Posts Tagged ‘web accessibility’

The Americans with Disabilities Act at 25

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Listen to Diane Rehm’s roundtable on the law with me and other guests here:

Five years ago I wrote on the occasion of the ADA’s 20th anniversary. I criticized the more recent, United Nations-drafted Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in this 2012 piece. And the potentially massive disruptions to be expected from a legal requirement that websites be “accessible” — a regulatory idea that the Obama administration is thought to be in the very final stages of considering — have been a regular theme here for many years, as has the harm done by ADA filing mills that file accessibility complaints by the batch against businesses and property owners, often with recovery of attorneys’ fees in mind. More: James Bovard, USA Today.

Here come the web accessibility regs, cont’d

Amy Alkon discusses with readers the regulations for private online commerce and publishing expected soon from the federal government, drawing this comment signed Lamont Cranston:

This is no joke. If you work for Federal Money, which I do, everything published to the web must be Section 508 compliant.

It’s like a choke chain on a leash. Many, many tools and features useful to 99% of your users must remain unavailable because 1% of the people who come to your site might not be able to use them.

It’s one of the reasons ANY federal web site is so BORING in design.

More: Scott Greenfield, Simple Justice (“The Public Accommodation Formerly Known As SJ”)

Disabled rights roundup

  • Per The Economist, long-awaited Justice Department rules decreeing ADA accessibility for websites (earlier here, here, etc.) expected any day now, “in June. For example, each picture must have text describing it, so that screen-reader programs can tell blind people what is there.” Individual enforcement actions, as against Peapod, aren’t waiting [DoJ press release] Settlement with MOOC firm signals DOJ plans to deal with online education providers [Cooley] Contributor believes it’s a snap to include online captioning in all online Harvard and MIT courses, so what’re they waiting for? [Time]
  • Rest of the Economist article is of interest too, especially on ADA filing mills in Florida and elsewhere;
  • In Sheehan v. San Francisco, Ninth Circuit created right to ADA accommodation in confrontations with law enforcers, SCOTUS reversed on other (qualified immunity) grounds [Mark Pulliam, City Journal; Richard Re, Prawfs]
  • Commemorations of 25th anniversary of the ADA — here’s what I had to say about the 20th — include plans “to hold [various Chicago institutions] publicly accountable for their commitments” to, inter alia, “increase civic engagement around disability issues” [Michael Waterstone, Prawfs]
  • Sacramento: “Squeeze Inn owner joins fight against costly ADA lawsuits” [KCRA]
  • Spread of fake service dog paraphernalia alarms groups that work with actual service dogs [BBC]
  • Intended class-action plaintiff sues McDonald’s over new style Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensers, saying touchscreen format unfair to disabled users [BigClassAction.com]

From mass copyright complaints to web accessibility: one lawyer’s journey

Fifteen years ago, I wrote the following, to considerable skepticism from some ADA advocates, about the idea that online publishers should be legally obliged to make their websites “accessible” to blind, deaf, and other disabled users:

If it’s easy for entrepreneurial litigators to stroll down the main street of a town and find stores vulnerable to an ADA suit because their water fountain or pay phone is at the wrong height, it’s even easier for them to surf the Web and find sites that flunk the most widely accepted disability guidelines. Assuming a court can be found with proper jurisdiction over them, the next logical step is the filing of accessibility complaints by the cartload.

Federal courts were cool toward the idea of obligatory web accessibility, but more recently it has been stirring back to life, in part owing to an Obama administration move to revitalize the idea. And while it’s taken me a while to catch up with the story, it appears that at least one practicing lawyer has indeed spotted a niche for the mass filing of ADA suits against small businesses over their online presence.

That lawyer is Minneapolis-based attorney Paul Hansmeier, who fittingly or otherwise was previously associated with the now-disgraced Prenda Law Group, which engaged in mass copyright complaint filing against computer users recorded as downloading certain X-rated materials. Mike Masnick at TechDirt followed the adventures of Hansmeier and his Class Justice in multiple web-accessibility filing in this 2013 post with sequel and even more entertaining followup (channeling Dan Nienaber, Mankato, Minn., Free Press). Now Tim Cushing at TechDirt reports that Hansmeier is running into a bit of resistance in the form of a counterclaim by one of his targets, Kahler Hotels.

