[thelist] US Judge rules that ADA applies to websites

alan herrell - the head lemur headlemur at lemurzone.com
Tue Sep 12 12:30:51 CDT 2006

Tab Alleman wrote:
> This section 508 seems to apply only to the Federal Government (and its contractors, perhaps).  We're just a private company that's about to become a publicly traded one, so I don't think this applies to us.
Here we go once again.
Strictly speaking, The Section 508 standards do currently apply to 
federal government websites.

Here is where you keep misssing the fine print.
The pixel shotgun which will be blasting a whole lot of you into 
oblivion is this:
In a Letter Dated September 9, 1996, to Sen. Tom Harkin, Deval L. 
Patrick, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division had this to say,
     “The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires State and local 
governments and places of public accommodation to furnish appropriate 
auxiliary aids and services where necessary to ensure effective 
communication with individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would 
result in a fundamental alteration to the program or service or in an 
undue burden. 28 C.F.R. . 36.303; 28 C.F.R. . 35.160. Auxiliary aids 
include taped texts, Brailled materials, large print materials, and 
other methods of making visually delivered material available to people 
with visual impairments.

     “Covered entities under the ADA are required to provide effective 
communication, regardless of whether they generally communicate through 
print media, audio media, or computerized media such as the Internet. 
Covered entities that use the Internet for communications regarding 
their programs, goods, or services must be prepared to offer those 
communications through accessible means as well.”

Let's review.
1. Federal Government websites
This oughta be a no brainer...
2. State and Local Government websites
These websites are included by extension as they are partially supported 
  by Federal Tax Dollars, and are branches on the 508 Tree.
This not only means the departments of redundant information, but also 
includes Educational institutions that receive federal money. 
Universities, colleges, and any other educational school.

3. Companies who have contracts with the Federal Government. Soup to 
nuts, guns, and ammo. If you do business with the Federal Government 
your website needs to be accessible.

*Places of public accommodation.*
This seems to be the whipping boy for every flash and AJAX designer on 
the planet to seek refuge from getting off their asses and actually 
think about accessibility as a profit center.
You will see this material again.

If you have a brick and mortar business which is open to the public for 
as little as 15 minutes a day, you fall under the ADA.
Congratulations! You are a public accomodation!!
  That means wide potty doors, grab bars, and parking for cripples. Get 
over the fact they get the best parking spots.
It doesn't matter how they became handicapped, self abuse, accident, got 
  wounded in a theater of war.

The bottom line of the ADA is to *include* these people in our society.
What part of this is the problem?
wheelchairs give you the willies?
blind folks can't see your color choices?
you cannot think beyond your own able bodied self interest?
you are still pissed about the parking deal?

That being said, let's move on to the:
  > effective communication, regardless of whether they generally 
communicate through print media,
audio media, or computerized media such as the Internet.

Is the Internet a Public accomodiation?
No it is not, despite all the pleadings, wishes and desires. You need an 
computer of some sort and a connection.
Before you break your arms patting yourselves on the back, using this 
argument to continue to develop sites, requiring a thousand plugins, 
horsepower equal to your development boxes and monitors,  remember this:
*A Website is a communication medium for expanding businesses.*
is that the sound of public accomodation in the background?

Since you are spending your days selling businesses on the magic of the 
internet for either making money in the case of selling directly, 
generating leads, for offline sales, or getting them to save money by 
producing and generation White papers, data sheets, FAQ's, and any other 
materials to turn lookers into buyers, or to inform visitors that your 
products and services are either a good fit, shorting the sales cycle, 
or providing information sufficient to have visitors to look elsewhere 
to find products and services that are a better fit, thereby saving the 
company money by not chasing down leads that suck time, energy and money 
that does not result in a sale, which for a lot of *designers* seems not 
to matter in moving pixels.

Where does the money come from to pay developers and designers  to build 

The most ironic part of the whole accessibility issue, it that the 
companies that are being sued stand to make the most money with 
accessible websites. Target, Southwest Airlines, AOL, to name a few.

All of the bitching that takes place around accessibility comes down to 
several justifications.

Accessibility is not cool.

Cool for who? Certainly not cool for the company who has gone online to 
expand their business. Since their sites are not accessible in whatever 
degree, that closes the door on those potential sales.

Remember where the money comes from for you to build sites.

Accessibility is hard.

Since when? ALT tags have been with us since the IMG tag was invented.
I need javascript for session infomation!
Since when? Your customer needs contact information to close sales.
I need cookies to track visitors!
You were a web designer a few minutes ago, now you are a stalker?

Accessibility is not required.

Right now, you can make that case, but the designers who build 
accessible websites, will dance on your Flash enabled, Ajaxian whizbang 

5 years ago most of you did not have jobs anywhere near the internet.

You have the ability to create an environment that is inclusive, 
available to a global audience, that can promote your client's 
business, keep you  in chips and beer, and you want to build things that 
can only be seen by  50 people on the planet?

5 years from now most of you will be gone.

alan herrell - the head lemur

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