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Re: ADA requirement? [was RE: Attitude Adjustment Plea]

From: HowRose <HowRose@aol.com>
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 1998 20:48:46 EST
Message-ID: <f030248a.34c7f700@aol.com>
To: jacobsi@SRDPOST.DAYTONOH.ncr.com, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org, love26@gorge.net, kasday@att.com
In a message dated 98-01-22 08:45:52 EST, jacobsi@SRDPOST.DAYTONOH.ncr.com

<< HowRose - Could you please help us "non-legal beagles" understand the
 implication(s)/rammification(s) of the attached ruling?
 Many thanks,
 Steve Jacobs >>

I'll try my best!

What the DOJ (by way of Deval Patrick) is saying is that the ADA does require
public entities (under Title II) and public accommodations (under Title III)
to make ALL of its programs and services accessible to persons with
disabilities. Mr. Patrick notes as follows:

> 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.

But if you read between the lines, that means that the phrase "through
accessible means" does not necessarily mean that it must be accessible on the
Internet itself. Note that Mr. Patrick says:
> Instead of providing full accessibility through the Internet directly,
> entities may also offer other alternate accessible formats, such as
> Braille, large print, and/or audio materials, to communicate the information
> contained in web pages to people with visual impairments.  The
> availability  of such materials should be noted in a text (i.e., screen-
> format on the web page, along with instructions for obtaining the materials,
> that people with disabilities using the Internet will know how to obtain
> the accessible formats.

This means that a public entity or public accommodation can have an
inaccessible website as long as they are willing to send accessible
information to persons with disabilities asking for such on internet. This
does not seem to be feasible in theory or in practice, but this what the DOJ
has stated is their policy on internet access.

There are a few flaws: if a website is inaccessible, then how does the person
with disability who cannot access the website request the accessible format?
This would presuppose that the public entity or public accommodation has made
a separate feature that allows persons with disabilities to access and request
the accessible format. If this is true, then it is just as easy to make that
separate feature contain all of the information provided in the main website.

Add to that the fact that DOJ allows for a variety of means to ensure access
and will not restrict how accessibility is achieved.  This is exemplified in
the Lynx browser scenario described below.

> Mr. [] suggests compatibility with Lynx browser as a means of assuring
> accessibility of the Internet.  Lynx is, however, only one of many
> available options.  Other examples include providing the web page
information in
> text format, rather than exclusively in graphic format.  Such text is
> accessible  to screen reading devices used by people with visual

To sum it up, yes, public entities and public accommodations must provide
accessible formats of whatever they display on the internet. There is no
requirement on how this is achieved, and it is possible that a hardcopy format
may be considered reasonable alternative for an accessible website. 

It would be preferable if the DOJ had made a statement that no matter what the
website looked like, an alternative means of access to the same information
must be provided to ensure compliance with the ADA.

Of course, this is my personal interpretation and opinion as a person with
legal training and not the opinion of my law firm or the opinion of the
National Association of the Deaf, which I represent for purposes of
participation in the WAI Group.

Howard A. Rosenblum,
Attorney with Monahan & Cohen (Chicago, IL)
Representative for National Association of the Deaf (Silver Spring, MD)
Received on Thursday, 22 January 1998 20:56:23 UTC

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