Economic Factors Involved with Universal Internet Access and People with Special Needs - A Working Paper
March 1-2, 2001
Michael R. Burks
Office: 919 870 8788
This paper is truly work in progress, it is at this time a general look at disability issues and how they are related economically to Internet Access. It was first written in 1997 for the W3c Conference at which the Web Accessibility Initiative was announced. I have revised and re-written it so it could be used at the Internet Fiesta in Sofia, Bulgaria, on March 1 and 2, 2001.
In order to make this paper as relevant as possible to those who are involved with the Internet and disability issues as well as the accessibility of electronic and information technology, I invite and solicit comments, additions, and any information you feel is relevant to improving this as a resource for those who need it. I will post them as soon as I can and will credit the contributor of the information when it is posted. Please send all comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com .
Much is said about Internet access for everyone. What are the economic issues for people with special needs? Many economic issues are involved, some are general issues faced by everyone such as affordable access to the Internet and affordable access to a local point of presence; however, many of the economic issues are more critical for the disabled. In many places in the world access is not available at all, let alone to people with special needs. How can it be assured that in the areas where access is through such things as community technology centers and library type facilities, that those special needs are taken into account, and that people with special needs are not excluded from using the Internet? 
With an income far below average, how can they afford the software, hardware, access charges and other considerations needed to use the Internet? In many places people with special needs are segregated from society all together. What are the models that can help alleviate this situation, for people with special needs in particular, and how can the be integrated into efforts to provide Universal Access? 
Can the Internet help people with special needs be part of society and be independent? As the population ages, will more people have special needs? And what are the economic factors in marketing to this segment of the population?
What issues are involved in supporting the disabled customer? If assistive technology is needed, how can that be funded and how can it be updated to take advantage of the tremendous resources available on the Internet? What technological advantages useful to people with special needs does the Internet offer, and what kind of advantages does using the Internet for information access offer?
What is the cost of not allowing this access or preventing it by sheer neglect? Most importantly, what can a society gain by helping to provide this access to the disabled?
Much of the current model for providing Universal Access and including people with special needs is based on a U. S. centric model. This is only a starting point. As the Internet becomes more pervasive outside of the U. S. this model will change. Contributions by many cultures will extend and expand the current model, both technologically and in the legal and policy arena. This will make the model stronger and more usable for everyone. The goal is Universal Access for the largest number of people possible. 
It should be noted that while the accessibility of the World Wide Web is a high profile issue, this paper deals with more than just Web accessibility issues.
Extensive resources have been provided at the end of this paper. They are not necessarily cited directly in the paper but are quite useful for addressing special needs issues and the Internet.
This paper is work in progress...if you have suggestions or additions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Telecommunications Access Issues
On a worldwide basis, there are many Telecommunications Access models that exist, these models are changing in many places and below are some ideas that can be used to help people with special needs access the Internet on an individual basis.
Individual Access as Opposed to Community Access
In many areas individual access is not possible for a variety of reasons, this leaves various types of community access. In these cases those in charge of the community access need to be familiar with special needs Internet access issues and the ways to deal with them.
Internet Access Charges as opposed to Long Distance Charges.
19.99 per month Vs 23 cents a minute
Consider the case of the customer who wants free Internet access because they are disabled. They live in a remote area, and the long distance charges can be as high as 23 cents per minute. Perhaps the customer would be better served by a reduced or subsidized long distance rate.
A better model may be the one by the state of Kansas, they register all ISP's numbers and charge residents a flat rate to access the number each month if it is not a local call. This is quite an interesting model and needs to be given careful consideration.
Internet Access Plus per Minute Phone Charges
It is a reality of the world that in many places Internet Access and per minute charges apply, this can add more financial burden to people with special needs who seek individual access to the Internet.
Provider Access Issues
Cannot Register for ISP without help
A blind user cannot register in many cases because they cannot fill out the forms. The registration procedure may not lend itself to a screen reader and they must get a family member or someone else to help them register. This is due to the nature of the registration process. Ways to accommodate visually impaired people should be investigated
Many ISP's don't offer shell accounts
Shell accounts do not require the sophisticated Windows based screen readers that many ISP's require. It would solve some problems for some of the disabled community. It does require a higher level of expertise on the part of the user. And the user must be able to use Unix based systems.
