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RE: Legal requirements RE: statistics

From: Martin Sloan <martin.sloan@orange.net>
Date: Wed, 16 Jan 2002 01:22:08 -0000
Message-ID: <01C19E2D.809EEB20.martin.sloan@orange.net>
To: "'Kynn Bartlett'" <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>, "'David Woolley'" <david@djwhome.demon.co.uk>, "'w3c-wai-ig@w3.org'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
I was going to reply off-list to this and the next post, but felt that 
since a direct question was asked I should reply on list. However, I would 
be happy for any future discussion to be carried on off-list, for the 
benefit of those who are not interested in the legal argument (and whose 
mailboxes are overflowing!), unless any new issues come up.

On Tuesday, January 15, 2002 1:55 AM, Kynn Bartlett 
[SMTP:kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com] wrote:
> >However, as far as I'm aware American human rights are slightly 
(although
> >not much if recent news reports are to be believed. but that's a 
different
> >issue) more advanced than those in China. A US court is unlikely to look 
to
> >China for guidance over human rights issues. So your argument doesn't
> >really make sense.
>
> Neither does the argument that web designers in Brazil or the U.S.
> need to pay attention to Australian legal decisions.
Hopefully Charles' post explains this point. They do not *need* to pay 
attention, but the likelihood is that if, or indeed when, their national 
court is asked to interpret that state's non-specific disability 
discrimination laws re web accessibility that the pursuer/plaintiff will 
lead the Australian case as an example of how this matter has been dealt 
with elsewhere in the world and that this is the logical interpretation of 
the local legislation.

Therfore, yes it is true to say that in the majority of countries around 
the world there is currently no *express* legal requirement to make a site 
accessible. My argument is, however, that when asked to rule on this point 
and interpret vague legislation most jurisdictions will look to and follow 
the Australian lead.

As such, by looking ahead, it is possible to avoid potential future legal 
action by introducing accessibility now. In much the same way as it is 
better to to let someone who is tailgating you on the motorway past to 
avoid a possible accident, it seems sensible that the same defensive or 
pre-emptive, as opposed to offensive, approach is taken regarding legal 
action (and that is a concept not just limited to accessibility).

> Question:  Are you advising web developers around the world to ignore
> the WCAG, and instead implement the Section 508 requirements when
> they build web sites?  It would seem there is as much legal force
> to say "you web developers in Brussels need to obey this American
> policy" as there would to say "obey this Australian decision."
No, because the section 508 requirements apply only in the US to federal 
agencies etc. The corresponding guidelines may be considered by a non-US 
court as a possible interpretation of accessibility, but given their local 
status, they would probably be considered second to the WCAG. As the W3C is 
an international body supported by hundreds of bodies worldwide, including 
the US government and European Commission, and, without wanting to labour 
the point, their guidelines have been adapted as a benchmark for 
accessibility in Australia, it is more likely that the WCAG guidelines will 
be relevant. But it is not unfeasable that a court may choose to look at 
section 508.

Of course the problem is that until each jurisdiction decides for itself in 
one way or aother, we do not know what the legal position definitely is. So 
maybe we shouldn't encourage accessibility. Chicken. Egg. etc....

martin.
--
martin.sloan@orange.net
Glasgow Graduate School of Law
A Joint venture between the universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde

Received on Tuesday, 15 January 2002 20:35:33 GMT

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