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RE: Internet Week: The ADA Stalks The Internet: Is Your Web Page Illegal?

From: Brockbank, Leslie <LBrockbank@uta.cog.ut.us>
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2000 11:42:00 -0700
Message-ID: <C2BC9AA160D7D31195B70001FA7E096C22801F@OUTLOOK>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Has anyone responded to this person or the firm he works for, or Internet
Week?  I am so very offended by this article I don't even know what to say?


Leslie Brockbank

-----Original Message-----
From: Kelly Ford [mailto:kford@teleport.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 02, 2000 3:03 PM
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Internet Week: The ADA Stalks The Internet: Is Your Web Page
Illegal? 


Hi All,

To move forward I suppose you must know those who seek to hold you back.  I
certainly wasn't aware that the ADA was an act of charity.  And while I
don't believe that being blind makes me a "victim" as this author asserts,
he is correct that I have no problem demanding my rights.  My tax dollars
which support the government are not any different from his and I'm
certainly going to demand that when the government makes purchases it
considers accessibility.

From the web page:

http://www.internetwk.com/columns00/frezz022800.htm
 
Plugging In
The ADA Stalks The Internet: Is Your Web Page Illegal?
BILL FREZZA
February 28, 2000 

One of the most fascinating characteristics of democracy's quest for
"equality" is the process by which a genuine desire to help the unfortunate
metastasizes into a regulatory cancer. Few examples 
serve better than the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an act of
charity that has become a swelling tithe, enriching class-action lawyers
quick to feast on vague legislation promoting poster-child plaintiffs.

Don't look now, but the ADA industry has its sites on the Web. In a few
years, if regulatory history is repeated, any Web site that doesn't provide
government-sanctioned equal access for the handicapped could be declared
illegal.

Originally intended to promote commonsense accommodations like wheelchair
ramps for new public buildings, the ADA will be applied to make Web pages
"equally accessible" by the blind, the blind-deaf and the cognitively
disabled.

This is both a noble goal and a fascinating technical challenge. Great
strides have already been made, enriching the lives of many people
previously living on the fringes of society. In a free country, resources
would continue to be applied to these challenges in proportion to both the
attractiveness of the market and the spirit that motivates acts of charity.
Celebrities would draw attention to the plight of the unfortunate, and good
works would be rewarded with public acclaim. Practical objectives would be
pursued, leading to incremental advances that would be accepted with
gratitude by thankful recipients.

But who lives in a free country? According to Section 508 of the Workforce
Investment Act of 1998, not us. Watch as a parade of empowered "victims"
and their professional advocates begin discovering and demanding their
rights. 

The first step will be to use the $26 billion-a-year procurement power of
the federal government to strike fear into the hearts of IT vendors.

Based on recommendations recently unveiled by the Architectural and
Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (www.access-board.gov), vendors
that don't conform to the board's ideas of how to make hardware and
software usable by the handicapped won't be allowed to sell equipment or
services to the federal government. This in itself is no great threat to
liberty. Right now, no products meet the proposed regulations. Who cares if
the government grinds to a halt because its own mandates prevent it from
upgrading its computers?

But things will not stop there. It's only a matter of time before Yahoo,
AOL and other fat targets get hit with class-action lawsuits claiming that
their Web sites violate the ADA. These lawsuits will demand millions in
damages and will generate reams of front-page media coverage as learned
pundits cluck about the "visionless divide." The first lawsuits will fail,
but each successive round will sharpen the next attack.

Drawn to the TV cameras like flies to an open sore, congressmen will hold
hearings at which cybercelebrities will speak about the need for
government-industry cooperation as they quietly make campaign contributions
to members of the Judiciary Committee overseeing their commercial
activities. 

Finally, an out-of-court settlement will be reached by exhausted executives
tired of being featured on the cover of Newsweek as abusers of the
handicapped. This settlement will initially apply only to the largest media
companies, which will be given several years to comply. But in time, the
regulations will be extended to smaller Web site operators until no
exceptions are permitted.

A multibillion-dollar fund will be established to hand out grants to
designated enterprises that would otherwise have a hard time achieving
compliance. A cottage industry of professional facilitators will train
Webmasters on how to get certificates of approval from the Access Board,
whose funding will have to be vastly expanded to process the flood of
annual renewals. Pirate Web sites flouting the regulations will be brought
to justice by an expanded arm of the FBI's cybercrimes unit. Democrats and
Republicans will fight over who can increase the cybercrimes unit's budget
faster. Congress will, of course, be exempt from all of these regulations
as it keeps busy dreaming up new ways to extend its influence into
cyberspace.

Or maybe none of this will happen. Maybe the distributed netizens of the
Web will look up, yawn, and go about their business with complete disregard
to any pronouncements coming from Washington. One can only hope. 

Bill Frezza is a general partner at Adams Capital Management. He can be
reached at frezza@alum.mit.edu or www.acm.com. 
Received on Friday, 3 March 2000 13:42:15 GMT

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