TTY/TDD or Equivalent Interfaces
Hearing and Speech impaired users have difficulty contacting providers who do not have these interfaces and the personnel trained to use them. Customers must use a relay type service, which is difficult at best in a technical support situation. To adequately support users with special needs, ways must be instituted so they can deal directly with support personnel. This may be any of a variety of needs including accessible chat and or email.
Flat Fee Model
A single flat fee for an unlimited or specified number of hours has helped to reduce the actual cost of Internet access for everyone.
Pay as you go Model
Users only pay for the hours they use, for those who need limited access this is a viable alternative
Disabled user who wants free or reduced fee access.
A customer who uses the web to research issues related to their disability, they have limited resources and would like free or reduced access. How does an Internet Service Provider determine who should receive this type of access and who should not? What are the deciding factors?
State subsidized Model
In some areas the Internet Access may be subsidized by the government either local, regional or national. This can take many forms and may be the most appropriate model for some areas whether the users are those with special needs or not.
General Economic issues
Number of People with Special Needs
There are about 50 million people with special needs in the United States, and the number is growing, one of the factors in the increase number of older people. There are 750 Million people worldwide with special needs and 300,000 people with special needs in Bulgaria alone.
Income figures and Marketing Strategies
Within the United States, the disposable income of people with special needs may exceed African American and Hispanic populations combined.
Special marketing programs for these groups have been developed, but there are few if any of these programs of a scale relevant to the size of the population of people with special needs.
Commercial Disability Portals
There have been several commercial portals devoted to people with special needs, among these are Cando, http://www.cando.com
We Media. http://www.wemedia.com/
The existence of these portals shows the growing market for this segment of the population in the U. S.
Aged Income Facts
As a population segment, the aged population tends to have a larger proportion of people with special needs. Then number is growing as people live longer due to better medical facilities and treatment. As a population segment older Americans control a great deal of buying power.
Disability is the extreme of the aging process. Some of the special needs faced by an aging population are listed below:
Internet Access issues
If free or reduced fee access for the people with special needs is offered, how do you decide who receives access?
Regardless of the provider model, a clear set of criteria for determining who should receive free or reduced access is needed. Obviously if access is in community technology centers or libraries this task becomes much simpler, since access devices will be in a central place or within a mobile center. One authority that is able to deal with this issue then controls the actual access.
Some customers with special needs require special support. At the very minimum customer support centers should be equipped with TTY/TDD equipment and people who know how to use this technology.
Scope of support
Shell Vs. Web Access
Requires more sophisticated users, but less sophisticated user equipment and software.
Web Site Accessibility issues 
Email only Access
Some customers may require only email access, this type of account should be given serious consideration as an offering.
Initial cost of software to support certain types of special needs can be high.
Some software uses the Application Programming Interface of the Operating System, others depend on specially written software that is highly proprietary.
The cost of software is much less than in previous years and there is much more available especially in such areas as voice input, screen readers, talking browsers, and such things as onscreen keyboards.
Screen readers - They read the screen to the user; some of these are now usable with off the shelf soundboards.
Voice input software - allow the computer to be controlled with the users voice. People without special needs who must have their hands free, such as doctors and lawyers, can use this software.
On screen keyboards - these allow people with alternate pointing devices such as head pointers to type in messages using an on screen display.
Can be prohibitive but can be reduced.
Although the cost of hardware has come down dramatically in the last few years it is still out of the reach of many people. In many cases the most realistic solution are libraries or community technology centers. These may take the form of mobile units that travel from place to place in rural areas or actual buildings that exist to serve communities on a full time basis.
Specialized hardware Vs. off the shelf components
Off the shelf components instead of specialized hardware are cheaper and easier to install in many cases. However, they may not have the high quality that specialized components have.
It is cheaper to upgrade off the shelf components.
If off the shelf components were used then the likelihood is that upgrading will be cheaper and easier.
Where to get funding: Some sources are listed below:
This will depend on the country involved
Non Profit Organizations and Community
For Profit Organizations
Non Profit Organizations and Community
For Profit Organizations
Funding for Initial purchase
Initial cost of purchase of hardware and software can be high. While hardware is cheap by regular economic standards, for those who are not able to work the cost is high. The cost is high in many places
Funding for training
Technology without the training to use it is underutilized at best. It is a waste of money at worst.
