In the introduction to this chapter I made a brief mention as to the legalities of the accessibility issue. I'm not going to pretend to know all the legal issues involved, and as a software developer you're not required to know the intricacies of any legal system. But I do think it's important to point out that a lot of legislation is in place to ensure that people with disabilities are provided the same opportunities in the workplace as everyone else. Companies need to keep these considerations in mind when they create internal software applications, and also when they purchase from outside vendors. If you're a vendor selling software to companies, your product will be much more marketable if it's designed to fulfill the legal requirements of the company or government agency that is purchasing it.
Just a few of the more prominent legislative acts in different parts of the world include:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 508
The Telecommunications Act, Section 255
The Disability Discrimination Act (UK)
The Australian Disability Discrimination Act
You can find information on these and other acts of legislation on the Internet, or from your local government.
This chapter has highlighted some of the features that should be a part of every development process to ensure that applications are accessible to everyone who needs to use them. While it might be impossible or impractical to include everything mentioned here in every application, you should consider this a strong guideline. For more information on accessibility issues, including detailed guidelines and resources, and on Active Accessibility, check Microsoft's Web site at
http://www.microsoft.com/enable. Extensive research has also been done on this topic at the Trace Research & Development Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison. You'll find their Web site at