Mandated Accessibility in California, USA? It could happen.
Every once in a while I post bits of news concerning Web Accessibility. I posted on a lawsuit against Target.com last year, which Target Lost. Apparently a judge in California said the suit qualified for Class Action status.
Originally Posted by Slashdot
... the judge has just ruled that the case is eligible for class-action status. The end result could be mandated accessibility for for all Web sites reachable by visually impaired users in California.
I might be wrong about this, but I heard that the website(s) of any organization receiving federal funding has to meet federal accessibility levels.
That's pretty far-reaching, when you consider that many non-governmental entities apply for federal grants. Whether or not the feds. actually enforce this, I don't know. But, still, it does put accessibility in the forefront.
* My screen resolution is set at 1680x1050
* I'm accessing your site through a T1 line
* I'm probably viewing it using Firefox (unless browser is specified)
While a push for web accessibility is a good thing for the most part, I can't approve of laws that make ultimatums regarding the internet. A web that reburies accessibility will also help give web standards a push in the right direction, as well as force all those sloppy websites passing off as professionally designed to get a second look. But when laws start impeding on the internet, the end result can never be good. Soon the FCC or other bodies will want their stake on the internet, the same as on radio and TV. Soon, web developers will not only have to design with all the different browsers, standards, and accessibility in mind, but with laws and mandates causing them extra headaches. And, with all due respect, wouldn't blind people be better off using the phone instead of filing lawsuits?
... And, with all due respect, wouldn't blind people be better off using the phone instead of filing lawsuits?
I actually can't believe you said that. Have you ever tried using a Braille phone book? If you don't know the phone number, how can you call? Product catalogs from companies rarely come with Braille. People with disabilities have an especially difficult time going out on errands, blind people not withstanding. The Internet allows disabled people to bypass most of the physical obstacles they might encounter, only to encounter technological obstacles that are easily overcome by proper coding practices. When people resort to lawsuits, they've exhausted all other means. Most likely Target blew these people off continually, and now Target is caught in a lawsuit.
There's no reason that companies can't make their web sites accessible. It doesn't take extra time. It doesn't take extra money. It just means using heading tags, and binding labels to form fields properly. You can have a quasi-usable web site for a blind person even using tables if you properly mark up your content with headings, lists and form field labels. The government isn't asking Target to do something extra. It's asking Target to be fair. It's no different, in my mind, than putting in wheel chair ramps or wheel chair accessible stalls in bathrooms, except the benefit on the Web is little to no extra cost. To top things off, what's good for blind users is good for everyone. Labels on form fields provide a larger clickable area which activates the form field. This is especially nice with radio buttons and check boxes.
Disabled people have been fighting for decades to get people to realize they are significant and their needs are genuine, not something to be overlooked or laughed at. An accessible Web is vital to these people. It opens up a host of new products and services that otherwise might be unavailable or too difficult to get.
However, TJ111, I do get what you mean about fearing web developers might spend too much time appeasing the government, yet it's clear that we won't get an accessible Web until the government requires us to appease them. Nothing drags an industry down like red tape, but Web accessibility is a basic feature, not a ridiculous government mandate. It's being polite. It's being humane. It's just plain common sense. Web accessibility laws wouldn't be impeding on the Internet. Web developers who do not consider accessibility are impeding the Internet. The Internet is about people, and all sorts of people need access to it.
But yet again, the laws shouldn't get to a point where they impede on the process. It's my belief that proper coding practices are all we need. Not extra work. We might need a government mandate to satisfy basic accessibility requirements, and I don't want to spend a significant chunk of time filling out paperwork and running tests for the government. But we a need push by the government before companies take it seriously. Truth be told, I think it's the Web development agencies that should be held accountable. Who designed Target's web site? A company shouldn't have to tell a design agency to make it accessible. That should be included. Not including accessibility in a Web site is like omitting the logo. It's basic. It doesn't take much effort to remember, and MUCH less effort than creating a logo. So let's do it.
First of all, my comment was not meant to be a stab at disabled people. Allow me to clarify the two problems I have with this story.
I do not know any backstory behind this article, all I know is what I read in your original post and the article at slashdot. It is my belief that Americans use of the legal system to file litigation against other parties is extremely abused. While there are legitimate reasons for filing lawsuits, it appears to me the majority of lawsuits are filed with a motivation for either profit or publicity, and not on moral grounds. If, like you said, the party exhausted all other means, then indeed this lawsuit was justified, and my statement was in error.
My problem with requiring web accessibility is not belittling the importance of it, I believe web accessibility should be a requirement for web sites. All of my public websites are written with accessibility in mind, and I believe every web designer and website should be designed to allow people with disabilities to navigate their page.
My issue is with laws and lawmakers having access to write legislation regarding the internet. While this law would be justified and an improvement to the internet, it sets a precedent that other bodies could use as a pretext to other internet-related laws. Giving the government regulatory authority over the internet, even for justified causes, has the potential to do more harm then good.
Originally Posted by Frank Zappa
The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.