Funding for upgrade of technology
Technology is changing quickly so upgrades are sometimes necessary for individuals to be able to take advantage of the most effective technologies.
Legal and Policy issues
There are extensive and ongoing efforts in many places around the world. A recent conference sponsored by U. S. Social Security Administration covered many aspects of disability law both U. S. and International. The entire conference is of course very topical.
There is a listing of many laws on disability in many different countries. http://www.dredf.org/symposium/lawindex.html
The eEurope-PWD list addresses many issues in this area. This is an active list which is frequented by many policy makers in the field as well as people who are able to address many of the issues involved with special needs and the Internet.
President Bush's Freedom Initiative, which is an extensive U. S. initiative to remedy problems faced by people with special needs in all aspects of home and work.
The Clinton administration's efforts and statements on special needs were extensive and ongoing over the eight-year period of the administration.
Telecommunications Act of 1996
The issues are still under study and definition. So the effect of this law on Internet access is not yet clear.
Workplace and Job listing accommodations.
Employers who do not provide information for employees to do their jobs in accessible format, may well face certain types of legal action. In addition they may have problems if they do not provide job listings in accessible format.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
Web Site Accessibility issues
The most often sited examples of Internet accessibility problems are those related to web sites and HTML. There has been much progress in this area. The World Wide Web Consortium has helped to advance the cause of web accessibility greatly. They provide a great deal if information at the following site: http://www.w3.org/WAI 
Creating sites that can be accessed by the largest number of people possible is a better model financially speaking.
If the user is unable to use site, e the purpose of the site is not achieved for both the consumer and the site owner. Goods, services, and information access are denied to a certain segment of the population. This must be provided in some way or another, and that can be expensive if it is not achieved in the most effective manner.
Accessibility on the Job
More and more products used in the everyday course of doing are becoming accessible through web interfaces. As business moves towards this way of functioning, care must be taken to insure that these functions are accessible to all.
Internal Web Site Accessibility
Information for a variety of purposes is being presented to employees on both external and internal web sites. If this information is not presented in an accessible manner not all employees will have the opportunity to use it.
Cost of Accessibility
Customers who cannot access or use the service will not bring in revenue. For providers who also supply other goods and services besides Internet Access, this can translate into lost revenue in other areas.
Web site issues
Designing for accessibility
Retrofitting for accessibility
This is time consuming and expensive, but may have to be done if the site was not designed to be accessible from the beginning. However since many sites require redesign anyway this will be the proper time to incorporate accessibility into the site.
Cost of Support
Specialized Software Support
If specialized software is used, it has to be supported by someone. This can be an expensive proposition for an access provider. It is more economical for the provider to be familiar with the vendors and have them support the software.
Dedicated Agent Support
Inaccessible sites and services require human intervention. Fax, email, and live agents are expensive alternatives to sites that are accessible. All require some type of human intervention, whereas an accessible web site serves its function with the same amount of customers with less cost.
Cost of no support
Leverage of customer dissatisfaction, people with special needs all are customers, and dissatisfied customers tell others of their dissatisfaction. More can be lost than just disabled customers. Many service providers are in other businesses such as local and long distance telephone services. Unhappy customers may discontinue other services as a result of their dissatisfaction.
Possible legal action
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Information that is presented on the Internet, and is not accessible, may well constitute an ADA violation. Entities based in the U. S. must adhere to this act even outside of the U. S.
State and Local Laws
A wide range of state and local laws address the accessibility of information for people with special needs.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
This is one of many U. S. laws dealing with issues of the accessibility of Electronic and Information Technology for Federal Employees. Special regulations have been promulgated to deal with this issue and many of them deal directly the accessibility if web technology. 
Statutes outside of the U. S.
Many countries have laws and policies that deal with diability and the accessibility of electronic and information technology. 
What has been gained already?
In the course of history many people have devoted all or part of their lives to assist the disabled, below are listed three outstanding examples of projects that started as effort to help the disabled. Each of these is now or has been heavily used in our society to great benefit of the general population. When people consider the cost of the technology to assist the disabled, perhaps it would be prudent to consider the benefits already reaped by society in helping the disabled.
What can be gained on an ongoing basis?
People with Special needs
Not Supporting Internet access for people with special needs will have a negative economic impact.
