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Proposed ADA Requirements May Affect Public Internet Use 420

Posted by Soulskill
from the allocating-the-best-e-parking-spots dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Associated Press is reporting on federal officials who want to expand the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to require accommodations by public websites, call centers, and technology providers. Hearings are scheduled in Chicago, Washington, and San Francisco. New rules could be implemented as soon as 2012. 'For more than a decade, the Justice Department has interpreted the ADA to apply to websites that offer goods and services. But now that idea could be clarified, and timetables for compliance could be set. ... The Justice Department is considering making it clear that some personal, noncommercial content would not be affected.'"
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Proposed ADA Requirements May Affect Public Internet Use

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  • Fine with me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday November 15, 2010 @08:46PM (#34237606) Homepage Journal

    I use a content management system which, if it does not already implement alt tags for all images, can be easily coaxed to do so. And I use (so far as I am able) standards-compliant markup, so this is not going to affect me.

    It's even long been possible to have accessible flash. So what's the problem exactly? It's not like the web would lose anything but dead weight...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shados (741919)

      That it takes a LOOOOOOOOOT more than a few alt tags, standard compliant markup and Flash that can be screen scraped to be ADA compliant. Its a freagin nightmare, and a lot of people who think they are compliant, are not, unless their web site is EXTREMELY simple.

      For all practical purpose, its impossible to ACTUALLY be compliant. They're just a bit soft over it...

      • Re:Fine with me (Score:4, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday November 15, 2010 @08:58PM (#34237726) Homepage Journal

        For all practical purpose, its impossible to ACTUALLY be compliant. They're just a bit soft over it...

        How hard is it to use HTML and CSS the way they were meant to be used, and to provide alternative content? Sorry, not buying this one at all.

        • How hard is it to use HTML and CSS the way they were meant to be used

          It's really easy. Problem is, they weren't designed with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in mind.

        • by icebike (68054)

          HTML and CSS can not accomplish what the ADA is demanding.

          Think about screen reader technology for the blind. Today even the best of these can not even handle a mildly complex page. I've tried them out at a friends house. They are crap.

          But it doesn't stop at your content. You are also responsible for all the advertising on your site, even when you don't create that advertising. Why should you serve a page without advertising to the blind? If that's how you make money for your site, you need to serve t

          • by fotbr (855184)

            If enforced to the letter, this serves only to drive most product advertising and support services off the web, shut down thousands of hobby sites, and shutter eCommerce.

            I think it's more likely to push most of it (at least the product advertising and support, and ecommerce -- hobby sites are probably screwed) to shell companies and hosting solutions overseas.

          • Re:Fine with me (Score:5, Insightful)

            by forkazoo (138186) <wrosecrans&gmail,com> on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:31PM (#34237962) Homepage

            HTML and CSS can not accomplish what the ADA is demanding.

            Think about screen reader technology for the blind. Today even the best of these can not even handle a mildly complex page. I've tried them out at a friends house.

            So, people will be encouraged to stop making needlessly overcomplicated sites. It sounds like nothing of value will be lost.

            They are crap.

            Assuming you mean the sites that don't work well when spoken, then yes. Assuming you mean the readers, then I disagree.

            But it doesn't stop at your content. You are also responsible for all the advertising on your site, even when you don't create that advertising. Why should you serve a page without advertising to the blind? If that's how you make money for your site, you need to serve the ads to everyone.

            How do you serve music to the deaf? Hmmm mmmm dum de dumm ta ta de da mmmm de mmmm?

            And how do you serve online game content to the guy typing with his one hand, or his feet.

            If you think this is easy, why don't you try it. The tools don't yet exist to do this in any economical way. If enforced to the letter, this serves only to drive most product advertising and support services off the web, shut down thousands of hobby sites, and shutter eCommerce.

            I doubt you'll actually get many complaints for lack of advertising, especially considering that isn't really your "content." I've never heard of an ADA case where a blind person complained that they couldn't read a posted advertising flyer on a bulletin board in a store. If it does mean that the horrible chain of dozens of domains and layers of Javascript for ads has to go away so you just serve your ads yourself, meh. I'm still having trouble finding a lot of problems with this. You serve music to the deaf the same way you do everybody else. They just won't listen to it. Wall-Mart sells music on CD's. Deaf people are allowed to buy them. WalMart doesn't have to have employees to interpretive dance on command for deaf people who want to buy a CD but can't hear it. How do you serve content to the guy with one hand? Same way as everybody else. He'll probably just suck at league play against people who can push more buttons faster.

