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Government The Internet United States

Legislation To Make Web Devices Accessible To Disabled Users 274

Posted by Soulskill
from the we'll-tell-the-robotic-overlords-to-speak-up dept.
pgmrdlm writes "In an effort to make web devices accessible to the disabled, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (H.R. 3101), submitted by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 348 to 23. The related Senate bill has been introduced by Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR). Quoting Representative Markey's website: 'We've moved from Braille to Broadcast, from Broadband to the Blackberry. We've moved from spelling letters in someone's palm to the Palm Pilot. And we must make all of these devices accessible.' The Washington Post coverage notes, 'Some broadcasters put videos on the Internet with captions, but not all. That can make inaccessible everything from the political videos that are now common on the Web to pop culture clips that turn viral.' As someone who has 20/200 vision with my glasses on, I completely agree that the web has not been kind to individuals with various disabilities. But due to the size of the web, and the large number of different devices that access it, is it even possible to legislate something of this nature? Or should we rely on education and peer pressure on the various manufacturers?"
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Legislation To Make Web Devices Accessible To Disabled Users

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  • by jrumney (197329) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:07AM (#33273430) Homepage
    I've heard that some sites even actively prevent users from making use of techniques such as LARGE PRINT. To rub it in, they call this a lameness filter.
    • Re:Lameness filter (Score:4, Informative)

      by Haedrian (1676506) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:12AM (#33273452)

      I've heard that most browsers come with a zoom feature so you can get print as large as you want.

      • Re:Lameness filter (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PatrickThomson (712694) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:11AM (#33273684)

        The parent has an important point - accessibility is a two-pronged approach. Sometimes, it's appropriate to modify the world (Wheelchair Ramps, disabled bathrooms) and sometimes it's appropriate to rely on technology to help individual people (White canes, seeing-eye dogs). Mostly, they meet in the middle somewhere (hearing aid loops in cinemas are much less invasive than subtitling, and service most people with hearing difficulties). I think it's important not to get too carried away and actively hinder the lives of everyone in service of some token PC gesture that never gets used. Specifically, my office has retrofitted electric push-button door openers, which take several seconds per set of door on a very long corridor in a working environment fundamentally unsuited for wheelchair accessibility.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Sulphur (1548251)

        browsers zoom feature

        Try control with the mouse wheel.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by arth1 (260657)

        I've heard that most browsers come with a zoom feature so you can get print as large as you want.

        Zoom doesn't reflow text, so you end up having to scroll both horizontally and vertically. This can make the experience much less satisfying than if the text adjusted the size and reflowed.
        The problem is web "designers" who "design" pages for a certain resolution, DPI and eyesight.
        (And who seem to believe that everybody else are single-taskers who blow up their windows full screen too.)

    • Agreed. I tried posting in Braille, it says it looks too much like ascii art!
  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:12AM (#33273444) Homepage
    Let's see: www.govtrack.us is not accessible. markey.house.gov is Joomla, ugh, definitely not accessible. How about showing the rest of us how it should be done before heaping yet another economy-destroying law on the productive class?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by c0lo (1497653)

      Let's see: www.govtrack.us is not accessible. markey.house.gov is Joomla, ugh, definitely not accessible. How about showing the rest of us how it should be done [...]

      Thumb up on this one.

      [...] before heaping yet another economy-destroying law on the productive class?

      Thumbs and all the other fingers down on this one. What makes you believe that people with vision deficiency are non-productive?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What makes you believe he believes that? It's pretty obvious that "productive class" doesn't mean "as opposed to people with vision deficiency" but "as opposed to politicians".

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          What makes you believe he believes that? It's pretty obvious that "productive class" doesn't mean "as opposed to people with vision deficiency" but "as opposed to politicians".

          Because the way it's worded, I cannot exclude this meaning. But tell you what... I'd be happy to stand corrected by the original poster in this regard, as long as the intended meaning is non-ambiguously stated.

          And, while at that, I'd be also happy to hear how some extra work to be done to make some sites accessible can be economy destruction, mainly in a time when the unemployment in IT is not quite low.

          I'd be equally happy to ask apologies, would these apologies be necessary. What d'you think, is it fair

          • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:06AM (#33273670)

            If all media were required to be presented in all manner of forms so that anybody with any disability or who speaks any language could make use of it, everything would be extremely costly to create. that would be economic destruction, plain and simple.

            even if it would employ thousands of otherwise unemployed translators, it would be a huge expense for little benefit.

            should government websites be disabled-accessable? sure. public services? obviously.

            news websites? questionable.

            viral videos? christ, sometimes i wish i was disables so I COULDN'T be exposed to them...

            • by c0lo (1497653)

              If all media were required to be presented in all manner of forms so that anybody with any disability or who speaks any language could make use of it, everything would be extremely costly to create. that would be economic destruction, plain and simple.

              Does the bill require that "all media to be presented in all manner of forms so that anybody with any disability...."

              should government websites be disabled-accessable? sure. public services? obviously.

