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FW: ADA Doesn't Cover Websites, according to Federal Court

From: John M Slatin <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 2004 16:07:31 -0500
Message-ID: <C46A1118E0262B47BD5C202DA2490D1A033182DE@MAIL02.austin.utexas.edu>
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
CNET news story about a new court ruling which says that the Americans
with Disabilities Act does not apply to the Internet because the Act
does not mention the Internet. I pass this on to WCAG because it's an
important ruling for those of us in the United States, and because the
article specifically mentions WCAG 2.0 at the end (as part of background
information, not with reference to the court ruling).
 
John
 
 
 

"Good design is accessible design." 
John Slatin, Ph.D.
Director, Accessibility Institute
University of Texas at Austin
FAC 248C
1 University Station G9600
Austin, TX 78712
ph 512-495-4288, f 512-495-4524
email jslatin@mail.utexas.edu
web http://www.utexas.edu/research/accessibility/
<http://www.utexas.edu/research/accessibility/> 


 

-----Original Message-----
From: Aylward, Rayna [mailto:Rayna.Aylward@meus.mea.com] 
Sent: Monday, September 27, 2004 3:46 pm
To: 'MEAFLink'
Subject: ADA Doesn't Cover Websites, according to Federal Court


In a suit brought against Southwest Airlines, the 11th Circuit Court of
Appeals ruled that since the Internet is not mentioned in the Americans
With Disabilities Act public access provisions, websites are not subject
to the law.  (This ruling upholds a 2002 decision of a lower court. ) Of
course, in 1991 when the ADA became law, the Internet was not the
pervasive commercial, educational. recreational and social platform that
it is today.
 
        --------------------------------------------------------------

Disabilities Act doesn't cover Web, court says
By Declan McCullagh <mailto:declan.mccullagh@cnet.com>  CNET News.com
September 27, 2004, 10:19 AM PT
URL: http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588-5384087.html 

Web publishers are not required to comply with the Americans with
Disabilities Act, a federal appeals court has ruled. 

Acting largely on procedural grounds
<http://dw.com.com/redir?destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fcaselaw.findlaw.com%2Fdata
2%2Fcircs%2F11th%2F0216163p.pdf&siteId=22&oId=2102-9588_22-5384087&ontId
=9588&lop=nl_ex> , the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a
lower court's decision
<http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9595_22-962761.html?tag=nl>  from October
2002, which concluded that Web sites cannot be required to comply with
the 1991 disabilities law. An advocacy group for the blind had sued
Southwest Airlines, seeking a redesign of its Web site.

Still, the three-judge panel noted that a future case could provide a
vehicle for exploring the question in greater depth. "In declining to
evaluate the merits of this case, we are in no way unmindful that the
legal questions raised are significant," wrote Judge Stanley Marcus
<http://dw.com.com/redir?destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ca11.uscourts.gov%2Fab
out%2Fjudges%2Fmarcus.php&siteId=22&oId=2102-9588_22-5384087&ontId=9588&
lop=nl_ex> .

If the case had turned out differently, the outcome could have had
far-reaching effects by imposing broad new requirements on companies
hoping to do business online in states in the 11th Circuit, which
includes Alabama, Florida and Georgia. 

The ADA says that any "place of public accommodation" must be accessible
to people with disabilities, and the law lists 12 categories, including
hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, universities and bowling alleys.
It does not name the Internet. 

This lawsuit was filed by advocacy group Access Now
<http://dw.com.com/redir?destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.adaaccessnow.org%2Fhom
e.htm&siteId=22&oId=2102-9588_22-5384087&ontId=9588&lop=nl_ex>  and a
blind man named Robert Gumson. They admitted that it was possible for
the blind to buy tickets on Southwest's site but argued that it was
"extremely difficult." Gumson, who said he had a screen reader with a
voice synthesizer on his computer, asked the judge to order Southwest to
provide text that could serve as an alternative to the graphics on its
site and to redesign the site's navigation bar to make it easier for him
to understand. 

Since the time the lawsuit was filed, Southwest appears to have
redesigned its Web site to be easier to navigate for the blind. CNET
News.com was able to make reservations using the Lynx text-only browser
without encountering any compatibility or navigation problems. 

Courts have reached different conclusions about whether the ADA might
apply to the Web. The 7th Circuit suggested in 1999 that the ADA may
apply to a Web site or other facilities that exist only electronically.
But the Access Now v. Southwest case was the first to address the
question directly.

At a February 2000 hearing, a board member of the National Federation of
the Blind asked Congress
<http://dw.com.com/redir?destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.house.gov%2Fjudiciary%
2Fwund0209.htm&siteId=22&oId=2102-9588_22-5384087&ontId=9588&lop=nl_ex>
to expand the ADA. "I urge this subcommittee to affirm the importance of
access to this new world we're entering and to differentiate between the
real-world needs of blind people and the hypothetical and yet-unproved
burden placed on small businesses being required to ensure access,"
board member Gary Wunder said.

Last month, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group
released an updated working draft
<http://dw.com.com/redir?destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.w3.org%2FTR%2F2004%2FW
D-WCAG20-20040730&siteId=22&oId=2102-9588_22-5384087&ontId=9588&lop=nl_e
x>  of its extensive guidelines for online publishers. They suggest, for
instance, text tags on graphical elements and captions accompanying a
video clip in an online news story. 

 
<http://dw.com.com/clear/c.gif?ts=1096317073&edId=2&prtnr=CNET%20Network
s,%20Inc.&oid=2102-9588_22-5384087&ptId=2102&onId=9588&sId=22&asId=53840
87&astId=1&xref=http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-5384087.html> 

Rayna 
_______________________ 
Rayna Aylward 
Executive Director 
Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation 
1560 Wilson Blvd., #1150 
Arlington, VA  22209 
Tel:  703/276-8240 
Fax: 703/276-8260 
rayna.aylward@meus.mea.com 
www.meaf.org 

Changes for the Better... 
For Children and Youth with Disabilities 


 
Received on Monday, 27 September 2004 21:07:34 UTC

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