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Blind Sue AOL for ADA Non-Compliance 544

Posted by michael
from the should-the-internet-have-wheelchair-ramps? dept.
Aaron M. Renn writes "A group is filing a lawsuit against AOL claiming that site is not accessible to the blind. If successful, this lawsuit could subject almost every website (and certainly every commercial one) to massive government regulation for disability access." The ADA only applies to businesses, so there's no chance you'll have to make your personal site accessible if you don't want to. Rules requiring government agencies to make their websites accessible are now being drafted as well... Good website design generally suggests that it should be accessible to as many people as possible; why can't AOL use ALT tags?
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Blind Sue AOL for ADA Non-Compliance

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    For reasons I shouldn't go into in detail here, because they're personal, I use Lynx with shareware offline viewers running with a shell account on a 386/16 (8//52 MB) at home. Extremely few Web sites (SSC is a happy exception iirc) allow for non-frames browsers with any degree of courtesy. (When you stop to think of it, isn't it the epitome of stupidity to ask "non-frames" visitors to a commercial site to *leave* the site, just so they can stop their looking at the sales pitches, to take a few hours to download a browser (and maybe crash their machine in the process) so they can see the pretty graphics? This is contrary *in the extreme* to basic rules of salesmanship!!)

    I have become, without really intending to, an advocate for the handicapped, perhaps partly because I've been working poor since 1991 and was all but forced to retire early because of very-common age prejudice. This has made me send a fair amount of commentary to many different Web sites about their inaccessibility to The Rest Of Us. I collected some URLs to help Web page designers get a few clues. Surprisingly, one who not only got clues, but started redesigning, found (in his opinion) most Web validators to return with "gibberish" (if I recall his comments right). He also wasn't impressed with Lynx documentation on the Web; he might not have known where to look. (Query from uninformed Web page designer: "How do you write in Lynx?" (as if Lynx had its own language!))

    Our society is splitting (not down the middle!) into the very well-to-do and The Rest of Us. I feel I'm definitely one of the latter, and try not to be resentful or have a (wood) chip on my shoulder. (Si would be a different matter.) Nevertheless, I do feel rather peeved when effectively slapped in the face by some more bad Web design.

    This lawsuit is welcome, to me, because it will call attention to the inaccessibility of many Web sites, or should!

    One startling example of misapplication of the ADA is that new cabins built on the Appalachian Trail were required to be built with handicapped-accessible rest rooms! No matter that there are miles of the Trail from the nearest wheelchair-accessible point; Absurdity Rules! Sorry if I ramble. Really wanted to blow off some steam about this. Too big a sleep debt to write better comments.

    Nicholas Bodley // nbodley@tiac.net

    Midnight hacker in 1960 (BMEWS, Colo. Springs); Philco 2000 assembly-lang. programmer, 1961; mechanical analog computer technician, mid-1950s

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Only a few voices here are saying "fuckthe blind" More of them, if you were actualy read the posts, were saying "You cant legislate my web site" FORCING everyone to confrom to ONE SET OF RULES is what the creative force of the net is NOT ABOUT. Who the hell are you to DICTATE that everyone conform to your verison of "proper" web design. You are as bad if not worse than the "web designers" you rant against. Your goverment mindset of "lets legislate everything to conform to the ONE TRUE TEMPLATE" is what breeds bland sameness. Goverment employees are prime examples of this. They are not hired or rewarded on merit, the whole GS grade system is set up on Time Put In. A warm body thats does a bad job for years gets to rise above folks who actualy know waht they are doing. Following set procedures and letting your creativity be ruled by Standards and Practices groups is the very thing that is making the net CRAP. Those "web designers" you rant against are simply , blindly, following another set of "Templated Rules" while you seem ready to follow another. Your both a bunch of zombies. Wake up and think for yourselves.
  • by hadron (139)
    No. The web is not a visual media. Sorry to break your little delusion there. Some people have twisted it a lot to try and make it one, sadly.
  • I just want to point out that if you use ad banners (a thoroughly dispicable practice, IMO) on your personal site, it might indeed count as "commercial". I link to Amazon through their associates program. Am I commerical too? Who knows.
  • The blind suffer and so are beyond criticism. Anyone who does so much be a heartless bastard or a bigot. Blah, blah, blah.

    And yes, my web site is just about the most blind friendly one there can be. 99% of it is just black text on a white background.
  • It's too bad for your theory that the percentage of people with serious disabilities who are working has actually declined slightly since the passage of the ADA.

    The idea behind the ADA is a good one, the implementation flawed. The gov't classifies over 40 million people as disabled, which is clearly a joke and which makes light of people with real disabilities: the paralyzed, those with missing limbs, the blind and deaf.

    As a compassionate society, we should want to care for the less fortunate. As it works out, the ADA has mostly been for whiny people without bona fide disabilities suing over their sex addiction and stuff. While few of these prevail at trial, the cost of litigation is substantial. Often it's cheaper to settle.

