Blind Web surfers sue for accessibility

25 comments

"Danielsen, who writes a blog called "The Voice of the Nation's Blind" for the National Federation of the Blind" ..."an organization that represents blind people, is suing Target Corp., saying that its Web site is inaccessible to blind Internet users."

Quote:
"The blind have more access to information than they ever had in history — but that's only true to the extent that Web accessibility is maintained,"

blind blogger - Chris Danielsen said.

Time offer some good commentary on this issue but a certain snippet from the story stands out for me

Quote:
With about $176 billion to spend, disabled Americans have astonishing buying power, more than twice that of teenagers, according to the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

It is law in the UK to make your business accessable to people with disabilities, is it the same in the US and more importantly how does NOT making your site accesable affect your business?

Edited by JasonD - 26th October

Comments

Can someone add a link...

Can someone add a link...

Screw the link

They're blind and won't see it anyway...

ADA n' Google

Try to make your site for google and get banned, just be prepared to file those reinclussion requests.

http://groups.google.com/group/Google_Webmaster_Help-Indexing/browse_frm/thread/3d606b0299628500

hardeehar

Quote:
They're blind and won't see it anyway...

And that's funny because...?

Just for the record. I

Just for the record. I edited the starting post to make it more readable

An important issue on this is that an accesable site is also quite often a search engine friendly site. Not undertaking this essential aspect is silly, on a pure business sense.

I personally can't wait to see when accesability issues affect Web 2.0 / AJAX properties such as Google Maps

The UK needs a test case

It is law in the UK to make your business accessable to people with disabilities

Not the whole story, as the UK's Disability Discrimination Act didn't cover the web. I covered this last year:

http://www.threadwatch.org/node/3808#comment-23393

I agree with Jason; once these cases start going to court, Web 2.0 sites are going to be massive targets. AJAX based functionality can be made accessible, basically by replicating it server-side, but it hardly ever happens.

Braille monitors would be

Braille monitors would be easier.

I wonder what the return

I wonder what the return rate is for items like clothing that are purchased as gifts by blind people. :)

Irony

Of course, sheesh...

One of my best friends is "legally" blind, he can still see a little but it's a bad case of rapidly degrading tunnel vision and glaucoma.

@seomike, one of my uncles was colorblind so gifts could get worse with mismatched colors ;)

He only wore 3 colors, grey, black and white, his work clothes were always grey so he didn't have to worry about embarassing color snafus.

Another uncle is partially color blind and works in electronics, He managed to train himself to identify the right colors of wires to avoid BZZZZZT! and thousands of dollars in fried circuits. FWIW, you wouldn't want him working on diffusing a bomb trying to figure out which is the BLUE WIRE...

its very difficult

to be fully accessible, the screen reader and different stylesheets type stuff is easy to pick up but here in the UK I know one of the RNIB websites was damned for being inaccessible and although several disabilities groups offer info packs when I requested them a few years ago not one arrived....

The UK law applies not only to blind people - people with partial mobility who may have trouble using a mouse etc etc are also covered - its amazing how hard it is to tab through some websites and get where you want to.

its amazing how hard it is

Quote:
its amazing how hard it is to tab through some websites and get where you want to.

It's amazing how difficult it is to get through some web sites even with all your faculities working...

With about $176 billion to

Quote:
With about $176 billion to spend, disabled Americans have astonishing buying power, more than twice that of teenagers, according to the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

I'd fact check before basing a business plan on those numbers.

One take-away from this thread is that all-is-not-as-you-may-see-it. That's where "accessibility" becomes a design standard...needing to serve the visitor.... and counting almost anyone with an ailment as "disabled" highlights that fact. The old "you are unique...just like everyone else" bit.

But when the people-with-disabilities community advocates it, the issue gets skewed as we see comments like some of those above.

Bottom line is your visitors do not see your website as you do. They don't see it as your designer does, or your mom or dad. They see it as THEY see it. To assume anything at all without testing is foolish. Test and examine activity logs and usage patterns, and adjust to accommodate the visitors (and desired visitors). If you want them.

If you don't want some visitors, I suppose it could be a civil rights issue. Last I looked the ADA was a civil rights issue (508 etc).

Who says....

....a website is inaccessible instead of "targetted"? What if I targetted my sites to the non-blind?

< /rant part=1 >

You'll be able to pay your

You'll be able to pay your fines with a clear conscience then. ;)

(t)Wit

Rants are always fun, Wit, but you know as well as the rest of us do that you run the risk of being judged to be discriminating on the basis of disability and that this concept (whether you personally believe it is right or wrong) is illegal in many countries.

People with disabilities may not be allowed to drive (depending on the extent of their disability) because there is no effective way to alleviate the problems that they experience.

