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Education is Key for Web Accessibility Legislation, at WSI


Toronto, Canada, August 24, 2005 --(PR.com)-- World leader in Internet consulting and education, WSI (We Simplify the Internet) today announced the launch of its new, web accessible corporate website, www.wsiconsultants.com. The company’s objective was to design and deploy a fully functional website, easily accessible and user friendly for people with physical disabilities.   

The new web site meets Web Accessibility guidelines as set forth by W3C - the international consortium for creation of web standards. WSIconsultants.com goes further in exceeding the minimum standards required by Web Accessibility regulations in the UK, US and Australia. It carries a Level 2 (AA) Web Accessibility rating throughout, with several elements also meeting Level 3 (AAA) requirements.

Valerie Brown, Vice President, Knowledge Management, WSI comments “We have made our physical world more accessible for disabled persons.  The next logical step is web accessibility for disabled persons in the electronic world.  At WSI, it is our ongoing endeavor to inform and educate the public and business communities on Web Accessibility through the media, client seminars and our 1000 plus WSI offices worldwide. WSIconsultants.com is a demonstration of WSI’s commitment to disability rights and a showcase of our skills and expertise in the reasonably new and unexplored area of web accessibility.”

As a global leader with a presence in more than 87 countries, WSI is well-positioned to inform companies about current and impending legislation that may affect their Internet business. The highly qualified Internet Consultants who operate the WSI’s 1000 plus offices worldwide are available to offer guidance as well as provide the leading-edge technologies required to make websites accessible as per web accessibility standards. 

According to the World Health Organization, of the world's more than six billion people, between 750 million and one billion have a disability. In the United States and Canada alone, there are over 57 million people with disabilities. Disability refers to one or a combination of the following: blindness or visual impairment; deafness or being hard of hearing; motor or mobility impairment; and reading or cognitive impairment.

“Also significant is the aging population, because as people age they may begin to experience one or more disability characteristics,” adds Brown.  “The accessibility of Information Technology is essential because it can facilitate the daily lives of many people with disabilities - both at home and at work.  For example, adding descriptive text to a website would enhance web accessibility, allowing visually impaired individuals to get information from the site using screen reader software.”

There are several efforts towards standardization in progress by international bodies such as the European Union (EU), the International Organizations for Standards (ISO) and private groups like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to foster technological accessibility. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), in partnership with industry sponsors and governments around the world, addresses web accessibility. WAI provides a repository of the latest web accessibility guidelines and tools.

WSI (We Simplify the Internet) is a global leader in providing internet solutions using a combination of proven technologies, proprietary tools and business techniques designed for small and medium size (SME) business success and maximum return on Internet investment (ROII).  Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, WSI is ranked the #1 Franchise in the Internet Business category in the world and the 4th fastest-growing International franchise.  With systems that have been developed and utilized by over 1000 WSI consultants in 87 countries, WSI delivers thousands of e-business solutions to small and medium sized businesses annually.  For more information on WSI please visit www.wsiconsultants.com or www.wsicorporate.com.

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Fact Sheet on current Web Accessibility regulation:

Europe: Europe, historically the most rigorous applicator of ergonomic standards to IT purchases, has many uncoordinated sets of country-specific regulations awaiting consolidation through the European Union.

United States: The US has several different areas where Web Accessibility could be applied.  The American Disabilities Act of 1990:  This landmark legislation created new and comprehensive civil rights protections for individuals with disabilities in the private sector.  The Telecommunications Act of 1996:  Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act requires all telecommunication equipment, CPE (customer premise equipment) and software to be directly accessible to individuals with disabilities where "readily achievable".   Section 508:  Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 is the most extensive new law with the most immediate effect. It requires all US federal agencies to make their information technology accessible to their employees and customers with disabilities.   State Regulations:  Through the pressure of federal grants and the same public pressure applied to the federal government, state governments are following suit in legislating IT accessibility. 

Japan: Japanese government agencies, such as MITI, are circulating recommendations on how IT should be deployed to provide accessibility to everyone. After review and agreement, these recommendations may become regulations for doing business with the ministries.

Other nations: Other nations are formulating their respective guidelines on the subject. The Nordic countries have published their own set of accessibility guidelines and Portugal and Thailand have recently introduced legislation that directly requires web accessibility. Countries such as Australia and Canada now have legislation that makes it a civil right for individuals with disabilities to be able to access certain kinds of information.  Currently, Government of Canada sites are required to have web accessibility features under the Common Look and Feel for the Internet (CLF) policy. The level of accessibility must be compliant with W3C's Priority 1 and 2 checkpoints under the consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.  As well, Section 15 of the Charter of Rights makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability.  Accessibility options online may be enforced through this section.

Media Contact:
Leanne Bucaro
Infinity Communications Inc.
leanne@2infinity.ca
416-708-4488

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