    And let's face it, money spent by private businesses to meet ADA mandates is a tax. If the gov't had passed a multi-billion income tax increase to fund wheelchair ramps, elevators, etc, there would have been a revolt. But by simply mandating that businesses pay for it, people never knew what hit them. We should be honest about the real costs this program to the taxpayer.

    My solution:

    - Restrict ADA to bona fide disabilities
    - Make sure it is presented as charity, not as a matter of civil rights.
    - Apply some realistic benefit/cost tests
    - Focus on the actual needs of the disabled, versus BS technical and legal requirements.
  • OK- I won't actually do a haughty rant pretending to _believe_ that caption, I think it is as indefensible as the one it parodies- but dig it- most of the browsers out there _are_ IE, and guess what? Most of the ones that aren't are still Windows! If you (we) linux people seriously expect that you can scorn a little faction, a relatively rare special interest group just because you don't feel like making even a pretense at an effort- well, quick karma will do you in faster than you would believe possible, and who's going to speak up for you when non-Windows users are not allowed to vote or have bank accounts because all is computerised and minorities are inconvenient? Who do you expect will help you- ADA? Better get a grip on what democracy really is before you're run over yourself.
  • The spoken word came first, and you use it yourself, I bet. Forget this obsession with the primacy of visual text, it is nothing more than a weak paraphrasing of all the expressions, overtones and richness of the spoken word- to which a blind person might be considerably more sensitive than you are, making you the crippled one.
    Text is nothing. Written language is a cheap hack- anything expressible in it can be expressed with the spoken word, which was around first, and continues to see more use on a daily basis.
    _You_ are behaving like a loony. Perhaps you might consider not behaving that way.
  • When lynx users can browse anything again. Slashdot does well, as does CNN, but beyond those, a *lot* of the net is gone today (at work at the Univ. of Kansas, 100 metres from where lynx was written)
  • Ever since netscape 1.1 brought about many pages that were useless to me (a lynx user) I've wanted to get a blind person to go to that site and sue. I don't know anyone who is blind well enough to work with them on this, but I've wanted to.

    In the end I won't link sites that are not lynx accessable. (Unless they are "My favoirte pictures", or user friendly type things where the pictures are the reason to visit. Come to think of it though, many of those sites are more lynx friendly then others. (Dilbert is very lynx friendly, if you have enough site to load the graphcis you care to see)

    Fortunatly /. has always been lynx friendly, and theirfore blind friendly.

  • No thanks, I only smoke baboons!

    (Hey, given my alias, I *have* to participate in this thread...)

    "Only two more days to the fort. I can just see the look on Major fFolkes's face now."
    "My, you've got damned good eyesight!"
  • there is just a LITTLE differnce between the making the net usable to a blind person and making visual art enjoyable to a blind person.

    Note that you could make a bas-relief style engraving of the picture, and by touching that the blind could get some sense of the paintings.
  • I wouldn't mind seeing some more readable corporate sites. I remember when Netscape 1.1 came out, and I started seeing pages that weren't readable by *sighted* people (lousy backgrounds and textcolors) let alone the blind. More ALT tags would be good, and maybe a little bit more explanation in places. I like to know what I'm clicking sometimes.

    However, this shouldn't be legislated, no one should get sued over bad web design. How hard is it to be courteous and make a text-only version, or to design your page correctly from the start?

    No, what happens now is, people avoid badly designed or ugly sites. That's good enough for me. I've gotten complements on my ALT tags from people who browse the site I maintain. All of the graphics don't translate well, but I've made an effort to see that the site isn't incomprehensible or mindlessly repetitive without them. It isn't that hard to do, if you design it with that in mind from the start.
    ---
    pb Reply rather than vaguely moderate me.
  • ATMs (at least in the US) use a standard menu structure and the same configuration of buttons.

    Not so.

    I've been to 3 ATMs in the last 2 days. All of them had different screens and a different menu layout. I don't see how a blind person could deal with this without having someone read the menu for them.

  • On the ones I used, the confirm/cancel buttons were done correctly, but the transaction type screens were different and one of them had an extra screen before the transaction type. Do the ATMs up north prompt you for English/Spanish text?

  • I guess that rules out any kind of national standard ATM menu interface.

  • Username: slashdot-wizard Password: slashdot
  • I've just read through most of the reponses here, and people don't seem to get it.

    The ADA are not making an issue about web site design, the web browser or the OS.

    Their point is that the PROPRIETARY AOL inferface is so badly designed that it doesn't support "accessability" options, even if they're built in to the OS.

    How ever much you may hate MS, the current OSs support a variety of "accessability" options (high contrast colour schemes, huge fonts, "stickey" Alt and Ctrl, text-to-speech) which mean that every app written properly will be usable by our less-than-able brethren. Even most web sites are OK, as these benfits filter down through the browser (even Netscape).


  • ...it's about the crappy proprietary (closed source) AOL interface, which doesn't support the "accessability" options of the OS.
  • All good points, and HTML design habits definitely shouldn't be legislated, however bad they may be. Does this whole thing sould like political correctness to anyone?