            ADA compliance isn't about making every cripple get to win the Super Bowl, and every blind person win an Academy award for cinematography. It's about making minimal reasonable accommodations so that a person can live their life to the extent that is sensible. The government is involved, so there will probably be a few inane edge cases, but the basic principle here seems sound.

        • provide alternative content

          that can be fucking expensive

        • Well, as a GWT developer, I don't write much of any HTML or CSS. I do my best to keep most of those details abstracted away from me. But I know most of it isn't HTML at all, but is done by editing DOM objects. So I don't really know if I'm using anything "as it was intended to be used".

          Every browser that you add support for adds cost, and the less mainstream, the worse it is. Hell, just supporting all of the IE versions is a huge pain in the ass. You really think it's cheap to cater to screen readers?

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Being a web Accessibility expert myself. It is a lot more work then people think for certain multimedia content. However everything else is not as difficult as many make it out to be. But, it does take time and understanding. It also means you have to do things correct.

          Always provide alternative content for media that is not purely decoration. This means stupid little hacks like placing text into a background is a incorrect. you can get around this by using a invisible pixel with the correct alternative lan

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Tom (822)

          How hard is it to use HTML and CSS the way they were meant to be used, and to provide alternative content? Sorry, not buying this one at all.

          Kid, I started doing this HTML stuff when there was no such thing as CSS, and HTML pages were built in a text editor and optimized for 14k modem connections.

          Yes, in those times it was easy, since the content was largely linear.

          Today, I have tabbed websites which exchange the content of their tabs on-demand through AJAX calls. I have no friggin idea what a screenreader will do with that, and if they all behave the same way. Yes, I could find out. No, I don't see it as my responsibility to do so. How about ma

      • Re:Fine with me (Score:5, Interesting)

        by euphemistic (1850880) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:18PM (#34237866)
        This is what I thought until I did have to actually make standards compliant websites. I'm a web designer/developer for a government dept (not in the US though), and they require all websites and content to be accessible to those with disabilities and in regional areas with extremely low-bandwidth connections. I thought this would be hard, but making something standards compliant is really just a matter of checking a few extra things here and there, and adding a couple of extra features here and there, that's all it takes. It is actually less tedious and time-consuming than making a site work consistently across browsers. Got a video or audio file? Subtitle it or add a document which has a transcription. That's the hearing impaired taken care of. Low bandwidth audience? Compress those images and use them sparingly. Visually impaired? Make sure your designs have good text-background contrast, maybe add a text size changer in the website, and that's the low-level guys taken care of. For the completely blind, you just have to make sure your alt tags are in there, your CSS isn't a cryptic/poorly constructed clusterfuck and things are intuitively labelled.

        Only problem I have is that I have to buy a license for JAWS so I can test out my stuff on it; otherwise i use NVDA (open source & free download) just to make sure it's basically good.
        • by Obfuscant (592200)
          Got a video or audio file? Subtitle it or add a document which has a transcription.

          I deal with image data. Pictures. Automatically taken, from many places many times a day. If I have to "add a document" describing each picture I would have no time to eat or sleep anymore.

    • by osgeek (239988)

      Here's the quick ref for WCAG 2.0 [w3.org]. I'm helping a client to become conformant. It's a pain just to read through the quick ref. It's a lot more than just alt tags.

    • This is a huge project, and in many cases from what I've seen, even sites that are compliant are not that useable. It's not that you shouldn't make your site accessible, more customers = more money, right? It's that the "experts" that write these regulations are lawyers and bureaucrats that typically know fuck all about the industry they are regulating from a practical point of view, and are often driven by experts who have skin in the game.

      I also take issue with some of the points in the article.:

      Firstly

    • And when you're a small hardware store that has nothing but "www.dinkypooshardware.com" with directions to your store and maybe a phone number... then some ambulance chaser sues you for being non-compliant? There are clear cases of this already happening in the real world, this will just make it possible to script the lawsuits. The money spent by corporations to come into compliance with new laws would be better spent developing technologies and cures that would negate the need for specialized content (i.e.
  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Monday November 15, 2010 @08:48PM (#34237634)

    ...but I don't think most businesses (or most people, generally) have anything to object to here. What's likely to make people anxious about changes to the ADA is uncertainty over what those changes will involve.

    As a web developer, my main concern is just knowing what I'll have to do or do differently. It would be helpful if articles like this -- or their summaries -- provided links to the proposed guidelines. Personally, I'd prefer to get a head start on this so that my clients and I don't end up rushing to implement changes as the last moment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by homer_s (799572)
      "What's likely to make people anxious about changes to the ADA is uncertainty over what those changes will involve."