              Agreed.

              news websites? questionable.

              Maybe... I'd argue towards a positive answer.

              viral videos? christ, sometimes i wish i was disables so I COULDN'T be exposed to them...

              Sincerely empathize with you, however would you mind to check if the proposed bill asks to made them accessible as well?

            • > news websites? questionable.

              I disagree, and so does the Department of Justice! [federalregister.gov] Just as it is now settled law that their buildings must be accessible, soon it will be illegal for the websites of medium and large businesses to discriminate against people with disability. It is about time!

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by trickyD1ck (1313117)
            Where demand exists, web sites were made accessible already. Mandating accessibility is like building bridges to nowhere.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by demonlapin (527802)
            Let me guess, you're the guy who, when asked if he'd like chicken or steak, says "Yes"? There's no reference - none at all - to the visually deficient.

            As for economic destruction, check out "deadweight loss" and "broken windows fallacy" for reasons why government spending is not a panacea. Increased IT spending based on regulatory requirements necessarily means that the money that would have been spent on something that would build the core business is used to deal with regulation instead. Now, this mig
            • by c0lo (1497653)

              Let me guess, you're the guy who, when asked if he'd like chicken or steak, says "Yes"?

              Wrong guess.

              There's no reference - none at all - to the visually deficient.

              Apologies, I intended to say people with disabilities.

              Now, this might have sufficient societal benefit to be worth it, or it might not - but you have to look at costs, too.

              Cannot agree more. However from looking at the cost to economic destruction is a bit of a distance, isn't it?

              • by dlcarrol (712729) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:32AM (#33274052)
                Not really.

                His argument was pretty straightforward, and can be restated this way: every cost that is not intrinsic to the core business (especially, as was noted, in a time of general economic distress) necessarily reduces the overall viability of the business. If catering to those with disabilities were profitable to companies, they would already be doing it. Since they are not already doing it, we must conclude that either (a) it is not profitable and is, therefore, economic destruction or (b) an unrealized gold mine.

                For some company C, I'm sure that it will be (b) after they do some extensive capital improvements (just like the development of most real gold mines); for most companies, this will be a sinkhole.

                And yes, the same logic applies to the ADA. Yes, I think it is neat-o that ramps, door widths, and the like allow those with reduced mobility to access pretty much any place they want. Perhaps the blossoming of such is a sign of a moral and considerate society. But bringing it about via coercion and then pretending that kindness and brotherly love are overflowing at the city gates is a bit rich.

                • by hedwards (940851)
                  Right, but we're not talking about requiring the DMV to stock driver's regulation books in braille. This is really just an extension of the thinking that says "So what if you're unable to read you should've been born in an area where they'd teach you not bothering me now for literacy programs." The irony is that as much as the right whines about elitism, they're the worst in that respect.
          • OP here, the term is taken from the essay "The Productive Class and the American Aristocracy" [americanthinker.com]. It distinguishes those who create wealth and jobs -- as compared to those who not only create nothing, but actively despise the productive class for being who they are. "Aristocracies commonly prevent talented individuals from earning more wealth then their social betters, and today's progressive aristocracy runs true to form. Far from being the most talented individuals, its recruits are 'people whose most prom
      • Out of interest, has anyone ever done a study on whether the effort and money put into firstly creating the laws, secondly enforcing the laws, and thirdly coming into compliance with the laws has ever come anywhere near break even with regard to increased ability of the disabled back into the community? At which point does spending billions of dollars/pounds/euros/rubles on enabling our disadvantaged beyond that which life has given them no longer make any sense?
        • by c0lo (1497653)
          At each point stopping short before assisting someone as Stephen Hawking [wikipedia.org] is justifiable (in any sense: moral, economical, whatever)?
          • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice@gm a i l.com> on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:25AM (#33273766)
            I don't think Stephen Hawking regularly visits the pub around the corner from me, which is a listed building and had to spend tens of thousands of British Pounds putting in lifts and ramps, plus had multiple compliance inspections and certifications to handle. I don't think Stephen Hawkings regularly visited my old employer either, who had to spend thousands of British Pounds putting in a lift in its brand new office because they deigned to have an upper floor, while never having any employee or visitor who needed wheelchair access in the 8 years I worked there.

            You can quote the exception to me all you want, and Hawking is just that, but the normal every day experience for these laws is a significant burden on certain persons and companies for little gain. At which point does it actually become acceptable to say "Look, you are disabled, you are different, and its not worth the cost of doing this - how about we look at it differently and stop trying to pretend that you have the same advantages in life that we non-disabled enjoy?".

            I'm betting that last comment in the paragraph above is going to get me into hot water in this discussion...
            • by c0lo (1497653)

              At which point does it actually become acceptable to say "Look, you are disabled, you are different, [...] - how about we look at it differently and stop trying to pretend that you have the same advantages in life that we non-disabled enjoy?".

