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RE: New York Attorney General holds ADA applies to Web Businesses.

From: Jim Thatcher <jim@jimthatcher.com>
Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 18:07:08 -0500
To: "'W3c-Wai-Ig'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000901c4870a$6e665740$6801a8c0@jtcom2400>

I was surprised to see no replies on this important announcement. Basically
the Attorney General of New York is holding that the ADA applies to web
sites as "places of public accommodations." This announcement mentions two
companies that have settled and agreed to comply. If you look in detail, you
will find that the agreement is pretty close to WCAG AA in spite of the fact
the news reports focus on use of the web sites by folks who are blind.

There is new news now on CNN (through AP)
http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/08/19/website.accessibility.ap/index.html. 

Jim
 
Accessibility Consulting: http://jimthatcher.com/
512-306-0931

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org] On Behalf
Of Jim Thatcher
Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2004 10:54 AM
To: 'W3c-Wai-Ig'; 'Webaim-Forum-D'
Subject: New York Attorney General holds ADA applies to Web Businesses.


Here is the press release:
http://www.oag.state.ny.us/press/2004/aug/aug19a_04.html. 

Jim
 
Accessibility Consulting: http://jimthatcher.com/
512-306-0931

--- Text of press release ---
SPITZER AGREEMENT TO MAKE WEB SITES ACCESSIBLE TO THE BLIND AND VISUALLY
IMPAIRED 
 

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer today announced settlements with two major
travel web sites that will make the sites far more accessible to blind and
visually impaired users. 

The web sites, Ramada.com and Priceline.com, have agreed to implement a
variety of accessibility standards that will permit users of assistive
technology, such as screen reader software, to more easily navigate these
web sites.

"Accessible web sites are the wave of the future and the right thing to do.
We applaud these companies for taking responsible and proper steps to make
their web sites accessible to the blind and visually impaired," Spitzer
said. "We urge all companies who have not done so to follow their lead."

The Attorney General opined that the Americans With Disabilities Act
requires that private web sites be accessible to blind and visually impaired
Internet users. The ADA generally dictates that all "places of public
accommodation" and all "goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages,
or accommodations" of places of public accommodation, must be made
accessible to disabled citizens, absent undue hardship. New York law
provides similar civil rights protections.

Many blind and visually impaired individuals use assistive technology, such
as "screen reader software," to operate computers and surf the Internet.
Screen reader software converts text into speech and reads pages upon
display -- usually from top to bottom and left to right, as if reading a
book. To be accessible to the blind and visually impaired, a web site must
utilize a computer code that is comprehensible to screen reader software. 

During investigations conducted in 2003 and earlier this year, the Attorney
General found that portions of the Ramada.com and Priceline.com web sites
were not accessible to this type of assistive technology. Under the terms of
the agreements, the companies will implement a range of accessibility
standards authored by the Web Accessibility Initiative ("WAI") of the World
Wide Web Consortium ("W3C"), an organization that recommends Internet
standards. For instance, graphics and images must have comprehensible
labels, tables must have appropriately placed row and column headers, and
edit fields (boxes where the Internet user inputs information) which must be
labeled to indicate which information is requested. The companies must also
implement a wide variety of other initiatives, based on guidelines authored
by the W3C. 

Advocates for the visually impaired applauded the settlements. 

"By implementing design standards that allow screen reader software and
other assistive technology to function effectively with interactive web
sites, companies will make tremendous strides in closing the 'digital
divide' for visually impaired users," said Carl Augusto, president and CEO
of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). "As the Internet continues
to become an increasingly important tool for business, commerce, and leisure
activities, it is imperative that all companies ensure their web sites are
accessible for all users - including people who are blind or have low
vision."

The Attorney General also extended his thanks to the American Foundation for
the Blind, for its invaluable assistance, as well as to the Baruch College
Computer Center for Visually Impaired People.

In addition to the steps outline above, Ramada.com and Priceline.com will
pay the State of New York $40,000 and $37,500, respectively, as costs of the
investigation. The Attorney General emphasized that once the companies were
notified of the accessibility issues by his office, they worked
cooperatively and creatively with his Internet Bureau to correct the issues.


Both cases were handled by Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Nieliwocki
of the Attorney General's Internet Bureau, under the direction of Kenneth
Dreifach, Chief of that bureau, with assistance from the Civil Rights
Bureau.
Received on Friday, 20 August 2004 23:07:25 UTC

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