    You're not handicapped or crippled, you're physically/mobility challenged. You're not retarded, you're mentally challanged. You're not blind, you're visiually impaired.

    Part and parcel of this philosophy is the belief that 'challenged' people should be able to, want to, or even HAVE to lead normal lives.

    If you're blind, you just have to accept that you're different and have limited abilities and there are certain things you just can't do! And should you happen upon a website you can't read because it has no alt tags, you don't sue the webmaster. You leave and go elsewhere.

    If I visit a page with broken HTML that prevents it from rendering at all, I don't hit the speed-dial to my lawyer and start litigation, I go somewhere else and don't come back.

    It's very simple. This story just boggles my mind and makes a farce out of the legal system.

  • Your page uses tables for layout, uses semantically meaningless elements like FONT, B and I. Hardly black text on white background (I wonder what happens when someone decides to use white text instead and your page just specifies white background). Btw, black text on white background doesn't provide any meaning to the text. That is what HTML is for.

    Govt legislation is never good. Doesn't change the fact that most of the "web designers" out there are immoral bastards.

    Too bad people can't get out of there eye candy world and see what the WWW could've been and see that the ones that could've benefitted the most from this 'revolution' were the disabled. Now the eye candy idiots do their best to prevent it.

    Well I just feel utter contempt for all you out there that can't even try to use HTML properly.

    /mill
  • No, why should anyone care about anyone. Heck, lets leave bikes in front of every door and not hold the door for old people. Or why should I care about that kid that lost sight of his mom in the crowd on the subway. Handicap parking lots? I don't need them!

    These people shouldn't even be on the internet. People, btw, are they even _real_ people?

    /mill *sigh*
  • I thought about that one, long and hard, and decided that it's not as insane as it first appears.

    First, if the car is foreign, the passanger can then use the ATM, even if blind. (Don't assume EVERY car on US roads has the steering wheel on the same side.)

    Second, what happens if a blind person wants to get cash, after dark? If the bank's closed, the 24-hour ATMs are the only place they can go, and the drive-through's are easily foot-accessible.

    As for software interfaces - the interface SHOULD be seperate from the background work. That is good design, aids testing and improves portability. Whilst shoddy coding isn't a hanging offence, yet (just wait until the year 2000, and nothing happens), if the disabled wish to sue manufacturers over programming stupidities, more power to them! I've NO objection to software companies being forced, one way or another, to produce code of merchantile quality.

  • I believe there are "speaking books" which can scan physical books, and translate them into speech.

    Whilst you -can- get speech synthesisers for computers, which can "read" web pages, these won't work on web pages which are largely graphical with no meaningful ALT tags. As a -lot- of web pages put text into GIFs and JPEGs, even the best such package is going to barf out completely.

  • by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Thursday November 04, 1999 @09:57AM (#1562826) Homepage Journal
    Never mind "Political Correctness", or whatever, let's look at the -real- issues here.

    The blind, and (for that matter) the sighted are being bombarded with web-pages which are over-graphical and for which there is NO alternative. This puts a strain on the networks as well as our eyes, and therefore on our pockets.

    (Who pays for the Internet? Not the corporations, but the end-users. The fatter the pipe they need, the more comes out of your pockets, in corporate tax. Not directly, but through other products you use. You'll never be able to trace it.)

    The totally blind use speech synthesisers. Not a problem, where ALT tags are used, and text pages are available.

    The partially-sighted may use speech synthesisers, but probably just use larger default fonts. Not a problem, if the page doesn't grab control and use microscopic text on a clashing background.

    The "average"-sighted can see the page "clearly", except when it's green text on a yellow background.

    "So, avoid those who don't use good designs!" you say. Not so easy. In an increasingly digital world, you can't even pay your bills by going to the store anymore! It's all centralised. (A bit stupid, as computers allow decentralisation! But, that's what you get for living in a world full of idiots.)

    So, the only realistic way to pay is by post or computer. Post is unreliable - missing, stolen or fire-bombed mail is not unusual, and berserk postal workers aren't merely an urban legend.

    That leaves computer. So, you go to the website for your phone company, or the IRS, or whoever. Their site is utterly illegible, badly organised, and impossible to follow. You can't pick and choose who you pay - it's not like you get to use the services and then opt to give your money to someone else.

    If the sites aren't usable by the blind, near-blind, or even sighted, those companies can make it =very= difficult to use services we should be able to take for granted. In the colder parts of the world (eg: the mid US, northern England, Scandanavia), heating isn't an option. It's either there, or you're dead. No if's or but's.

    Whilst we're not (yet) at the point where electronic payments are mandatory for services, that WILL happen. Maybe not this year, but within 5-10 years, cheques will be extinct, and all major transactions will be online.

    If ANY segment of society is excluded, by the time that happens, that segment of society can write it's collective will. It'll be extinct or nomadic (such as the Travellers) within a year of such a switch.

  • If a blind doesn't get a truck driving job because they are blind, then do they have the right to sue the employer?