              Personally, agree with the first part. But there is a distance to infer that disabled people ask to be treated absolutely equal.

              ... and its not worth the cost of doing this...

              Cannot agree with that, on multiple grounds:

              1. as I said above, I don't think the people with disabilities ask to be treated equally. In most of the cases (that I know), they only want to be included within the limits of what can be made accessible to them. I know the case of a blind person that argued and obtained the right to be educated as a veterinary nurse even the professional
              • as I said above, I don't think the people with disabilities ask to be treated equally. In most of the cases (that I know), they only want to be included within the limits of what can be made accessible to them

                "Within the limits of what can be made accessible to them" is what we are discussing here - yes, that doorway can be widened, yes those steps can be turned into ramps, yes those flagstones can be evened out. But when it costs several thousand pounds to do it...? How many disabled customers do you need through that door in order for it to make financial sense?

                applying statistics to an individual case is never a good approach even when it comes to technical matters

                But its not individual cases, its practically every case I have come across.

                New build is easier to manage, but the cost of converting existing premis

                • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @07:01AM (#33274158) Journal

                  How many disabled customers do you need through that door in order for it to make financial sense?

                  Maybe fewer than you'd think. When I was a student, the choral society would go out for a few drinks after rehearsal each week. There were usually 10-20 of us, including one or two in wheelchairs. One of the local pubs didn't have wheelchair access, so we'd avoid it. They were only excluding one customer, but they were losing the business of 10-20 others. The same thing happens with restaurants that don't have a vegetarian option. They might only be excluding one member of a group, but it means that the entire group will eat somewhere else.

                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by AltairDusk (1757788)
                    Sometimes it's not workable even if they might get the money spent back eventually. There is a small cafe near me that has no tables inside, not because they don't want them but because if they put in tables they would be legally required to convert the cafe to be handicap-accessible. It's not that they don't want to make it accessible, they simply cannot afford the initial cost to do so. Substantial work would have to be done and while their revenue is enough to support the cafe it can't support the nee
                  • by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:52AM (#33276626)
                    They might only be excluding one member of a group, but it means that the entire group will eat somewhere else.

                    And so your point is that these business owners are simply too stupid to understand this? That it has never occurred to them that this might be an issue? And that only the wise Nanny State has the smarts to point this out?

                    Will the Wise Nanny State also help them with their business plan and accounting, and show them how they're better off losing a year's services of a couple of their staff so they can afford all of the legal, contractual, and business-interruption costs of remaking their establishment to accommodate a once-in-a-while customer that they'll have to now make sit around longer because they can't afford to pay as many staff for the year?

                    Here's an idea: If a business wants the public relations and warm-and-fuzzy benefits of giving up floor space, a second floor, and all sorts of other utility so that they can woo clients with wheelchairs, or movie-goers who are blind, etc., then let them decide it makes sense to do so. If you're right, and dozens of people will regularly skip a venue in favor of one that had re-made itself as friendly to every possible disability or lifestyle, and the lost revenue from losing that business actually matters to them and would pay for the added expenses ... why would you care? They'll take care of it themselves. And if all of that is true, and they can't be bothered, then ... why would you care? They'll lose business to someone else, right?

                    Your vegetable-eating example is especially spurious. There are all sorts of establishments that either cater exclusively to, or gladly make offerings to people who don't eat meat (or certain kinds of meat, or meat handled in certain ways, etc). This wasn't true decades ago. And ... look! No government intrusion required! The market addressed the issue, and did so creatively and competitively. There have neve been so many choices, in that way. If enough people convincinly show a business owner that the math is in favor of expensively re-tooling around a very small, infrequent demographic, then they'll act. If the math doesn't work, so be it.
                • by c0lo (1497653)

                  Meanwhile we have spent billions of dollars/pounds/whatever on compliance ...

                  Wow, some numbers
                  I'll let aside the request for quotation, and raise the following two questions on the topic of "limits":

                  1. Have you also considered how much you gained over the time for enabling some people with disabilities be (more) productive by their participation?
                  2. What about the cost that were saved in the men*hours of carers time?

                  How many disabled customers do you need through that door in order for it to make financial sense?

                  You mean: how many (peoples-with-disability) x (times-they-used-the-door) ? Because making a door larger doesn't happen everyday, but probably 1 or 2 people in a wheel-chair u

            • Well I would certainly hope its past the point of allowing people who have lost both legs access to a building and what ever facilities or opportunities for skilled technical labor held within.

              There are plenty of people with mobility related disabilities that are quite capable of doing most any job you can do in an office.

              Also, what cheap ass company doesn't put a lift (at minimum a cargo lift) into a "brand new" multilevel facility?

              • There are plenty of people with mobility related disabilities that are quite capable of doing most any job you can do in an office.

                That may be true. But the relevant question is whether the value of the work they perform is sufficient to offset the cost of accommodating their disability.