Internet allows human interactions to take place with the focus on content rather than secondary factors such as race, sex, national origin or disability. Those left behind will be more than physically or mentally disabled, they will be the information disadvantaged.
Those who do not have access to available information for any reason will be disadvantaged. Denying anyone access to the great stores of information that will be available will lead to a segregated society based largely on the ability to access and use needed information resources.
"In the same way we once divided the world into the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, we are now dividing the world into the information haves and have nots. A world of those who cruise the information highway at high speed vs. the techno-peasants who lie in the ditches at the side of the information highway." Jim Kutsch Formerly of AT&T TransTech
The changes wrought by information technology are accelerating and those who are not included in the use of these changes for whatever reason will be at a distinct disadvantage. Valuable contributions will be lost or delayed, and the society that does not include all of its members in the benefits of the information age (here as represented by the Internet), will not long remain competitive in global markets. Segregating any segment of the population from information access for any reason will eventually lead to losses in productivity in all areas of the society.
The Information Disadvantaged
If equal access to information is not provided to all, the gap between those who are able to access the available information and those who are not will widen , financially and socially as time goes on. Our society will be divided into the information have and have-nots. The overall cost of supporting this type of stratification will grow as time passes, and the results will be unpredictable. Those left behind will most definitely be a burden on the society that practices this sort of discrimination.
Equal access to Information
While equal access for all will not ensure a totally productive and globally competitive society, it will offer opportunities to all to participate in all sorts of activities that are not commonly available. It will offer the chance for all to participate regardless of whether they are disabled, aged, or simply unable to be in a particular place at a particular time.
Equal access to information is vital to full participation in society, both nationally and globally. To remain competitive in a world wide market no one can be wasted. Every person who can make a contribution should have the full opportunity to do so. Denial of this access disables not only the members of society that are denied, but it disables the society that denies them that access.
Section 508 References and Repair Tools
 Section 508 Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards
ARCHITECTURAL AND TRANSPORTATION BARRIERS COMPLIANCE BOARD
[Published in the Federal Register on December 21, 2000]
36 CFR Part 1194
 Section 508 Home Page
This page has a large number of resources available for implementing Section 508 Guidelines
 W3C WAI
The W3C WAI project presents many relevant resources related to accessible web design The main page is located at:
Content Guidelines for Section 508
 IBM Accessibility Center
presents a number of products designed to be used by people with disabilities as well as an HR Resource that can be helpful in many aspects of designing systems for people with disabilities.
 Sun Accessibility Initiative
Provides information on such things as the GNOME project and Java accessibility.
 Microsoft Accessibility Resources
These pages present a large number of resources that cover a wide range of topics useful to designers, programmers and others working to make electronic and information products and services accessible to people with disabilities.
 SSB Technologies
Has two products InSight, which is a diagnosis tool, and InFocus, which is a repair tool
 The WAVE
Developed by Len Kasday at Temple University, this tool is highly useful in determining the accessibility of a web page design and in how it will be presented by a screen reader.
One of the most widely recognized and widely used tools to determine the accessibility of a web site.
Allow authors to add closed captioning to a number of multimedia formats
Web Site Construction and Accessibility Issues
Below are sites that give you assistance in the details of producing accessible web pages.
 Jakob Nielsen's Website
Jakob Nielson’s website highlights some of the best web design techniques anywhere. The web site profiles things to do and things not to do. It is always worth a trip there to see what is on the site. If you want to learn about good web design this is a good place to start.
 City of San Jose
City of San Jose Web Page Disability Access Design Standard http://www.ci.san-jose.ca.us/oaacc/disacces.html
Under the direction of Cynthia Waddell the City of San Jose in California has issued guidelines for building accessible web sites to for San Jose web sites that serve the City of San Jose and its residents. They can be found at:
 Trace Center
The Trace Center is devoted to accessible design of several types. These pages concentrate on ways to produce accessible web sites and many of the issues involved.
“WebABLE! Solutions mission is to stimulate education, research and development of technologies that will ensure accessibility for people with disabilities to advanced information systems and emerging technologies.” - From the WebABLE Mission Statement
Web Site Accessibility and Analysis Tools
 Lynx Viewer
This tool allows you to see what your site and pages look like with a text only browser.
