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Federation

In response to yesterday’s musings, a correspondent wrote in to say:

…a local Swiss government [has] switched their site (now 95%+) to structural HTML and CSS and freed the site from font-tags and framesets….  In the meantime, I have found that beginning at January 1st, 2004, a new law will be in force that demands from all official Swiss sites that they be accessible.  So to speak, Switzerland has now [its] own “Section 508″.

I noticed some layout problems in IE5/Mac, but otherwise the site looks pretty good.  The important point is this: there are people working in government sectors who care about accessibility and forward-thinking design.  What we need now is a channel to get them in touch with each other and swap tips on how to advance the cause.  Who wants to set it up?  (I’d do it myself except I already ride herd over a high-volume mailing list, and that’s plenty.)  If someone does create a venue for government Webmasters who are pasasionate about using standards, and is willing to devote the time and energy to making sure that venue is a good one, please tell me where it is via e-mail and I’ll share the news here.

Another reader wrote to say that in the wake of a recent redesign:

…we’ve gotten quite a few letters from people who work for various federal government agencies (especially the DOJ) saying they aren’t even allowed to use any other browser besides Netscape 4.

I can’t say this really surprises me a great deal, having talked to folks at a U.S. government research facility who only recently managed, after much internal argument, to convince their IT staff that running Mozilla instead of NN4.x was an acceptable course of action.  I suspect that a major reason the government sticks with NN4.x is its relative level of security; it may not be bulletproof, but it’s a darned sight more secure than some other browsers I could name.  Then again, this is the same government that uses Windows more or less universally, so I’m not sure how secure they really are.  (Not much.)

Then there was a followup message from my unnamed government source, who said in part:

…none of the other on-staff developers really want to learn new methods, I think, and therefore they’re going to stonewall any endeavor that’s going to require them to take some classes (or, potentially, cost them their jobs, I suppose).

That’s sad, but it’s also not unique to the Web field; you get reactionary behavior of that kind in just about any work situation.  I wonder, though, if perhaps it’s more entrenched in the government sector because job losses are so rare.  Or are they?  I always thought federal jobs, at least, were massively protected and rarely did anyone ever get fired, but I might have swallowed some Reagan-era Kool-Aid.  Someone let me know if I’m wrong.  Too many things to learn, not enough brain tissue…

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