    No. The ADA prevents discrimination in employment against qualified disabled people who could do the job with reasonable accomodation. A ramp, elevator, or modified working hours could all be reasonable accomodations. A blind person would not be qualified for a truck driving position since they could not get a drivers license. If you're interested they're examples of court cases [usdoj.gov] and a DOJ Q&A [usdoj.gov] on the ADA.

    The part of the ADA that is being applied to AOL is that commercial property must be accessible by disabled people. If you consider AOL's online real estate to be commercial property, and there is a reasonable accomodation that can be made (through use of ALT tags, etc) to make the property accessible to the blind, then I don't think it's unreasonable in the context of the law. You may well argue that the law is unreasonably vague or unnecessary, or even unconstitutional, but be that as it may, it has been sucessful at achieving it's main goal of making the US a more decent place to live and work for disabled people (and skateboarders).

    --
  • I was going to pass on this one until you started SHOUTING, since the subject is discussed above [slashdot.org]. But here goes.

    The ADA requires braille on walk up ATMs. This seems reasonable to me, especially since the marginal cost for adding braille new ATMs is close to zero.

    Banks specify braille on all ATMs to save a few bucks and avoid hassle in ordering spare parts. Ergo, your drive up ATM has braille. Is that so horrible?

    As for blind people not being able to see the computer screen, that's the point, they can't, but they can read the text once it's passed through a translator of some kind. Most of the important information online is text, and HTML is certainly text based. Is it so much for the largest content provider on the internet to represent in text form that can be reasonably represented in a text form.

    Look, if blind people start suing for the inability to view porn, I'll be on your side, but I don't see that happening.
    --
  • If she is a qualified employee, you should build the ramp or make other accomodations that don't require her to go into that room. If it is too expensive to build the ramp, you can get assistance. If it is still too expensive you don't have to. You can get free technical assistance from the DOJ [usdoj.gov].

    --
  • While I agree that the market cannot solve all our problems, and that the government is right to get involved if AOL is not complying with legislation, I think the market -- and the media -- could solve this one.

    For example: if a significant blind-persons' agency were to cry foul to the news media, I know of many, many people that would boycott non-compliant sites. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that someone would write browser plugins to help the tech-impaired to verify such sites before viewing them. Not visiting sites cuts into ad revenue, and it will hurt them.

    I think enough media attention would force all the major non-compliant sites to redesign -- just to avoid bad publicity.

    Posted by the Proteus

  • First off, the ADA is about providing for people with disabilities, not designing for them. I've seen some pretty moronic posts about how the 'Net is going to have to be all text and no images to satisfy the blind. Have you ever seen Sneakers?! Don't you know that a man doesn't have to see the porn to realize that Playboy is a great magazine? The web is, after all, a text-based medium and can still be presented as such, even if you can't see your favorite Flash program.

    With that in mind, sure, using ALT tags is a great step. So is understanding how forms are put together. Do you ever wonder why Hotmail's label for it's login name is above the entry box? It's because blind readers read the text in the order it sees it. If you put the login textbox first, it reads, "(edit)", then you enter whatever, then "login (edit)" where the second edit is the password and then "password blah blah". It makes sense to put it in order and doesn't really harm the design.

    And finally, Microsoft and other companies have put some effort into making their operating environments accessible for blind people. AOL could do the same. AOL is more than just the web site. It's also a proprietary service that has an incredibly graphics-rich interface. I don't know if the blind can use this interface, and I bet that that is even more of a problem then their web site.

    The blind don't want AOL to get rid of all the cool stuff that us seeing people enjoy, they just want the door opened to some of the fun. If you think that means ruining your party, then you need to take a step back and think about how you would feel in the same situation.
  • Everyone's encountered websites that are totally unusable even if you can see. What recourse do we have then? If the blind have a right to sue a site because it's hard to use, I want the same right.
  • by algae (2196)

    Oh wait, last time I checked TEXT was VISUAL. You can not FEEL the web, you can not HEAR it, or Taste it, or smell it. You can SEE it, or someone/thing can see it and translate it into sound for you. But it is inherently visual.

    Last time I checked, the web was a bunch of electrons going over some wires. You can't SEE, HEAR, TASTE, SMELL or TOUCH those electrons. Oh sure, you can get some software to translate it into text or sound or braille, but it's inherently electrons.

    :-P

  • On Slashdot it's very common to see a hopeless, drooling idiot pretending to be an expert on something

    The only thing more common is seeing an AC read an objective argument and respond with a flaming rant full of ad hominem attacks.
  • The lawsuit is NOT about the AOL website, it is regarding the AOL *online service*. Basically the blind group is arguing that AOL is a "public accomodation" (despite not being a physical place), and as such should be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Their main complaint is that because AOL uses graphics for just about *everything*, with no corresponding text that can be easily read by a screen-reading OCR program, and no keyboard shortcuts for many common actions, that it makes it unduly difficult for the blind to use. Thus they are suing AOL to make them create more blind-friendly software/service.