              • There are plenty of people with mobility related disabilities that are quite capable of doing most any job you can do in an office.

                Fine. So does the £10,000 cost of a lift really justify the chance to employ a £15,000 a year employee?

                Also, what cheap ass company doesn't put a lift (at minimum a cargo lift) into a "brand new" multilevel facility?

                I have no idea where you are from, but ten grand is not cheap, and its not a sum that a small to medium business can simply invest in something that shows little to no return, regardless of whether that premise is brand new or old. I can tell you now, that in the entire time of my employment at that place, the people that used it most were .... the smokers who worked on the top floor.

                • Fine. So does the £10,000 cost of a lift really justify the chance to employ a £15,000 a year employee?

                  Probably, yes. If the £10K is a one-off expense, over the lifetime of the building, then it's peanuts compared to the cost of the employee over the time of a building. The disabled employee only needs to be a few percent more productive than the next-most-qualified but able-bodied candidate for it to be worthwhile.

            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              As someone who had a sister recently pass away after living with long term disabilities, as well as having several family members with various disabilities, here is the way I always thought it should be: Things where you have to deal with them such as court, government services, utilities, and stores (kinda hard to live if you can't buy food or get in the pharmacy for your meds) should be handicapped accessible. Everything else should be up to the owner. If the owner wants to lose the business (which watchi

        • by muridae (966931) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:27AM (#33273774)

          It is not the government's job to create laws that enable people to 'be productive' or 'give back to the community'. If that were the case, they should be creating laws that force people to work, and allow our corporate overlords to control 100% of our spending, just to be certain we are being productive with our money. Should you not have access to clean water, simply because you post on /. when you should be working and giving back?* For that matter, someone who is dead can not complain, should the government spend any money on a trial for a murderer; or should the murderer just be allowed to go free, so they can work and give back?

          The government makes laws that, ideally, allow people to start on an equal footing and to prevent discrimination. The ADA has been used to say that a business open to the public can not say 'no wheelchairs', even by simply not providing a ramp, any more than they can say 'no blacks'. Now, we get to net devices. Computers have had the ability to display to braille pads, and make use of other devices, that allow it's user to make use of what senses and abilities they have. New devices are locking everything out, hiding behind the DMCA and 'OMG, piracy, think of the children' to prevent the owner of the device from making use of it if their needs are different. Manufacturers are quite capable of missing something simple, like audio cues for on screen text menus or white on blue text for the same menus. If it takes a law to get that changed, instead of just social pressure and an 'unexploited market', then fine by me. It will be unenforced, same as every other law on the books.

          *: friendly jab at your username.

          • I'm not sure how you jumped from 'enabling people to be productive' to 'forcing people to be productive' and still expected the rest of your argument to make sense, but it seems to have convinced the moderators. Have you thought of working for Fox News, or entering politics?
            • by muridae (966931)

              The post came across as the Rand-ian style government shouldn't 'enable' people to be any more productive than they could return to society. Included in that is an abject measure of the value of a person in a very real sense, not as an abstract actuarial statistic. I carried that down the slippery slope, and presented the issue that once you make government assistance a debt, real or implied, then everyone is going to be indebted to the government. If you want them measuring how indebted you are, based on t

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by couchslug (175151)

          "Out of interest, has anyone ever done a study on whether the effort and money put into firstly creating the laws, secondly enforcing the laws, and thirdly coming into compliance with the laws has ever come anywhere near break even with regard to increased ability of the disabled back into the community? "

          That was never the objective. The objective is to make everyone else pay to support disabled access no matter what the cost or actual situational necessity.

          The classic example I've seen was the Handicapped

    • by Davemania (580154)
      Thats right, legislations should have economy on top of the list, stuff like civil right and stuff like that should take a back sit because money is the most important factor in a legislation. The unfortunate can fend for themselves
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        One of those things, if you don't have an economy and it causes the numbers of "unfortunate" to rise to a critical mass, civil rights usually become the least of your worries.

      • If nobody has money, how are we going to take care of anyone?

      • by FrameRotBlues (1082971) <framerotbluesNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:20AM (#33273732) Homepage Journal
        You're totally trolling and I should be using my points to mod you down, but instead I'll provide a different outlook for your consideration.

        Many people in this country still access the internet using a dial-up 56K modem - many of _them_ are achieving only half that speed, due to physical distances and line quality. They cannot access many of the web's features in any kind of timely manner. However, I don't see a requirement in the bill for broadband access to be made available in gratis to all people regardless of creed, color, marital status or disability. In fact, providing any form of internet or multimedia access is not a requirement laid out anywhere in our laws. People of all disabilities still have to pay for their computers, pay for their internet access, and pay for everyday items to maintain their quality of life. So yes, money is a very important factor.

