Langevin and Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus Recognize One-Year Anniversary of Web Accessibility Enforcement

Jun 20, 2002
(Washington, D.C.)–Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Congresswoman Connie Morella (R-MD), Co-Chairs of the House of Representatives' Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, today celebrated the one-year anniversary of enforcement of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 with a Web Accessibility Day, a demonstration of technology to help Members of Congress make their web pages accessible to people with disabilities.  Section 508 requires federal agencies’ electronic and information technology (IT) to be accessible to individuals with disabilities, but the regulations do not apply to the legislative and judicial branches, state and local governments, or the private sector.

 Today’s demonstration was hosted by the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus and the Congressional Internet Caucus to show House members and their staffs the technology available to create and maintain an accessible website for their constituents.  While many federal agencies have complied with Section 508 and further opened the doors of government to people with disabilities, Congress has not been required to adhere to the standards.  House Information Resources (HIR), the IT office of the House of Representatives, has been working with House offices in an effort to make web pages accessible. 

 “If we truly are a government of, for and by the people, then every American must have access to it," said Congressman Langevin. "Today we demonstrated how easy it is to make websites accessible and how committed Congress, the Administration and private industry are to making sure all Americans have access to their government."

 Congresswoman Morella remarked, “Accessible websites will help to level the playing field for people with disabilities.  With today’s anniversary celebration, the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus will move forward with efforts to make Congress more accessible.”

 According to the Pew Research Center, 68 million American adults have used government agency Web sites - a sharp increase from the 40 million who had used such sites in March 2000.  While many government site users focus on their personal needs in dealing with the agencies, there is abundant evidence that a new “e-citizenship” is taking hold:  42 million Americans have used government web sites to research public policy issues; 23 million have used the Internet to send comments to public officials about policy choices; 14 million have used government sites to help them decide how to cast their votes; and 13 million have participated in online lobbying campaigns. 

 HIR, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Adobe, Microsoft, Freedom Scientific, the American Foundation for the Blind and many others  participated in the Capitol Hill information technology demonstration.

 As Rhode Island Secretary of State, Langevin initiated a number of successful efforts to make government more accessible to the people of Rhode Island.

Through his Public Information kiosks, instant information was provided to residents regarding the work and members of the state legislature, the General Treasurer’s unclaimed property lists, Department of Transportation road projects, state job listings and much more.  These touch screen, modem-connected kiosks were located in public areas such as malls and provided instant access to state government for Rhode Island citizens.

 Langevin also developed the First Stop Business Information Center in the Center for Corporations on his Secretary of State web page.  This service, still in use today by his successor, provides legal information on how to establish a business in the State of Rhode Island and how to promote growth of that business.  Langevin is further credited with putting the work and proposals of the General Assembly on-line.