NSSDC Web Site Selected To Showcase NASA's Commitment To Accessibility

By Nathan James

The next time you visit your favorite Web site, try taking a "walk" through it without using your mouse and without turning on the graphics. Is the site still effective and informative? Web sites that cannot be navigated without a mouse or are useless without graphics or do not have enough information in text format are not "accessible" to all people.

Some physically handicapped people are not able to use a mouse. Many who are visually impaired depend on a text screen reader and a keyboard or voice input to navigate a Web site. However, many Web sites today are not designed with these users in mind. Consequently, numbers of people who are handicapped are locked out of these sites. So what does this have to do with NSSDC?

Since June 2000 NSSDC has been a part of an ongoing effort to make NASA's most heavily used sites Web-accessible. This effort is a result of a memo sent by the Justice Department to all federal government chief information officers. The memo states that federal government Web sites with limited exceptions must be compatible with the assistive technology used by millions of disabled people according to the Section 508 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Workforce Investment Act of 1998).

Section 508 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 states that federal agencies' electronic and information technology is to be as accessible to people with disabilities as to people without disabilities whether they are employees or members of the public.

Ranking number nine in accesses among NASA Web sites (see http://www.hq.nasa.gov/webmaster/accessibility/NASAtop20websites.html) and averaging just over ten million hits per month this year, the NSSDC Web site
( http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/) is one of three Goddard sites and one of 20 NASA sites selected to showcase NASA's commitment to Web accessibility and section 508 compliance. At the time of the selection, the NSSDC Web site was found to be the most compliant Goddard site with the proposed Section 508 guidelines.

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