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dialog of interest:[Fwd: Urgent: Affirm ADA Applies to Web!]

From: David Poehlman <poehlman@clark.net>
Date: Mon, 07 Feb 2000 08:15:21 -0500
Message-ID: <389EC569.E018366E@clark.net>
To: wai-ig list <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
an interesting read.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Urgent: Affirm ADA Applies to Web!
Date: Sun, 6 Feb 2000 22:06:03 -0500 (EST)
From: jfa@metrocil.mwcil.org (Justice For All Moderator)
Organization: Justice for All Mailing List
To: justice@jfanow.org

                        Justice For All


              Urgent: Affirm ADA Applies to Web!

Charles Crawford, CCrawford@ACB.org, writes:

     As some may know, there has been a memorandum written by
Attorney Paul Taylor of the U.S. House of representatives
Judiciary Committee, subcommittee on the constitution to
subcommittee chairman Charles T. Canady entitled "Hearing
Proposal Regarding the Application of the Americans With
Disabilities Act's Accessibility Requirements to Private Internet
Web Sites and Services."  A quick summary of the memo after two
readings of it reveals the following points.

     *  There needs to be a legislative record of congressional
intent with respect to the issue of ADA application to the web.

     We might answer; that legislative history precedes the
passage of a law rather than being created after the fact.  In
short, holding a hearing to establish intent is neither
appropriate nor in any real way an expression of the will of the
congress through a mere committee.

     *  The internet has already been working to accommodate the
needs of people with disabilities and despite the benefits this
has accomplished, disabled people are increasingly going to court
as evidenced by the NFB suit against AOL.

     We might answer that the days have long since passed when
people with disabilities ought to be thankful for what we get and
stop being ingrates by demanding real access to the web.

     *  The internet and web are a major economic force in the
overall U.S. economy and would suffer harm if accessibility were
to be imposed.  This is due to such things as having to
accommodate people with cognitive problems and to make audio
files to be downloaded by blind folks.  These kinds of
accommodations would force small web sites to have to purchase
more space, invest in equipment, slow their transfer of
information rates, put in more work and expense, purchase or
expand their band width, chill their creativity, and lose
revenues from less traffic because of slower and more bulky

     We might answer by pointing out that all the work on what
constitutes an accessible web site has been done by the World
Wide Web Consortium and implementation of their web authoring
guidelines is neither difficult, expensive or counter-productive
to their business interests. 

     *  Unless the congress holds this hearing, Section 508 of
the rehabilitation Act and all of its requirements of
accessibility will be imposed upon governmental web sites and
those of the states receiving assistance under the Assistive
Technology Act.  This would mean that private web sites would
increasingly be expected to have the same level of access as
would the public sites.

     Again our answer is that it just ain't that hard and these
kinds of smoke screens accomplish nothing more than raise
hysteria to the uneducated.

     *  Title III of the americans with Disabilities Act does not
apply to the internet because the web sites are not places of
public accommodations, the first amendment of the Constitution
prevents the government from forcing web page editors to utilize
space for purposes not chosen by those editors, and the same
amendment would prevent the government from limiting speech by
governmental imposition of additional costs.

     Our answer is simple.  Like the Justice Department has said,
if you have a business and you use the internet as a way of
selling beyond the doors of your store, then you are responsible
to make sure your customers have access.  Even if you don't have
a physical store, there is plenty of common sense to suggest that
if you sell it on the net, it is no different than anywhere else
and so you must make your site accessible.  The other arguments
on the notion of compelled speech by forcing design changes is
just a bunch of esoteric legal babble that makes no sense since
all you are doing is making what you want to say accessible
rather than changing the nature of it.

     This summary has been very short and is interpretive of what
was written, but it clearly points to a dangerous attempt on the
part of this attorney to present an alarmist point of view that
could plant the seeds of misguided thinking with respect to the
ADA and the web.  Not only are there proper protections in the
ADA to prevent abuses, but the obvious lack of understanding by
this person of what the technology is and his pointing to largely
dubious relevant case law can only lead us to conclude that he is
suffering from economic speculation that is likely incorrect and
pushing a hidden agenda that is possibly the product of those who
don't want to be bothered by annoying people with disabilities
asking for things that are more annoying to produce.