        Innovations in multimedia have been made by consumers spending money in that segment (aka Capitalism), not by the government requiring technology companies to make devices to service a minority. If there is a gaping hole in the way information and multimedia is distributed, you would think there would be companies trying to capitalize on providing services to that minority. Because that's [miracle-ear.com] the way [thescooterstore.com] it has worked [lenscrafters.com] in the past. The future [emotiv.com] is going that way too, on it's own. It does not need help from soon-to-be-outdated government bills.
        • by Davemania (580154)
          I don't even see the point about broadband access have anything to do with this, this is about the new web devices, the article stated itself that the industry body support parts of this law. Your free market libertarian approach isn't going to shield every segment of the society. I am not advocating that the government have to do everything but the original poster threw a general blanket of "economy-destroying" law on the productivity class. That is absurd.
        • by c0lo (1497653)

          It does not need help from soon-to-be-outdated government bills.

          Just to put the things in perspective: if the industry is so successful, why do you care of a bill that is going to be outdated soon? And how come such a bill would destroy the economy which is so successful in doing, on its own, what the bill asks ?
          Could it be that some (i.e. isolated and rather anecdotal cases) are used to construct an argumentation here?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by elrous0 (869638) *
        There is a big difference between demanding equal rights and demanding that everyone who isn't blind or deaf dumb their webpages down to the lowest common denominator because you have a shitty browser and/or a shitty reader. The more they push these laws, the more they go beyond simple things like "Include alt tags for images" or even "Include closed captioning for videos" and the more they get into "Make this page text-only and very plain, or ELSE!" Equal in the sense of Harrison Bergeron [wikipedia.org], isn't being equa
    • by c0lo (1497653)
      For those that ponder so much on the productive/social cost aspects, I invite you take some moments and think on the disability-vs-potential and investment-vs-cost. Hints
      1. making something accessible for the people with disabilities is an one-off investment (be it a wheel-chair access, a screen-reader or subtitling a movie)
      2. when it comes with "social cost", how much is gained by realizing the potential of disabled people that can/may now do something (not everything) a normal person do? How much is saved, in
  • by Psaakyrn (838406) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:22AM (#33273478)
    Just an off-thought: how do you make a web device (or anything else for that matter) accessible to a mute, blind, deaf, quadriplegic?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cappp (1822388)
      Well the House Bill states

      SEC. 104. ACCESS TO INTERNET-BASED SERVICES AND EQUIPMENT. (a) Title VII Amendment- Title VII of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), as amended by section 103, is further amended by adding at the end the following new sections:

      The Communications Act of 1934 [fcc.gov] (pdf) includes a section on catering to the disabled, which in turn specifically includes (Sec 713 on page 329)

      (3) a provider of video programming or program owner may petition the Commission for an exempt

      • by Psaakyrn (838406)
        Which doesn't answer anything. "Prior precedent" doesn't cater for anyone except the visually, keyboard-and-mouse-using capable after all.
        • by cappp (1822388)
          Yeah, and will demonstrate exactly how much is expected of companies. If caselaw shows that you don't have to invest a million into ensuring political broadcasts - a completely made up example incidentally - have closed-caption then it's reasonably to expect that MTV's The Hills app' isn't going to be found to be in violation if it lacks similar functionality. There is a huge body of law which has examined the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Communications Act, and in both cases reviewed the Reasonable
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rich0 (548339)

        They can look to prior precedent to determine how far exactly that is.

        Sounds like a great deal for accessibility consultants and lawyers!

        Pay us to help make you compliant, or pay your lawyers to try to prove your innocence. Or, most likely, do both...

      • The problem with the term undue burden is it can change depending on who is asked to determine it. Get an over zealous government bureaucrat or inventive lawyer and suddenly costs some businesses would see as burdensome are now portrayed as acts of unkindness or greed. There are lawyers and even some professional victims who will love these new rules. There is a story of a San Diego area lawyer who has filed over 1500 lawsuits since 93! He hires out severely disabled people to visit businesses he targe

    • by jamesh (87723)

      I've been working on a device which is capable of communicating with legislators, which it does via whacks to the head with a cardboard tube. 1 whack for yes, 64 for no, etc. While I don't advocate whacking mute blind deaf quadriplegic's on the head with anything I believe that my invention could be adapted to be more suitable for their use, with some funding.

      • I've been working on a device which is capable of communicating with legislators, which it does via whacks to the head with a cardboard tube. 1 whack for yes, 64 for no, etc.

        You've got the polarity reversed there, buddy. A 'no' vote on everything is the preferable base case.

    • Just an off-thought: how do you make a web device (or anything else for that matter) accessible to a mute, blind, deaf, quadriplegic?

      What, you don't care about the mute, blind, deaf, dyslexic quadriplegics? This is why we need the government to regulate people like you.

  • by Bogtha (906264) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:27AM (#33273498)

    The Disability Discrimination Act has been in effect here in the UK for years. Whenever I do work for a big company, there's usually an accessibility requirement in the brief somewhere. They started appearing not long after the DDA came into effect, and from talking to the clients, it's usually specifically due to this law.