    Though, as far as I can tell by the article, the group didn't first petition AOL for changes, but rather just decided to sue instead. Grr...this country is too damn litigous. It seems rather ass-backward for someone to sue first. Why not just ask for changes first, and see if AOL will agree to them? It would make business sense for AOL, especially from a PR perspective, to make the requested changes (provided they're not ridiculous...but adding some text shouldn't be a big deal). Then if they don't, go about seeing if they're covered by the ADA (whether they are or not isn't exactly clear).

    AOL has also said that some of the changes they were planning already. So they may very well become accessible regardless of the lawsuit.

    Anyway, later all...

    -Stradivarius

  • Sure... right after we finish editting the HTML spec to no longer allow images, boldface tags, italics, frames support... actually.. funny.. it looks like the ASCII plain text standard! HTML 5.0 - Now With Politically Correct Extensions!

    Oh god... move me to a free country...



    --
  • Yes, it's a wonderful world we live in...

    ...until you suddenly find yourself blind.

    Contrary to what Polit-Korrekt disliking Rush Limbaugh says, making the on-line world accessable to blind people is a worthy thing. You might even benefit because Lynx would be more workable, and Lynx is a damn sweet browser.
  • It's about inclusion. You know, reading ./, you hear a LOT of whining about how geeks are excluded by society. You hear an awful lot of handwringing about how being different causes geeks to be ostracised, be left out.

    And yet, here we have a group of people suing to force a company to stop excluding them, to simply make some allowance for the fact that they have different needs. And the geeks of ./ howl their outrage. This makes me sick.

    Listen, the visually impared are much more exluded from this society than being a geek will ever buy you. They can't drive. They have limited access to movies and TV. They have a hard time using computers in the first place, because so much software depends on a GUI. So, when all they ask is some changes be made to websites, so they can reap the benefits that you ./ readers take for granted, you smack them down. You cry "PC!" You ask why they should be accomodated. "What are blind people doing on the web."

    The Internet is too important to exclude any segment of our society from. Making accomodations for them is not hard work... it just takes a bit of planning. If AOL is unwilling to do that, and the folks bringing this case can argue to the courts that this is as exclusionary as building a mall or a hotel without wheelchair access, then more power to them.

    Frankly, the response to this issue here revolts me.
  • by Croaker (10633) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @10:06AM (#1562900)
    Ironic choice... O'Reilly does have books on CD, which are probably more amenable to
    being used with a speech synthesizer. Most other publishers don;t do this.

    Books, unlike websites, can by and large be scanned and read aloud by equipment
    available to the blind. So, your analogy is bogus.

    The issue here, as the issue is with architecture, is that changes to accommodate the disabled
    are worth the hassle so that they can be included. People are just too lazy to do it. Unlike physical buildings, it's not a big deal to rearrange a web site after its built. The issue is not a few ALT tags though. Try browsing with Lynx, and image if you could only read the page,
    top to bottom. However, *some* effort should be put into making a web site accessible to the visually impared, when that site is as central as AOL, or Amazon, or other major commercial sites.

    And, finally, I have to say that I am utterly fucking disgusted with the ./ people who are
    whining about Political Correctness. We're not talking about some pointless argument over
    semantics. We're talking about locking out a portion of our community, a portion of the
    community that is already excluded from so much in our society, from the explosive growth
    in our economy and society taking place on the Internet. For a group of people who whine
    so much about being excluded, about being ostracized because they are different, this
    attitude is utter hypocrisy!




  • So, what do text-to speech converters do with misspelled words with syllables omitted, like "inconvience", "incandent", "nutrious", and many others? This is the one most-compelling reason to once again set up my Amiga 1000, just to see what happens. (Understandable text-to-speech included as standard, late 1985.)


    Install festival on a linux box instead; it's fun, it's easy, it runs on cheap hardware. Admittedly, it'll be bloody slow on your 386, but it calculates the sound first and then plays it, it doesn't calculate on the fly so even on slow hardware like your 386 the speech should come out okay.

    To answer the question, for the most part, you get pronounced-as-spelled. Though, with festival at least, it wouldn't be hard to add misspelling correction functionality. It already converts '----' into 'line of hyphens' and '====' into 'line of equals' and so on.
    More annoying is words like 'read.' "I like to read science fiction" becomes "I like to red science fiction" instead of "I like to reed science fiction."
    I set my MUSH client up to pipe everything to festival. It was cool. A little perl and some named pipes were necessary to make it non-blocking. I think it would be trivial to tee lynx into festival but I haven't actually tried it, the redraw-efficiency of curses might make gibberish out of it other than the initial draw. Still, source exists, it'd be an easy hack to make a for-the-blind lynx/festival combo. (Of course, blind computer users probably want a speech synthesis card if they can afford it... the slowness of soft synthesis is painful).




    --Parity
  • Isn't there a way of making regulation without suing someone first? :/

    In most countries, yes. That's what happened in the US. After a long, hard effort the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed.

    It was passed nine friggin' years ago, and people are still ignoring it. (And/or spinning silly horror stories about supposed implications without having the slightest clue what the fuck they're talking about.)