Cast offers Bobby, a free tool to help analyze your web site for accessibility. Bobby is a valuable tool, but use it with care. It does not cover everything. It can make mistakes and there is no substitute for understanding accessibility issues. CAST also offers many other services for making electronic and information technology accessible to all.
 The Wave
This is a brand new web accessibility evaluation too. Dr. Len Kasday of Temple University wrote it. He can be contacted with your comments at: email@example.com .
“The Web Design Group was founded to promote the creation of non-browser specific, non-resolution specific, creative and informative sites that are accessible to all users worldwide. To this end, the WDG offers material on a wide range of HTML related topics. We hope that with this site as a reference, you will be able to create Web sites that can be used by every person on the Internet, regardless of browser, platform, or settings.” - From the WDG Mission Statement There are links to many tools on this site.
 HTML Writer’s Guild Aware Site
“The AWARE Center was launched in April 1999 as part of the HTML Writers Guild's annual Web Accessibility Month, a special focus on the importance of designing for universal accessibility. The Center is supported by the Guild's staff and volunteers, and is designed as a resource for all web authors.” - From the AWARE mission statement. This site has a great deal of practical information on how to construct accessible web sites.
 W3C WAI Project
“The W3C's commitment to lead the Web to its full potential includes promoting a high degree of usability for people with disabilities. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), in coordination with organizations around the world, is pursuing accessibility of the Web through five primary areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools, education & outreach, and research & development.” - From the W3c Mission Statement. There are also mailing lists that you can join to discuss accessibility issues. Check for the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines at: http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/ . These will give you the latest information on making websites accessible.
 CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) Web Access Project
“For millions of Americans, the World Wide Web is an exciting new tool for learning and communicating. For millions of deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind or visually impaired computer users, however, the Web's enhanced graphics, audio, and video capabilities are out of reach.
A project announced in 1996 by the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) is working to change that. The Web Access Project researches, develops and tests methods of integrating access technologies (such as captioning and audio description) and new Web tools into a World Wide Web site, making it fully accessible to blind or deaf Internet users” - From the Mission Statement of the NCAM Web Access Project
 The International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet
The ICDRI is engaged in a project to collect as many legal resources related to web design, electronic and information technology, and accessibility to people with disabilities. They are also collecting all the disability resources they can find on the Internet. This is being done on an international basis.
 Sun Microsystems Ó’ Enabling Technology Program
A major initiative by a major corporation to improve the accessibility of its products. This includes Java.
 IBM Ó Accessibility Centerhttp://www.austin.ibm.com/sns/index.html
This has many accessibility resources and products on its pages. It also provides valuable information such as guidelines for producing accessible products.
 IBM Accessibility Guidelines
 The Internet Society Special Interest Group for Access to the Internet for People with Disabilities
This is a SIG devoted to issues dealing the problems faced by people with disabilities in accessing the Internet.
 Microsoft Ó Corporation Accessibility Site
Microsoft has a site with many resources on accessibility. There is a newsletter, there are hardware and software guidelines, product listings, articles, press stories, events, and other topics listed. This is a major effort by a major corporation.
 Adobe Ó Systems Inc.
The Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) is a popular way to display documents on the web. Unfortunately it can quite inaccessible to people with certain disabilities. Recently Adobe has been making a major effort to improve the accessibility of PDF documents. They have produced a website with several different methods for making these documents accessible.
 Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling?
This site has some unique ways of presenting multimedia. Look for the page on DaVinci's music.
Papers and General References
 Disability Rights Office of the FCC
This is the FCC site that has news and other topical information related to the FCC and disabilities.
 From Principles to Practice An International Disability Law and Policy Symposium
There is a listing of many laws on disability in many difference countries.
There are many excellent papers located at:
 The Growing Digital Divide in Access For People With Disabilities: Overcoming Barriers to Participation in the Digital Economy By Cynthia D. Waddell, J.D.
 An Overview of Law & Policy for IT Accessibility by Cynthia Waddell, J.D. and Mark Urban
 eeurope-pwd Mailing list
This is a mailing list for the discussion of essential actions concerning the needs of the people with disabilities and the eEurope initiative.
 Global Trends that will Impact Universal Access to Information Resources -Submitted to UNESCO July 15th, 2000 By Christine Maxwell, Editor On behalf of: The Internet Society
 Using Partnerships to Bridge the Digital Divide within the Disability Community by Taylor Kearns
Copyright © 1998