    • by delinear (991444)
      I must be working for the wrong companies - hell I've even worked for government departments in the health sector and accessibility still seems to be universally ignored (in fact, in that instance I made sure while I was on board that the site was fully WCAG compliant - I was the only one internally pushing for this and the second I left they did a new deployment which failed on almost every point, yet they still left up their "WCAG compliant" self-congratulatory page), or it'll be something as primitive as
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by VJ42 (860241) *

      The Disability Discrimination Act has been in effect here in the UK for years. Whenever I do work for a big company, there's usually an accessibility requirement in the brief somewhere. They started appearing not long after the DDA came into effect, and from talking to the clients, it's usually specifically due to this law.

      Yep, it's worth pointing out that the DDA requires businesses to make "reasonable adjustments [dwp.gov.uk]" to allow disabled people access to anything their able-bodied counterparts can access - websites included. So ramps for wheelchairs, WCAG compliant websites etc. but there is no universal service obligation - if it's going to cost too much relative to size of business, or if it's plain impractical you don't have to do it. Having said that, many businesses totally forget their website should be accessible.

  • by chaboud (231590) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:38AM (#33273532) Homepage Journal

    This sort of inanity is comical, pointless, impossible, and laughable.

    This is akin to mandating braille on the Mona Lisa.

    The more nefarious thing is that such actions (like requiring closed-captioning on new shows online) can serve as an impediment to the publication of creative works (for fear of ADA-style lawsuits). Restrictions on presentation could also lead to limitations on new online presentation techniques.

    It's not like these things (like alt text) weren't already considered. Force all government agencies (as means of public access) to adopt these rules for their websites, but major search providers (and places like YouTube) are *way* ahead of the government on this one. Unlike quite a few other places that needed a nudge from the government, the private sector has already recognized the market value of serving impaired users.

    Specific restrictions are almost always going to lead to undesired side-effects. Chevy Volt drivers can't use HOV2 lanes solo but Toyota Prius drivers can? Whoops. Corn subsidies lead to a fatter nation? Sorry about that. HMO-friendly regs? Yeah, about that...

    Legislators are notoriously bad at actually knowing the details of the problem. Letting them call for specific remedies to perceived problems is perilous. Start small, with government sites, and see if we can merely catch up to the accessibility practices of leading internet companies.

    • This is akin to mandating braille on the Mona Lisa..

      Brilliant! With apologies to The Cramps, i would like to announce this as Some new kind of kink.

      She: "Do you want to hear a little bit about me?

      Me: "No, I'll just browse around your Braille tattoos a bit. . . . as soon as you take your clothes off . . . "

      Don't even think about googleing "Braille Tattoos" . . . the results are frightening . . .

    • Start small, with government sites, and see if we can merely catch up to the accessibility practices of leading internet companies.

      You mean it wasn't the Government who mandated Google develop Google Voice with voicemail transcription and voting to develop a massive bayesian classifier for voice recognition algorithms so that they could recognize the content of YouTube videos and sell ads alongside them?

      Really, you're suggesting profit motive drives innovation and the march of progress lifts all boats? It'

  • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:47AM (#33273560)

    The wish behind this is excellent, but the law had better be carefully drafted. For example, you could mandate that all videos should have subtitles or closed captions. Which, with respect to major broadcasters, would be reasonable. But are you going to force this onto everybody who posts a home video? Obviously not (I think). But now how do you draw the line between home videos, small semi-professional videos, and full-blown broadcasters? And is this likely to produce a de-facto censorship of overseas broadcasters.

    Why do you have to make all devices accessible? Does, for example, a waterproof phone designed for surfers/canoeists have to have features for the blind? While not saying the blind cannot surf, the population of blind surfers is pretty small, and they do not really need access to what seems at first glance a trivial gadget. The blind must not be locked off the Web - but they don't need it while canoeing.

    Put it the other way, do you have to make all web devices available to the non-disabled? Am I required to make a braille web-interpreter (a device) accessible to the sighted but braille-impaired?

    Will this effectively ban ultra-low-power long battery life devices which, for example, don't have speaker-phones and use e-paper without back lights, which are harder for this with impaired vision to use?

    So, while I applaud the idea, I fear the detail.

    • by scsirob (246572)

      If you are going to demand subtitles, can you please list which language(s) they should be in? What if a disabled person ends up on a Swedish or Japanese video site. Will the US sue them for not having English/Spanish subtitles? Or put up a Chinese-style firewall to keep these sites from being available in the US?

      As you say, the intent is good, but the execution is near impossible.

  • Great! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by damienl451 (841528) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:50AM (#33273582)

    Wonderful! Now Markey can show that he cares by spending other people's money and imposing time-consuming, expensive regulations on all of us.
    What's the point of requiring *all* VoIP phones to be hearing-aid compatible? It'll just make all phones more expensive for everyone, including those of us who don't need have hearing aids! It's not insensitive, it's just common sense; we don't mandate that all books be written in 20pt, we just allow publishers to sell both regular-print and large-print books! There are currently cheap VoIP phones that are not compatible with hearing aids and slightly more expensive VoIP phones that are. And it works just fine this way, the deaf can just use some of the $10 million that Markey wants to give them to purchase fancier phones!