So what could this mean?

     If this is truly the first shot in a war against
accessibility requirements for the web, then we can anticipate
more negative commentary on what a burden we place on the
internet.  We will hear how the net is the future of our economy
and how nothing should stand in the way of its totally free
growth.  We will hear how the web is the ultimate expression of
free marketeering and any attempt to regulate it is an offense
against creativity, initiative and the american way.  All of this
will of course happen while fortunes are made and any
consideration of our needs (whether blind or otherwise disabled) 
will be a function of charity or a sense of fairness, but
certainly not as any kind of right or ability to infringe upon
the absolute freedom of those on the web.

So what should we do?

     We must communicate with the congress directly and
repeatedly until we are secure in our rights of access.  Our
message will be straightforward and clear; the internet is the
vehicle through which the future of information sharing and
commerce will pass and we simply will not allow ourselves to be
pushed back into the darkness of the past where we relied upon
others to give us access to information at their pleasure.

     We must communicate with the members of the subcommittee and
let them know that the hearing scheduled for tuesday February 9,
2000 must be an affirmation of our participation on the world
wide web and not a condemnation of it.  Tell these members of the
subcommittee your story on how you use the web and what a
difference it makes for you and other people with disabilities. 
Here is the listing of the members of the subcommittee and how
you can reach them.  There is not as much of a need to
communicate with other members of the House of Representatives at
this point since our objective is to kill the notion of the ADA
not applying to the web right in the subcommittee.  If this
misinformation campaign against the ADA and the web continues,
then we will need to be much more aggressive and alert the entire
congress to our needs.

List of subcommittee members to contact.

1.) Charles T. Canady, FL, Chairman (R)  
Phone: 202-225-1252
Fax: 202-225-2279  
web site: http://www.house.gov/canady

2.) Henry J. Hyde, IL (R)   
Phone: 202-225-4561 
Fax: 202-225-1166 
web site: http://www.house.gov/hyde 

3.) Asa Hutchinson, AR (R)  
Phone: 202-225-4301 
Fax: 202-225-5713 
web site: http://www.house.gov/hutchinson

4.) Spencer Bachus, AL (R)  
Phone: 202-225-4921 
Fax: 202-225-2082 
web site: http://www.house.gov/bachus

5.) Bob Goodlatte, VA (R)  
Phone: 202-225-5431 
Fax: 202-225-9681 
web site: http://www.house.gov/goodlatte

6.) Bob Barr, GA  (R)  
Phone: 202-225-2931 
Fax: 202-225-2944 
web site: http://www.house.gov/barr

7.) William L. Jenkins, TN (R)  
Phone: 202-225-6356 
Fax: 202-225-5714 
web site: http://www.house.gov/jenkins

8.) Lindsey O. Graham, SC  (R)  
Phone: 202-225-5301 
web site: http://www.house.gov/graham

1.) Melvin L. Watt, NC   (D)
Phone: 202-225-1510  
FAX: 202-225-1512 
web site: http://www.house.gov/watt

2.) Maxine Waters, CA (D)
Phone: 202-225-2201  
web site: http://www.house.gov/waters

3.) Barney Frank, MA  (D)
Phone: 202-225-5931   
FAX: 202-225-0182     
web site: http://www.house.gov/frank

4.) John Conyers, Jr., MI (D)  
Phone: 202-225-5126 
FAX: 202-225-0072 
Web site: http://www.house.gov/conyers 

5. Jerrold Nadler, NY (D)
Phone: 202-225-5635  
FAX: 202-225-6923 
web site: http://www.house.gov//nadler

Fred Fay
Chair, Justice For All

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Received on Monday, 7 February 2000 08:15:28 UTC

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