      Not to mention the possibility of large fines when my (commercial) websites aren't compliant with some obscure requirement in the new guidelines. And the cost involved in me dropping the 10 other things I'm doing to read the guidelines, check all my websites, make sure they're compliant or if they're not, spend time and money to fix them.

      So, no, my anxiety is not just about "uncertaint
      • Not to mention the possibility of large fines when my (commercial) websites aren't compliant with some obscure requirement in the new guidelines.

        As the fines and penalties becomes stiffer and the rules become more complex and difficult, will we end up with ADA trolls who find ADA issues and then either offer "remediation consulting services" or an anonymous phone call to whoever enforces the ADA?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      ...but I don't think most businesses (or most people, generally) have anything to object to here. What's likely to make people anxious about changes to the ADA is uncertainty over what those changes will involve.

      As a web developer, my main concern is just knowing what I'll have to do or do differently. It would be helpful if articles like this -- or their summaries -- provided links to the proposed guidelines. Personally, I'd prefer to get a head start on this so that my clients and I don't end up rushing to implement changes as the last moment.

      Here you go: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/ [w3.org] WCAG 2.0 is what the upcoming revision to Section 508 is being based on.

    • SO now I have to host my Pink Ponies site in RUSSIA? Fan-fucking-tastic.
  • equality but I am sick of mandated equality. Let the market decide
    if store X does not want to cater to group Y (for whatever reason, infrastructure costs to accommodate group Y or simple dislike for group Y It should be the store owners prerogative.

    In this day and age, if people are THAT upset about it, they can organize boycotts until store X either changes, or goes under.

    here is a perfect example in NY

    smoking indoors is banned.... NOW I believe the store should have a right to dictate whether or n
    • by AuMatar (183847) on Monday November 15, 2010 @08:59PM (#34237744)

      The market will always decide for whatever's cheaper, and will bias itself to cheaper now even if that costs it money over the long run. Unless the question is "How do I maximize to reduce costs to the lowest level" where cost is a single variable of money, using a market based solution is NEVER the right answer.

      Equality is something that is not broken down into mere money. So a market based solution will never address it. That's why we have government- to protect those who don't have the power to do so themselves (in this case, the handicapped). That's what's called "civilization". And yes, it takes a government to enforce it.

      I do hope that they do this the right way though. Businesses under a certain size should be exempted, perhaps on a sliding scale due to the costs of implementing this. Also, mere presence of an ad or two should not make it commercial, unless those ads bring in sufficient revenue. Large organizations like Amazon, Google, WalMart, Target, etc should absolutely be required to be accessible. Small sites like my local pizza joint likely can't afford it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anrego (830717) *

        That's why we have government- to protect those who don't have the power to do so themselves (in this case, the handicapped).

        This is so depressingly true.

        Simply put.. it's not worth it financially to make your site accessible unless you are very large or sell certain niche products. For the vast majority of sites, the costs of making a site accessible (especially if you are required to rigidly follow some standard that you _know_ is gonna really suck and probably be counter to the purpose) are going to far outweigh any profits you reap from the handful of new visitors you bring in.

        It doesn't help that most technologies designed t

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        The market will always decide for whatever's cheaper, and will bias itself to cheaper now even if that costs it money over the long run.

        No, it will bias towards what's more profitable. If they were biased toward cheaper, Ferrari would be making 900cc tricycles, not V12 supercars.

        And, in this case, few companies lose enough money to people who can't access their web sites to cover the cost of the time taken to support them.

      • Large organizations like Amazon, Google, WalMart, Target, etc should absolutely be required to be accessible. Small sites like my local pizza joint likely can't afford it.

        Those small businesses most certainly can afford it. Your local pizza joint already has to comply with ADA laws at their physical presence (wheelchair accessible restrooms, etc.). Compared with the time and cost of complying with ADA at a physical location, altering the website of a local joint for ADA compliance is rather trivial.

      • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:50PM (#34238106) Journal

        ADA is itself a messed up system that doesn't make anything any better for most people, only adds to the cost of doing business often to the point of driving people out of business.

        Locally there is a lawyer and a "disabled" person who do nothing but sue anyone for anything that is not ADA compliant. Wheel chair ramp off by 1% ?? Rail bar off by 1", door not exactly right ... anything.

        All the guy does is drive around town suing people. It doesn't help the "disabled" it only helps the one guy, the and his own pocketbook. Meanwhile the cost he's adding to the businesses has put several out of business. Nice huh?

