WebRef Update: Featured Article: COPPA & WAI - New Hurdles Point Out Solid Lessons
COPPA & WAI:
New Hurdles Point Out Solid Lessons
Two new legal hurdles have surfaced on the Web recently, and it's Web developers and Web masters that will have to overcome them. These hurdles, COPPA (the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) and the WAI (the Web Accessibility Initiative), have laid out an additional set of usability requirements for Web sites. Rather than being burdensome, however, the Web development community should view these additional usability requirements as being an opportunity and impetus - both to make their sites more accessible to everyone, disabled or not, as well as more privacy sensitive.
What is COPPA?
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) went into effect on April 21st in the United States. This act intends to protect children on the Internet, from both individuals that may be using their personal information in inappropriate ways (cyberstalking, etc.), as well as from predatory advertising and business tactics.
In a nutshell, COPPA provisions require that a Web site obtain permission from parents before collecting any personal data from their children who are younger than 13. Additionally, Web sites must provide parents with a means of controlling that information in the future; i.e., provide them with a way to revoke their permission and remove the child's information from the Web site owner at any time. There are some exceptions to these regulations (a parent's permission is not required if the site is collecting a child's email address for a one-time response to a request for information), but that's the gist of it.
The Federal Trade Commission has launched a Web site (www.ftc.gov/kidsprivacy) which provides kids, parents and Web professionals with information on what the new law means to them, and how to respond to it.
What is the WAI?
Recently, several legal events have brought issues of Web accessibility to the forefront of the attention of various standards bodies.
First of all, the U.S. Government has moved to start implementing a 1998 amendment to the Rehabilitation Act, called section 508. Section 508 requires that any technology the federal government buys or uses must be accessible to people with disabilities. The section also states that Web sites erected by U.S. government departments and agencies must be accessible to people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities. (www.itpolicy.gsa.gov/cita/508.htm)
Second of all, recent legal cases have suggested that the Americans with Disabilities Act may apply to issues of Internet and Web accessibility. Last November, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) sued AOL under the ADA for refusing to adapt its frontend to run on specialized systems that convert electronic information into Braille or voice-based systems. (news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-1429691.html)
In response to these and many other related issues, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been working with industry and governments to come up with a set of recommendations to make the Web more accessible to all users. This initiative is called the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), and a Proposed Recommendation of User Agent Accessibility Guidelines was released on March 10th of this year. (www.w3.org/TR/UAAG/)
In addition, in February, the W3C put its final stamp of approval on the Authoring Tools Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (ATAG), proposed in November, 1999. These guidelines seek to guide creators of HTML editors and other Web authoring tools towards adding automatic accessibility compatibility into the code that their products produce. (www.w3.org/TR/ATAG10/)
Next: What does it mean to me?
Revised: May 5, 2000