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RE: WaitingForBob -- Selfish Reason for Accessibility

From: Waddell, Cynthia <cynthia.waddell@ci.sj.ca.us>
Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000 09:36:53 -0700
Message-ID: <0A005268C8DED311A23E0008C75D1EFF4764DC@sj-exchange.ci.sj.ca.us>
To: "'Christopher R. Maden'" <crism@yomu.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Mr. Maden:

If I may, I would like to point out an interesting fact that US civil rights
law, especially the ADA and the upcoming Section 508, does have a
geographical impact on the web even though it is cyberspace. 

CM:But I feel that there is a fundamental difference between the physical 
world and the Internet which radically changes the legal game in ways that 
make the bathroom metaphor break down.

For example, the ADA appropriately speaks of "effective communication"
rather than the physical, bathroom metaphor you mention, as the means for
providing access to the web.

CM: For starters, there's the matter of jurisdiction.  A building in San 
Francisco is unquestionably in the jurisdiction of the City and County of 
San Francisco, the State of California, and the USA.  If the building's 
management finds the ADA onerous, they may complain, they may drag their 
heels, but they'll have to comply eventually because they can't just move 
the building management concern out of the affected jurisdiction.  But what 
jurisdiction is, say, canada.com in?  The domain is adminstered by Network 
Solutions, Inc., a US entity, but the contact address for the domain is in 
Ontario, with network service through AT&T of Canada.  If their Web site 
isn't compliant when a US user tries to use it, who enforces the 
guidelines?  For that matter, whose guidelines are used?  Now consider the 
case of a large company, say Microsoft, who has the facilities to simply 
move their Web services offshore (say, to HavenCo).  Whose jurisdiction are 
they in then?

The ADA is also very clear about jurisdiction.  "Effective communication"
requirements, such as accessible web design, must be carried out by entities
subject to the ADA and the enforcement is not local.  Enforcement of the ADA
is national and carried out by the designated federal enforcement agencies.
Your thoughts on jurisdiction for the building in San Francisco is not quite
correct.  The building in San Francisco is subject to both local, State and
Federal accessibility laws.  US civil rights mandates that the most
restrictive, or in other words, the most accessible building code elements
must be implemented.

US companies operating overseas must also adhere to the ADA and the
"effective communication" requirement for accessible web design.  Although
US law does not require non-American businesses overseas to adhere to the
ADA, American businesses operating in the US and abroad must adhere to the
ADA. From a legal point of view, caselaw is emerging in this area and it
will certainly be interesting to watch the development.

My view is that while technology changes, civil rights do not.  Cyberspace
is not exempt from human rights issues.  After all, if cyberspace is to
continue as a domain for human interaction, why would we not want to
encourage full participation for everyone?  The W3C WAI effort should be
embraced by the global community.

Best regards,
Cynthia D. Waddell 

---------------------------------------------------
Cynthia D. Waddell   
ADA Coordinator
City Manager Department
City of San Jose, CA USA
801 North First Street, Room 460
San Jose, CA  95110-1704
(408)277-4034
(408)971-0134 TTY
(408)277-3885 FAX
http://www.icdri.org/cynthia_waddell.htm



-----Original Message-----
From: Christopher R. Maden [mailto:crism@yomu.com]
Sent: Friday, June 09, 2000 2:07 AM
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: RE: WaitingForBob -- Selfish Reason for Accessibility


At 07:20 8-06-2000 -0400, Michael Burks wrote:
>I have been following this discussion with some amusement and some
>consternation.  I am wondering if the person who says the force of law will
>produce gruding compliance, has ever had find a restroom that could
>accomdate their wheelchair?

No, I haven't.  I assume your point is that it's now fairly easy, at least 
in public buildings, thanks to the ADA.  If not, then I'm not sure I 
understand.

But I feel that there is a fundamental difference between the physical 
world and the Internet which radically changes the legal game in ways that 
make the bathroom metaphor break down.

For starters, there's the matter of jurisdiction.  A building in San 
Francisco is unquestionably in the jurisdiction of the City and County of 
San Francisco, the State of California, and the USA.  If the building's 
management finds the ADA onerous, they may complain, they may drag their 
heels, but they'll have to comply eventually because they can't just move 
the building management concern out of the affected jurisdiction.  But what 
jurisdiction is, say, canada.com in?  The domain is adminstered by Network 
Solutions, Inc., a US entity, but the contact address for the domain is in 
Ontario, with network service through AT&T of Canada.  If their Web site 
isn't compliant when a US user tries to use it, who enforces the 
guidelines?  For that matter, whose guidelines are used?  Now consider the 
case of a large company, say Microsoft, who has the facilities to simply 
move their Web services offshore (say, to HavenCo).  Whose jurisdiction are 
they in then?

Then there's the matter of violation detection.  In meatspace, there are 
building codes and regular inspections; the buildings in a city can be 
enumerated and visited sequentially.  Even assuming that the WACG are 
adopted globally, it's trivial to create a page that passes any 
computer-driven test of the page without actually being accessible.  No 
government has the resources to monitor the entire Internet manually.  So 
it'll be left to individuals with standing to pursue enforcement, whether 
by litigation or by pushing for prosecution.  In these cases, I can't see 
how the resources exist to pursue multiple instances of what would likely 
be lengthy trials if the defendants were stubborn in the slightest.  Add to 
that the fact that many Web sites undergo complete redesigns, starting from 
scratch, and enforcement becomes next to impossible.  Only an organization 
with a real commitment to accessible content can sustain accessibility 
through these redesigns.

Which brings me to my final point: human nature.  People really do not like 
being told what to do.  With a gun pointed at their head (which is what any 
law not completely irrelevant comes down to), they will do as they are 
told.  But if detection, jurisdiction, and enforcement are that difficult, 
who holds the gun and where does it point?  Making threats which will, in 
most cases, amount to a bluff, will only irritate content 
creators.  Education will produce content creators that understand the 
tangible benefits of accessibility; as JM Straczynski wrote, "The universe 
is composed of matter, energy, and enlightened self-interest."  I 
appreciate the work that's going into accessibility education, by the W3C 
and others.  I think that the work on legislation is counterproductive, 
though, and that adding those energies to the education effort instead 
would have a greatly increased benefit.

One thing that's become clearer and clearer to me is that the curb cut 
metaphor cuts quite deep; navigational tools for people with limited vision 
or mobility limitations make for more effective computer use by everyone, 
and information design theory for people with cognitive challenges creates 
information more effectively consumed by everyone.  This is the message 
that really needs to get out.

-Chris
--
Christopher R. Maden, Solutions Architect
Yomu: <URL:http://www.yomu.com/>
One Embarcadero Center, Ste. 2405
San Francisco, CA 94111
Received on Friday, 9 June 2000 12:44:22 GMT

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