        And not one disabled person complained, not one had problems getting service because THAT is not the issue, the issue is "legal compliance" and getting whatever fixed doesn't stop the lawsuit, because it isn't a "fixit" type thing. So they sue, and get their pound of flesh. It is a racket.

        Guess what, being disabled sucks. We should try to help people as best we can, but when asshats like the one lawyer and the "disabled" guy he sues for come knocking on your door, don't come complaining to me.

        • by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @01:18AM (#34239180)

          San Francisco?

          In Architecture studio, they made us go around campus in a wheelchair for a day. It takes about 10 minutes to realize that there are stupid barriers put up that people with full mobility don't see every day. A 36" wide library aisle was a great lesson, after all the gawdawful ramps people put it, and one of my favorites, the curb cuts on the sidewalk that point into the center of an intersection.

          While the population in wheelchairs might (clearly doesn't) justify many of these measures, some of them make the world a better place-- gentle ramps make it easier with strollers and rolling luggage, wider aisles make it easier to see books/merchandise, and I am a fan of having the toilet an extra couple inches off the ground, and a little bit of elbow room in the stall.

          Other things make less sense or transfer hazards. The truncated domes on crosswalks pose a hazard to women in heels; many places are forced to dedicate too much parking to "universal access" stalls; and our society has developed an unnatural addiction to elevators. Small establishments (under 2,000 square feet) have a number of hurdles to overcome.

          Not quite sure NYC's "with assistance" solution is the right way to go, but there is room in the middle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ephemeriis (315124)

      Let the market decide

      The problem with letting the market decide is that the market does not decide responsibly.

      We have an FDA for a reason. Ever read The Jungle? You want to go back to eating floor sweepings in your sausage?

      The market is going to decide on what is cheapest and most profitable. If the market can get away with throwing together some tarpaper shack and calling it a storefront, it will. And then that shack falls on top of somebody because there were no building codes or safety regulations. And now somebody is

  • It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928) on Monday November 15, 2010 @08:49PM (#34237648)

    There are too many flashy (pun intended) websites without any secondary way of seeing them. A proper public website should be navigable with a screen reader. As "Web 2.0" has marched on, it has only gotten worse. Some are even so user hostile that even those wanting a bit of privacy without Flash or javascript enabled are simply locked out.

    Exceptions should be made for personal pages, but for organizations, governments, and commerce sites that deal with the public, there shouldn't be any excuse.

    --
    BMO

    • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SirGarlon (845873) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:21PM (#34237900)

      Exceptions should be made for personal pages, but for organizations, governments, and commerce sites that deal with the public, there shouldn't be any excuse.

      Well I kind of see the point of those who say the government shouldn't force private businesses to run their business a certain way. But I also see that that is the same argument of the manager who refused to serve black customers at the Woolworth's lunch counter.

      It boils down to the age-old questions: the conservative asks "what kind of government can we tolerate?" and the liberal asks "what kind of society do we want to be?"

      So I think you're going too far to say "there shouldn't be any excuse --" private property rights and general freedom from government interference are strong and valid arguments. On the other hand I don't want to turn back the clock to 1963, either. Life is better with civil rights legislation. It's easier to be proud to be an American. So I'm inclined to take your side and say to Web site operators, "suck it up, follow the law."

      I also think the government should be the first to implement its own usability requirements... stating with the Web site of the court that handed down this decision.

    • I'd settle for getting rid of websites that insist you use internet explorer version 6 or above. I mean, sure we all know how much better IE6 or above is than any other browser out there, and how if you use anything other than internet explorer, you're asking for identity theft...

  • 'Bout time? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jc42 (318812) on Monday November 15, 2010 @08:50PM (#34237656) Homepage Journal

    I've worked on a number of projects where we were explicitly ordered not to "waste our time" with anything that would help the disabled to use our web sites. There wasn't much we could do other than sneak in things that we thought the management wouldn't notice.

    Maybe it's time that people with more clout than us mere developers let the managers know that something a bit more, uh, civilised is expected of them.

    We can't do it on our own, even if we want to.

    (Actually, I'm currently doing some pro bono work for some nonprofits that involves making their web sites more accessible. A curious part of this is that they've mostly been persuaded by the growing number of people carrying a "smart phone", and it's getting through their heads that web pages forced to width=1200 or requiring javascript are limiting their audience. While we're at it, maybe we can sneak in even more stuff that helps the visually impaired, etc.)

