsites post details the errors found when testing for accessibility, and though it is Google Moderator that is not compliant, the fact that it is being used by the Government means that it must meet those requirements! Of course anyone can still send messages to the President via the standard web form, which appears to be accessible using jaws, but you won’t receive the same response and attention as you would by using the open question forum. Perhaps the Government can put some pressure on Google to make this service accessible? And as far as Whitehouse.gov, according to their accessibility statement, we should be looking for improvements in the not so distant future. I encourage you to have a look at both Whitehouse.gov and the Open Question forum and test it out for yourself. If enough of us send comments to the President about these issues, we can help him in his efforts to empower All Americans, particularly those with disabilities!