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Thursday, January 9, 2014

IRS tax documents belatedly provide low vision accessibility to comply with ADA law

PHOTO: The first large print IRS tax form and instructions for Schedule R (Form 1040A or 1040) that I received only a few days after calling the IRS. I have been promised more large print forms, instructions and publications from the IRS within the next few days, or as soon as they become available. I have also downloaded the IRS PDF tax forms that are supposed to be more accessible for people who are low vision blind. I will be also trying these PDF forms out when I do my taxes this year. I was also impressed to see Braille .brf and text format files available for download. The IRS is trying to go paperless to save money on printing forms and the associated mailing costs by forcing everybody who wants to use paper forms to call and order each one individually. As a result, I bet the cost per form mailed has skyrocketed from the days when the IRS automatically mailed out pre-bound tax packages that included all of the forms required by most taxpayers. I am sure some anti-government-spending people will complain about the cost -- it cost the IRS at least the $5.75 of postage to mail me a large print Schedule R, as seen by the stamp on the hand addressed envelope in the above photograph.

As a person who has low vision blindness and who has filed his own taxes for over half a century, I was disappointed a few years ago to find out the IRS Web site was inaccessible to me because it had added style sheet code that overrides the standard built-in internet browser features that have provided low vision blindness accessibility since 1993, such as text size and wrapping of text to the user's screen width or printer margins, per the original HTML standard. See my previous letter to the editor: Thomas Kraemer, "IRS ignores plea for help,"Gazette-Times, Feb. 5, 2012, p. D5 and also see my previous posts IRS tax forms are not low vision accessible and violate ADA law (1/5/12), Filing paperless tax return is not free for all (12/9/ 10) and I am still alive (2/26/11).

Here is my latest letter to the editor on IRS accessibility issues:

In 2014, taxpayers will belatedly receive Internal Revenue Service tax instructions with larger text sizes via standard tablet readers or Internet browsers, perhaps thanks to a congressional inquiry made by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio at my request, which asked why IRS tax forms, instructions and publications were not accessible to people with low vision blindness, as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act (the ADA law).

Last month, when I tried out the newly accessible IRS documents, I encountered only a few minor usability issues and software defects.

Still unconfirmed is if all taxpayers will be able to file paperless electronic tax returns for free, even if required by the IRS to use the "Free File Fillable (sic) tax forms," instead of the "Free e-File" method, and paper returns are eliminated.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Letter: IRS finally has forms that are usable by low-vision taxpayers," posted Jan. 8, 2014, p. A9)

Because tax filing time is coming up again this year, I have been checking with the IRS periodically and here are the links I noticed for the new IRS accessible pages: