Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mac users: don't look to FEMA for help

It seems that those citizens trying to file claims online for assistance from FEMA had better be running Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or later with JavaScript enabled. Otherwise, they're outta luck.

TechWeb News tested FEMA's Individual Assistance Center, where you can apply for "disaster relief" from the feds. This message popped up: "In order to use this site, you must have JavaScript Enabled and Internet Explorer version 6. Download it from Microsoft or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to register." In other words, if you're running Linux or the Mac operating systems, or if you're a Windows user running alternate browsers like Opera or Firefox, you're shut out.

Recently, the U.S. Copyright Office announced that its upcoming newly-improved website will allow only Internet Explorer and a version of Netscape Navigator to access their copyright preregistration system.

I don't know much about designing websites, but aren't most sites today accessible by every browser in the land? How hard can building an all-browser-friendly site be? Is it too tough for these bureaucratic government lunkheads...or do they just want everyone to fall in line behind their preferred computer system (One OS To Rule Them All)?

A little of both, I imagine.
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At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always use the Yahoo! toolbar with explorer to eliminate pop ups and spyware and adware and malware and every other nastyware that will hijack an unprotected version of explorer faster than you can yell, "Rebels of Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaars!"

Yahoo! toolbar is free, of course and sometimes you just have to use explorer- that's life in an 80% windows world.

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw this today at Brad Spangler's blog:

Some people report sucess without IE on the FEMA site using the Mozilla Firefox web browser with a seperately installed extension called User Agent Switcher which allows your Firefox browser to falsely identify itself as Internet Explorer. I also know the Konqueror web browser for Linux has similar, built-in capabilities to masquerade as Internet Explorer. So — in this case at the very least — if you need help, LIE IF YOU HAVE TO!

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I know a little about designing web sites, and any designer worth his/her pay makes web site compatability a top priority. It's really quite easy if you comply with international standards and stay away from MS "design tools" which go out of their way to create a site that is only compatible with IE.

In addition to the OS issue, sites described as "IE only" often create problems for blind users who must use special screen reader tools to access the web. So a blind man that lost his home to Katrina is also probably out of luck. I haven't tested the site, but if FEMA is that bad at their programming, I can bet that they also did not test for accessability for the blind.

At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To reinforce presto's comment, FEMA;s "IE only" website smacks of not being "Section 508" compliant. See for details. Which would be a no-no for any government-run website. :(

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