    The same applies to screen readers for mobile devices. Some are already available, what about the radical notion that those who benefit from them should purchase them with their own money? Not everyone who is blind is poor and helpless and so destitute as to not be able to afford the spend $300 on software that, according to Markey, is indispensable to live a fulfilling life. And if these politicians feel generous, they should just donate a portion of their income to organizations that help the blind. They're wealthy enough that don't have to stick taxpayers with the bill when they're feeling generous.

    • And if these politicians feel generous, they should just donate a portion of their income to organizations that help the blind. They're wealthy enough that don't have to stick taxpayers with the bill when they're feeling generous.

      A politician's business model is about spending your money . . . and not his own's . . .

    • Now if you run a VoIP service you have to pay into the government fund to support TTY services. Also if you have a browser on your phone it has to have a built in screen reader or you have to provide a way for a cheap screen reader to run on it.
      http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-3101 [govtrack.us]

  • by jandersen (462034) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:11AM (#33273682)

    But due to the size of the web, and the large number of different devices that access it, is it even possible to legislate something of this nature? Or should we rely on education and peer pressure on the various manufacturers?

    It is always possible to pass legislation; some seem to pass it like they pass wind. Whether it is going to have any effect, let alone the intended effect, is always the big question.

    Education will have to be the way forward, but one has to be realistic - the web is to a great extent a visual medium, and much as one may sympathise with the plight of blind people, no amount of good intentions will make them see, and they are never going to experience the world exactly as a fully sighted person. And I don't think these exercises in "accessibility" are meant that way - the goal must be to make the resources on the web accessible enough that blind people are not unfairly excluded from the potential benefits, especially when it comes to public services (libraries, health care, etc)

  • I suggest anyone who has interest is seeing what is possible with universal access, check out the iOS's "VoiceOver" mode (triple-click by default in iOS4).

    VoiceOver speaks out loud whatever the sight-disabled user hovers over onscreen, then registers the choice via double-click. It's a tremendously effective system and I'm impressed at how universal it is throughout the iOS. Apple is doing some good work here that the rest of the industry would do well to pay close attention to

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:06AM (#33273928) Homepage

    The natural progression of egalitarianism will lead to this and then to people being punished for publishing content that is not accessible. Your little blog or mom and pop online store will get raked over the coals because it's a "public accommodation," and the argument will be that "sure, you have every right to speak your mind online, but you better make sure the blind and deaf can participate too."

    The DoJ recently shut down a trial program--a trial program--that let students use Kindles at several universities instead of buying text books. Their logic was that since Kindles have mediocre accessibility that prevents the blind from fully using them, the mere fact of offering the program is ipso facto discrimination.

    That logic didn't come out of nowhere. It is it the end state of egalitarianism: if we ALL can't do it, then no one can. It brings us down to the lowest common denominator. Instead of providing subsidies to Amazon or giving them the legal stink eye so they'd hurry up and make it happen, the DoJ simply shut it down under the pain of loss of liberty. That is the tyranny that awaits us if we give in in the name of "equality."

    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      The DoJ recently shut down a trial program--a trial program--that let students use Kindles at several universities instead of buying text books. Their logic was that since Kindles have mediocre accessibility that prevents the blind from fully using them, the mere fact of offering the program is ipso facto discrimination.

      I have to side with the DoJ on that one, chief. In case you have not been in a bookstore lately we are within about one decade of physical printing on paper ceasing altogether (except for

      • Unless there is some requirement for accessibility, blind people will be denied the ability to read, shut off from all education and employment. Are you OK with that, seriously?

        You probably have no idea how much your comment sounds like a hysterical parent screaming "will somebody please think of the children" right now...

      • Unless there is some requirement for accessibility, blind people will be denied the ability to read, shut off from all education and employment. Are you OK with that, seriously?

        Hold on a sec. Deep breath. You're not on Slashdot because you hate technology.

        Now, then, we're talking about an all-digital world. Where we have good text-to-speech software, better than Ray Kurzweil's reader from the 1970's. His device, and similar devices today, are mostly limited by the quality of OCR.

        By contrast, an all-digi

        • by SirGarlon (845873) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:47AM (#33275112)

          By contrast, an all-digital world is a dream for blind people who want to consume books. How much of a pain in the ass is it to have a home reader where you have to align pages of a physical book, turn them, etc. vs. having an iPod-form-factor device that can download most any book from Amazon?

          Well first of all text-to-speech is a lousy substitute for text, and if you don't believe that why don't you try it for a day.