    If this has any resemblence at all to other ADA cases I'm familiar with, disability rights activists have spent years trying to encourage AOL to change, offering possible solutions that benefit the "temporarily able-bodied" as much as they would benefit themselves, doing everything short of offering AOL an elbow and leading them gently across the road.

    Given how bloody difficult it often is to take on and push through an ADA case, AOL has probably been insistently oblivious and or stupidly stubborn.

  • Before the PC crowd gets on it's high-horse, I'd invite everyone to read "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut. It's quite a commentary on Political Correctness as it is being more and more implemented in the US.

    The short story can be found in the Vonnegut collection "Welcome to the Monkey House". I'm sure it's available in braille, large print and audio-book as well as the traditional paperback.
  • Good point, and sensibly presented.

    My initial post WAS overly reactionary, but at least I got second post. [slaps self with halibut]

    It's too bad that AOL can most likely defend itself from the requirement of accessibility by claiming that there are alternatives. Bear with me, I've got a point...

    Such a move on part of AOL would result in bad press, a call for boycott (which I would honor, if I were a subscriber) and a loss of revenue for presenting an insensitive/corporate image. They won't go to court over this for these reasons, more than for the potential loss of the fees that visually impaired subscribers are willing to pay. [ramble-ramble]

    The worthwhile part is this: The money-driven initiative for making PDA and cell-phone accessible web-sites holds a lot of promise for those with visual disabilities. The technology is either existing, or in rapid development. And if AOL and other sites want the business of the movers and shakers who surf from their StarTacs, then there's absolutely no reason not to use that exact same technology to make the web more accessible to the blind (legally or otherwise).

    Now, does any slashdot reader have the experience to comment on the applicability of mobile-enable web sites to such usage? How are sites modified for mini-lcd display? Sanity check, anyone?
  • by jabber (13196) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @09:16AM (#1562935) Homepage
    They don't have a braille version of every book they publish. It's blatant discrimination.
  • by Bartleby (14582) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @10:10AM (#1562941)
    It's AOL's choice as to which consumers they support

    That's exactly the kind of thinking that led to the Civil Rights movement and then the ADA. Store owers used to say "if I don't want black people in my store, that's my choice." Well, the Supreme Court saw it differently.

    This whole attitude of "what are blind people doing on the Web" is just ridiculous. It's like saying people in wheel chairs shouldn't be allowed on the bus because it takes them too long to get on. As it turns out, the computer industry used to be one of the primary sources of employment for blind professionals before the advent of GUI started freezing them out. I'm surprised it took this long for a lawsuit.

  • Allright... let's get this straight. HTML is not a formatting language!

    By writing PROPER HTML, you specificy the meaning and arrangement of information in your page. If done correctly, all that information should come out just fine in IE, Netscape, Lynx, or in blind-aware web browsers. Each of these is free to interpret the HTML according to the standards as set by the W3C, and render them to the user.

    Whether this means speaking text aloud, rendering them on a brail display, or creating a bumpmap of images is irrelevant. It's not AOL's responsibility to create blind-specific content, only to create content that (through poor coding) expicitly excludes the blind.

  • I used to publish several magazines/newspapers for various non-profit disability groups, such as the Paralzyed Veterans of America [pva.org], and for the most part I agree. I also tend to be somewhat conservative...but still, I think there is a real need for people with disabilities to have access to the Web.

    One reason is that the Internet is becoming a necessity. Already, it is almost a prerequisite to have an e-mail address to get a tech job. When I was job hunting last, virtually every potential employer wanted my e-mail address (some still e-mail me :)

    However, there are a few things to keep in mind. That clause in the Fededral agency guidelines about 'undue burden' applies to businesses well. If you look at the DOJ's ADA Guidelines, which I'm sure are on the DOJ's Web page [doj.gov] somewhere.

    What this generally boils down to is that, in general, this will not affect small businesses. Its not hard to prove 'undue burden' in these cases. In AOL's case, it probably is. In fact, AOL will probably lose. A good example is the DOJ case about the MCI Center (in Washington, D.C., home of the Washington Capitols) where the DOJ and the PVA successfully sued the large architectural firm that designed the stadium (the name escapes me at the moment) because there were no sightlines for people in wheelchairs over standing spectators. Most ADA cases are usually won, especially if the DOJ is involved. But in the case of small business, typically the DOJ doesn't prosecute cases where buildings may not be 100% accessible (esp. older/smaller buildings), so your small online business may be partially safe from prosecution. However, there are lots of cases where the DOJ does prosecute small business, especially if changes are easy to make (like installing ramps or handicap parking spaces)

    However, there are certain cases which I can't agree with, despite my support of disability rights in general. One is where the DOJ and other groups are trying to sue owners of stadium-seat movie megaplexes that are popping up in major metropolitan cities (the Star Southfield Entertainment Center in Southfield, MI comes to mind). The complaint in these cases is that wheelchair users aren't afforded the "best seats in the house" because wheelchair users can only sit at either the bottom or the very top. It could easily be argued that forcing these owners to install expensive elevators in every auditorium is 'undue burden' especially since these owners have to compete with other theatres on price to some extent, and the laws wouldn't require these owners to install the elevators (since they dont' have stadium-style seating)

    For the most part, though, I'm in favor of disability rights. I think the Web, along with everything else, should be made accessible for all people. But we have to pick our battles wisely.
  • To find out more about making your web site accessible for the disabled, here's two useful links.