They can however use the internet and websites perfectly well, unless the designer through unwillingness, incompetence or lack of care puts obstacles in their way to stop them doing so.

And didn't want to, didn't know and didn't care have seldom proved to be effective defences in legal arenas...

mmm

in theory there should be exceptions shouldn't there - I mean would it be reasonable to say that if your website advertises a product which cannot be used by those with disabilities the website doesn't have to cater for people with those disabilities?

So if you sell playstations which require a level of motor skills and reasonable visual ability to use, could you reasonably argue that the website is not for the use of people without those skills?

I'm not saying thats a sensible thing to argue and it would be a stupid company who didn't care about excluding people, but it could, in theory, hold water. Not everything can, or should, be universally accessible surely?

Nice idea

But if said person with limited motor skills wanted to buy a Playstation for their friend, it all falls apart.

The blind have babies too...

When it gets to Christmas or birthdays, I guess the majority of people like to buy presents for other people.

>>Not everything can, or should, be universally accessible surely?

No, but I don't think governments or anyone have argued that with various cases over the decade.

What they did decide, in various countries, was that it was illegal to discriminate on various grounds (race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, for example).

In the case of race and sex, this has frequently come close to universality. In the case of sexual orientation and disability, there has been the establishment of certain basic rights, without the establishment of some specific rights.

In the case disability and accessibility, the momentum has tended to be in the direction of provision of minimum access rights.

Examples of this are wheelchair-friendly facilities. No government has said that all facilities have to be equally friendly for disabled and able - what they have said in many countries is that there should be a certain minimum level of provision for disabled access.

Likewise, nobody has said that there should be equal access to websites for able and disabled. Where the laws are going, however, is in a similar direction, in which they state that there should be a minimum level of provision (as provided in the legislation). And those who don't provide that minimum level are likely to find themselves in breach of the laws.

of course

which is why it'd be monumentally stupid, but you don't actually have a *right* to buy specific products, any shop can refuse to serve anyone, I get pretty annoyed when people don't take my preferred debit card online but I don't have any right to sue over it.....

For small shops/businesses offline, there are exceptions to the accessibility laws (lets make it clear that I don't advocate discriminating on any grounds but the discussion is valid I think) - so my old company had toilets which couldn't be accessed by wheelchair users. Because we were small we weren't required to install a lift or ramp (either of which would have meant remodelling the building). Small shops aren't required to provide wheelchair access provided they are willing and able to assist wheelchair users in making a purchase (perhaps by bringing them a selection of goods to view outside and processing their transaction for them. That may not be the most sensitive and inclusive way of doing business but it's permitted by law.

So for an online small business, who cant affors a professinal usability study and web designer, shouldn't it be acceptible to offer a phone number and the faciloity to have information e-mailed to you?

I know thats not good business practice in general but if you sell art online, then a very very low percentage of your customers will be visually impaired and perhaps 5k for a new inclusive website is not the best solution?

There is a difference

Firstly, there is a difference between "anyone refusing to serve anyone" and "anyone refusing to serve someone". Unless you are a golf club or some other bastion of Empire privilege, if you refuse to serve women as a matter of course you will eventually find yourself in trouble.

In other words, your "discrimination" in most cases should be arbitrary and not specific.

Secondly, I agree with your point about small businesses and the exemptions from the laws. But there is also a difference between "place of employment" and "offering services" (which, incidentally, make interesting reading for anyone so minded in the various countries' web accessibility laws and guidelines).

Thus you may well be able to claim an exemption on your company intranet but, if you are offering global services (for example, online sales around the world), then you could be liable.

On the other hand, if your sales are less than $x per annum you might be able to claim an exemption.

All these kind of boundaries are being decided in various areas as the law moves into dealing with online services and commerce.

Can I at least...

...block ugly people from using my photo model portfolio generator?

And what about certain websites that seem to block proper access to people not using a certain web browser?

I have an old website designed for MSIE4.0. Heck, I myself don't even use MSIE anymore. Am I discriminating against FF users? NO, it's a website coded in 2001, using javascript based on "document.all".
I can't be arsed to change it. It's still online. Google is ranking it top 1 or 2. Should we both be in jail (both Google and I)?

< /rant part=2 >

PS: I'll take the "(t)Wit" bit as a little joke, stever :)

Good

>>PS: I'll take the "(t)Wit" bit as a little joke, stever :)

Good, it was how it was meant (and I'm easily led by a bad punning opportunity). If I feel like calling someone a tosser (normally in the political threads) I tend not to post.

Tx

You should see the list of dimwit/halfwit/fuckwit references LOL. It is impressive.
Aaaaarrrghhh, but I was ranting*! Pardon my "sane" interlude.

* ranting, but not without thought though..........

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