          But that point aside, let's imagine there's a device that can read text and display Braille. Then let's imagine that all the publishers decide to publish their e-books in a format that no Braille display can read (say for DRM purposes, or to make them unreadable on a competitor's device, or because their layout people are too damned lazy to learn and apply open standards).

          That's the issue of accessibility.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

            OK, fine, I don't know which has a higher data rate, but if you say it's Braille, that's good enough for me. The input to a Braille reader or a text-to-speech reader is the same, letters (hrm, what do the blind do in iconographic locales?).

            So, defeating DRM is sufficient in both cases to make a commercial product. DRM can only exist when Government threatens violent action against those who would circumvent it. Remove the threat and DRM-defeats appear on the market.

    • That logic didn't come out of nowhere. It is it the end state of egalitarianism: if we ALL can't do it, then no one can.

      I'm working on an essay looking at egalitarianism as a societal form of OCD. I'd be interested in comments from the peanut gallery^W^W insightful Slashdot crowd.

    • by kingduct (144865)

      The Kindle is a bad example -- the Kindle program was shut down, but it is quite possible that a relatively small effort by Amazon could make the device totally acceptable -- the Kindle 2 already had a screen reader (it could read books out loud), all that was missing was something that read the menus out loud so that a blind person could actually use the device. In other words, it had all of the hardware capabilities and only needed a bit more software -- software that would be relatively simple compared t

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jodio (569370)

      Kurt Vonnegut wrote an excellent short story, "Harrison Bergeron", where this sort of legislation has been taken to an extreme. It can be found in his short story collection "Welcome to the Monkey House". Well worth the read, like most of Vonnegut's work.

  • ... is that I have to read with my eyes and key with my fingers, which so many newfangled devices can't handle.

  • I'm looking forward to the usual suspects coming forward with the "let the market sort it out" argument.

    Please?

    So we can follow up with suggestions as to how to create more disabled people so their number grows enough that they are an interesting market segment.

    After all, we don't need no stinkin' government regulation, do we? The market will sort it all out. Won't it?

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:39AM (#33274078) Journal

    ..I have put myself in their "shoes" many times, to understand the difficulties they have in using various household electronics and gadgets, and of course, software and websites. My experience has been that all those devices that are usable by blind/visually impaired people, are also more pleasant and easier to use for able-bodied people. I have never met an exception to this rule. Hideous flash-encumbered websites are the direct opposite of accessible, and we all hate them.

    A website does not have to be specifically made for a blind person - it just has to be text-readable instead of being a big blob of graphics, un-parsable by the various reader softwares available to blind people, be it voice or Braille.

  • The Constitutional "lever" for the FCC has always been the perceived scarcity of the airwaves, necessitating spectrum control and licensing and thus a certain power over broadcasts over transmitters licensed under that authority.

    Where is the Constitutional "lever" here, given the First Amendment ? In the case of Cable TV (from the FCC Cable TV Fact sheet [fcc.gov] web site) this authority was extended :

    The Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's jurisdiction over cable in United States v. Southwestern Cable Co., 392

  • ... I think it's great that these things exist, but does every devices have to be supported? WHy not just do the popular ones and dedicated ones? I also noticed they can be very expensive too if having to pay for them too. :(

  • We do need laws to stop DRM from killing screen readers and other text to speech stuff.

  • If there's a need for a disabled-friendly Blackberry or iPhone or whatever ... wouldn't the market invent one and sell it? Why should ALL of us pay for features we neither need nor want?

    I see no disabled-friendly footballs out there. Nor hand grenades. Nor microscopes. Nor National Match quality .22 caliber rifles. Nor Porsche race cars. Perhaps might there be things the disabled should NOT be doing? Like trying to see ANYTHING on a tiny little screen, trying to punch tiny little keys and buttons?

    As

  • Government + gov affiliated + gov contracted sites should have a legal mandate to provide minimal accessibility. Other sites should get peer pressure. Paying to have good free tools developed to make this trivially easy to set up for private companies will probably be the most effective route though.
  • MORON?

    Seriously, could he have picked more unrelated technologies?

    We've moved from Braille to Broadcast, from Broadband to the Blackberry. We've moved from spelling letters in someone's palm to the Palm Pilot.

    What does braille have to do with broadcasting?
    What does broadband have to do with blackberry?
    What does......what the hell is he talking about "spelling letters in someone's palm"...Helen Keller? And what does that have to do with Palm Pilots?

    This guy is talking out the side of his neck (where the words don't pass through the brain first). He's comparing apples and butterflies here! Perhaps he's trying to get a handle on all this technolog

  • by russotto (537200) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:25AM (#33276234) Journal

    Require that all forms of public expression be accessible to the blind, deaf, and otherwise impaired, and you raise the cost of entry of doing such to the point that most people won't find it practical any more. How many youtube videos would disappear if their creator had to caption them? How many web pages would go away if they had to be accessible to the blind?

  • by beetle496 (677137) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:54AM (#33276662) Homepage
    The FCC has a call for public comment [federalregister.gov] on this topic.

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