    Bobby [cast.org] - This web site scans web pages to see if it may pose a problem for the disabled.

    Viewable With Any Browser [anybrowser.org] - This site is running a campaign to make the Web a useful communication medium by making it accessible to as many different browsers as possible. This may appeal to Slashdotters. It would by implication vehemently oppose proprietary extensions to HTML, such as those perpetrated by Microsoft and Netscape, which must be a Good Thing.

    It is important to remember that the blind are a part of our community, and would like to participate as equals as much as possible. Although they can't actually see images and other graphic coolness on web sites, they have access to voice synthesizers and similar technology that renders web pages and other computer-based information in a form that they can use. That's why ALT tags are important.

    (I attended a 21st birthday party once where there were two blind people in attendance. The slam dancing was interesting. Apparently the blind attendees enjoyed it immensely.)
    --
  • Making a webpage accessible for blind people is not a big effort in most cases. Because of this I think that companies like AOL should make their websites accessible to the blind. Just like you make buidings accessible to people in wheelchairs you should make websites accessible to the blind.

    If AOL were a smart company they would not await a lawsuit but just make the minor investment to adapt their sites. Who knows, maybe a few blind people would become AOL members if they did so. If they don't, all that awaits them is bad publicity.
  • What's next? Sueing every software manufacturer who has a WIMP interface, since people with no hands can't use a mouse. This is the same act that leads to us having braile at drive up ATMs (think about that one for a minute...)
  • I just wrote a rant [slashdot.org] about this for another story. Totally agreed here. Maybe we should limit the lawyer's cut to 10% and they pay court costs. Of course to do anything to change the system to limit these things would have to be done by and against lawyers, so that might prove a substantial obstacle.

  • But the blind shouldn't try to force AOL. If they want to use the Internet they can use it quite efficiently without AOL. If the blind were a bit more geeky (or at least a couple of them were) they'd figure out the truly amazing part of the Internet and bring all those blind folks together. News for Ears, Stuff that Reverbs, or some such. Suing is not the answer and only adds more overhead for everyone else, which screws up the market trmendously.

  • I've never understood why people who spend good money on creating a web site don't make it available to as many people as possible

    Simple - the people who are spending the money don't know - the people who design it are not the people who are spending the money.

    The people who are spending the money usually only see what the designers want them to see, then they pay for it (if they like it.) Then, later, MAYBE (if they're clueful enough) they might see the page in another browser, or someone might complain to them.

    90% of the time, they have no idea that someone won't see it exactly the way they do (because of a different OS, interface, browser, or even screen resolution.) It's amazing how many businesses I've seen with horribly-designed sites that think they're wonderful because they have an internet site.

    It's the designers that are to blame (the ones who design sites in a paint program, and have everything as GIF images.) Since the designers only show the customers what they want them to see, the people spending the money have no idea.
  • No, what leads to having braile at drive up ATMs is that the manufacturer isn't going to spent more money on a shorter production run with special customizations just for drive up ATMs. It's the same screen as any other ATM, it's the same card reader, so it's the same keyboard.
  • by Kynn (38537)
    Hi, Kintanon, I beg to differ with you. The web is not a visual medium; it's an information medium. The information (content + structure) flows around the web and is expressed (presentation) in a way that's most appropriate to the user's particular desires and capabilities.

    This is one of the core principles for the interoperability and platform-independence of the web. This is why the web is not simply a proprietary unix or (god forbid) Microsoft network; it's open to everyone.

    For more on my personal thoughts on this matter, you're welcome to read this essay I wrote [awarecenter.com] about the web as an information, not a visual, medium.

    --Kynn

  • by Kynn (38537) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @01:11PM (#1563051) Homepage
    Slashdot's homepage is ALMOST accessible. The Center for Applied Special Technology has a web service called Bobby (which can also be run as a standalone application) designed to evaluate the accessibility of web sites to people with disabilities.

    Bobby is at http://www.cast.org/bobby/ [cast.org]

    According to Bobby, the slashdot page is missing one ALT attribute on one IMG tag. Here's a link to the Bobby analysis of slashdot [cast.org].

    For comparison, here's the same type of analysis for cnn.com. [cast.org]

    --Kynn

  • by NettRom (39971) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @10:32AM (#1563053) Homepage
    I don't think this is simply a case about somebody suing AOL. I admit not having read the NYTimes article, since I didn't want to register to enter their site. I have read several comments here though, and in my opinon a lot of people here lack respect for people with disabilities. Comments like "this medium wasn't built for them", "it's a graphical medium", etc, etc are more or less plain b*llsh**.

