IT Accessibility


Photo of Kristen Albright
Kristen Albright,
NYS Office of Mental Health,
(518) 473-5915
Photo of Lisa Young
Lisa Young,
NYS Higher Education Services Corporation,
(518) 402-3128


The Forum has a long history of addressing accessibility issues related to disabilities as well as "digital divide" issues but has done so in separate contexts. IT Accessibility Seminars have been held over the last two years on several occasions and The Forum has participated in two NYS "digital divide" conferences and authored a paper on the issue. This work group merges the interests and initiatives of The Forum's activities previously referred to as "accessibility" and "digital divide." In so doing, it addresses the broader issues of access as they relate to state and local government migration of information and services to the Internet or other electronic delivery formats.

Many enterprises have web sites that inadvertently exclude potential customers. They hide content from blind people, ignore the needs of their deaf customers, lose motion-impaired consumers, cater only to those on one side of the digital divide, and exclude aging baby boomers who find tiny print a challenge.

Government cannot exclude part of its constituency. It has a responsibility to the people it represents. It is simply wrong to use tax dollars to provide services that exclude the very people who pay the tax.

The Forum founded the IT (Information Technology) Accessibility work group to raise awareness of these issues with the technology community, to encourage the development of sensible policies to address these issues, and to provide the technical training necessary to implement the policies.

Previous initiatives include a policy briefing paper undertaken in conjunction with the Benton Foundation and the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University. This paper was released in late October 2003. That paper, among other things, served as a basis for engaging an international audience through a virtual conference being sponsored by The Benton Foundation and The Forum and supported by several other national organizations. That virtual conference ran from November 3 through November 14, 2003. The paper and virtual conference contributed a rich array of potential initiatives for this work group to consider in coming months.

In addition, discussions are ongoing with the Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center (ITTATC) at Georgia Tech and the NYS Office of the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities to develop IT accessibility training programs, to expand upon an accessibility "showcase" to be held in May 2004 and explore pursuance of other suggested initiatives that came of the July Strategic Planning Session.

We welcome volunteers, especially those new to the topic of accessibility as it relates to information technology. Working on the work group would be a great way to become familiar with the concepts and techniques.