    • Re:'Bout time? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SirGarlon (845873) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:08PM (#34237802)

      A curious part of this is that they've mostly been persuaded by the growing number of people carrying a "smart phone", and it's getting through their heads that web pages forced to width=1200 or requiring javascript are limiting their audience

      Amen, brother! I keep scratching my head over why certain Web sites are willing to shell out the cash to make a whole parallel "mobile" version, when what they really need is just a couple of different style sheets and some good engineering. That whole idea of separating content from layout, that seemed so quaint and idealistic back in 1995, actually makes sense in today's marketplace.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jc42 (318812)

        Yeah, well, I also keep pointing out to people that the original design of HTML was intended to make it easy to build documents that would be readable on a very wide range of screen sizes and shapes. This was done by "marking up" the document with hints to the rendering software about the structure of the document, so that the software could format it sensibly on whatever screen you had, or even with no screen for the visually impaired or for people (e.g., drivers and airplane pilots) whose eyes are busy e

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AK Marc (707885)
          With luck (and a bit of encouragement), maybe we can develop a new breed of designer whose aesthetic is based on clarity and comprehensibility for all, not just those with the best eyes and the biggest screens.

          Oh god, please. I hate when sites look good at one and only one resolution (whether 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, or any of the newer ones, though most coding to a specific size don't go above 1024x768). They are too narrow sometimes, and too wide others. Frames, tables, and everything else that ma
  • OK (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mrsteveman1 (1010381)

    How is this not a first amendment violation? If person X, or lets say even company Y doesn't want to make their articles/website/cartoons/jokes available in specific format, what right does the government have to come in and do anything about it?

    And why is this any sort of priority for the justice department? I have news for the feds, your airplane terrorist watchdogs are molesting children right now, find something more important to work on. Mkay?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheReaperD (937405)

      First off, you mixed apples and oranges. If person X wants to make a website that has a limited audience and exclude blind people, smart phones, etc. they may do so to a point. It sounds like this proposal takes that into account. However, if company Y wants to do the same thing, they can't. Companies do not get all the same rights as people. (And, in my opinion, this is a very good thing.) They have to abide by additional non-discrimination laws that include that they are not allowed to discriminate

      • Re:OK (Score:4, Insightful)

        by st0rmshad0w (412661) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:23PM (#34237920)

        My employer is publicly traded. I'm unaware of any rule/law/etc that requires us to produce braille product literature.

        Explain to me HOW a website with the same information is ANY different.

        • It's not - there doesn't exist any rule/law/etc that requires websites to produce blind accessible information.

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Actually, your wrong. Person X could be the company Y in it's entirety. What stops them now as the company and the person is one in the same? In fact, the vast majority of companies out there have less then ten employees and less then 1/10 of them are even traded publicly.

        I can see some severe constitutional issues here that go well beyond the concept of companies getting the same rights as people. This is because companies are little more then conglomerations of people acting in the same venture. They have

    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      I'm not certain whether product information qualifies as protected speech.
  • by beetle496 (677137) on Monday November 15, 2010 @08:57PM (#34237714) Homepage
    We already talked about this [slashdot.org]. The Chicago session mentioned in the summary already happened [federalregister.gov]. I tried to tell [slashdot.org] you about it.
  • something like that could force sites to finally make an alternative, html only version, at least for the sites where that have some meaning.
  • by pieisgood (841871)

    I'm stupid, for a just a millisecond I thought they were going to talk about the programming language and how they adapted it for mission critical SERVERS!

  • Im all for equal access and equal opportunity but something really needs to be done about the damn ADA Trolls and the lawyers that feed their "pursuit" of money in the name of equality. I have known of 3 small businesses here in my area that have been basically attacked over non compliance even though there really isn't any real guidance provided in how to comply. Two of the businesses just decided to shut down rather than deal with the legal fees, the other is still fighting after 3 years over non-compliance issues he wasn't even aware of until being sued. I don't think many intentionally want to be seen as discriminatory and most would go out of their way to accommodate as they could afford to but the way the ADA is presented now does nothing but create hostility along with compliance, if half the time and effort put into litigation and enforcement was put into education and assistance for smaller businesses to get compliant it would go along way to giving both sides of the issue what they need without the animosity.

  • You can't outsource a lot of those jobs brushing up sites to support the disabled. However, you could license third party controls that are developed overseas (but you still have to hire people to drop those controls in, and that's often plenty of work in and of itself). Anyway, if you have to update websites to support disabled users, that's a whole lot of work for a whole lot of people. Heck, even if you don't develop websites, there will be work supporting the new hardware needed to support voice and

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