Disabled rights roundup

  • Blockbuster “web accessibility” issue, with potential for massive disruption of online life, continues to drag on without action in Washington despite urgings from academics; but at Ninth Circuit’s behest, California Supreme Court will decide whether state’s Disabled Persons Act covers websites [David Ettinger, Horwitz & Levy] More: Amy Alkon and commenters;
  • Federal district judge (E.D.N.Y.), suspecting foul play in multiple ADA filings, sends staff to investigate, but that’s a no-no as the Second Circuit reminds him [Josh Blackman]
  • Noting “continuing paranoia and obsession,” Vermont Supreme Court rebuffs bar applicant claiming discrimination on basis of mental illness [ABA Journal]
  • Just fine and dander: optician’s shop in suburban Detroit turns down worker’s request to bring service dog for generalized anxiety disorder, will pay $53,000 in settlement [EEOC]
  • Attack on “sheltered workshops” fits into multi-front effort to extend reach of federal wage-hour law: “Landmark DOJ settlement with RI provides road map to disability-law compliance for 49 other states” [ABA Journal]
  • Coalition politics counts: prominent disabled-rights groups [AAPD, DREDF, Bazelon Center, etc.] favor driving up cost of at-home attendants at expense of their own putative constituents [Benjamin Sachs, On Labor, on Harris v. Quinn amicus]
  • “Alcoholism and the ADA: Not as clear-cut as you think” [Dan Wisniewski, HR Morning, on Crosby v. F.W. Webb Co.] “Playing golf and having sex are major life activities under the ADA” [Eric B. Meyer]

Pending ADA regulations menace Internet freedom

It’s potentially the biggest regulation in the federal pipeline that most people don’t know about — and it’s aimed straight at the freedom to publish of the Internet. I explain at Cato at Liberty. More: Coyote (“The implications could be staggering, and in certain scenarios would basically force me to certainly close down this site, and likely close down many of my business sites.”)

Disabled rights roundup

Free speech roundup

  • Alarms re: proposed new UK code to regulate press, both print and electronic [John O’Sullivan, Andrew Stuttaford] “Why we won’t sign the press-regulation Charter” [The Spectator: Nick Cohen]
  • Also from the UK: “Police investigate Conservative MP Tim Loughton for calling man ‘unkempt'” [Telegraph]
  • “Teenager arrested for tweeting rap lyric containing the word ‘homicide.'” [Ann Althouse]
  • “CNN Argues that Requiring Captioning of Web Videos Would Violate Free Speech” [Disability Law, Courthouse News; more on new web accessibility push]
  • Administrator at Yeshiva U. hires lawyer to get posts removed from prominent law blogs, Streisand Effect ensues [Scott Greenfield]
  • Philly Mayor Michael Nutter sends letter to city human relations commission demanding investigation of Philadelphia Magazine for publishing article he dislikes [Ken at Popehat, Hans Bader]

Settling disabled-rights complaint, Netflix agrees to 100% content captioning

Joe Mullin/Ars Technica and Prof. Bagenstos have details. Per the press release (PDF) of the jubilant plaintiffs:

Netflix has increased captioning for 90% of the hours viewed but is now committed to focusing on covering all titles by captioning 100% of all content by 2014. Captions can be displayed on a majority of the more than 1,000 devices on which the service is available.

Earlier here, here, here, and here.

Disabled rights roundup

  • Window office, transfer over more qualified candidates: “5 reasonable accommodations an employer never dreamed it would have to make” [Robin Shea]
  • Rep. Lungren [R-CA] introduces ADA notification bill [Elk Grove Citizen, House Judiciary hearing]
  • 2nd Circuit: NYC doesn’t have to make taxis disabled-accessible [NY Mag, NYDN, William Goren, earlier]
  • More on the Netflix captioning ruling from Julian Sanchez and Doug Mataconis [earlier]. “I am so sick and tired of hearing people like Olson … the Walter Olsons of the world” writes Ellen Seidman [Parents mag] Don’t let her hear what Eric Goldman said.
  • Report: 86 California Burger King outlets to pay $19 million to settle complaints on ADA accessibility [Sam Bagenstos]
  • Service animals on planes: when pigs fly [Amy Alkon via James Taranto] S.D. Fla.: “Fair Housing Act Requires Allowing Emotional Support Animals as a Reasonable Accommodation” [Bagenstos]
  • Cuttino Mobley loses doc-wouldn’t-let-me-play disability suit against New York Knicks [Alex Raskin, NJ.com, earlier]