    For starters, there's Lynx. That browser have been with us for a looooooong time. It also gives a good representation of what a web site looks to a person with a braille-enabled browser, or a browser that uses speech synthesis. You also get a quick indication of how your site will "look" when a search engine's robot comes by. If site authors used Lynx more they'd probably figure out what all this fuzz is about.

    There's also several resources available regarding accessibility on the web. The HTML 4.0 spec has quite a lot of information regarding how to make your site accessible [w3.org] for everyone, not only those with a graphical browser. With CSS level 2 [w3.org] you have "aural style sheets" which enables you to suggest presentational information for users with speech-synthesis. Add to that the Web Accessibility Intiative [w3.org] and Jacob Nielsen's Accessible Design for users with disabilities [useit.com].

    Usability for other people than those with graphical browsers has been around for years (that Nielsen-article is old). But when you look at people's attitude there's no wonder why sites look like they do. Nobody gives a damn anyway... I think that's scary.

    But, even though this has been a case for quite a while it doesn't mean I believe that the blind can sue AOL. As others have mentioned, if AOL hasn't gone out saying it's accessible to the blind they, in my opinion, don't have a case. They can ask AOL to create a site they can use, but they shouldn't be able to force AOL to do so. With the amount of publicity this gets AOL might feel it's good PR to create a site usable for the blind, maybe simply because they don't want to lose the case. In my opinion it's only the government and other official sites that should be required to be accessible to everyone.

    The 'net is in my opinion well suited for being accessible for the blind. Provided they have the right aids mail, news, and to a certain extent, the web, is quite easy to use (since most of it is text). We shouldn't simply lock them out saying "this is a graphical medium, it wasn't ment for you" or anything like that.

  • by El Volio (40489) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @09:53AM (#1563056) Homepage
    Face it, capitalism doesn't solve everything. The disabled are not a large enough market share to matter to someone like AOL, or a large number of other corporations either.

    This, in fact, is what the government IS for.

    We make a lot out of the fact that we don't want the government running our lives, telling us how to run our own business, etc. Fine. But it does have a place, and that's to protect those that need it. If the Internet is as big a part of the future as every /.er believes, then yes, the blind (and the deaf, and many other people with disabilities) have a right to be part of it.

    But there's simply not enough of them to make noise with their dollars. Folks, money ain't everything. Sometimes there are things that should be required because it's the right thing to do. There are a number of situations where we MUST rely on the government -- pollution, for example.

    So all you /.ers who think the market should solve it: Get real. The market is great for many, many problems, but there are times when society as a whole has to protect what it believes in. I believe in freedom for everyone.

    Don't you?
  • Designing computer programs that are inaccessible to the blind and visually disabled is just plain stupid -- if you want to make communicate a message or make money, why shut out your potential audience/customers by making your services unavailable? It's not difficult. Provide text equivalents for images, make sure users can navigate by keyboard instead of requiring mouse use... And these features benefit more people than just the blind.

    But accessibility isn't just a good idea. It's the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law in July, 1990, mandates:

    "No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation."

    Assistive technology for the blind has been around for a long time. Kurzweil Reading Machines that translate the printed word into speech have been available for more than twenty years. However, with scanner prices dropping and recent advances in optical character recognition and voice technology, it's possible to install this kind of system on ordinary off-the-shelf PCs.

    As with printed material, screen readers that translate the information on the computer screen into spoken word, have been around for decades.

    On September 9, 1998, the Wall Street Journal had an article titled "Blind Web Users Campaign to `See' More of Cyberspace" (page B1) A quote: "In 1996, the U.S. Justice Department stated that the Americans with Disabilities Act, a groundbreaking law requiring government and other public facilities to make themselves accessible to the disabled, may apply to the Internet. To some, that has raised the possibility that disabled users could sue Web site operators who fail to make that site accessible." Last November, someone filed an ADA complaint against the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in San Francisco because their site wasn't accessible (http://www.examiner.com/981112/1112blind.shtml)

    Meanwhile, the FCC Telecommunications Act of 1996, Section 255, says "A provider of telecommunications service shall ensure that the service is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable."

    Resolving the technical issues is becoming much easier. Over the last year, the computer industry has become aware of accessibility issues. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which provides the guidelines defining HTML and other Internet specifications, has set up a Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to make the web more accessible (http://www.w3c.org/wai/). IBM Special Needs (http://www.austin.ibm.com/sns/) not only develops products like the Home Page Reader, a new voice-enabled browser that does not require special hardware for speech synthesis, but also provides information on accessibility for other developers. Even Microsoft, whose Windows GUI displaced many blind computer users, now has full-time staff devoted to "incorporating disability-friendly features into its software" (Wingfield, 1998). The Center for Applied Special Technology has created a free program that can analyze web pages for accessibility to disabled users and generates a report rating the site in several areas. Web pages that pass Bobby's analysis are entitled to put an "approved" icon on the page. The URL is http://www.cast.org/bobby/

    Frankly, I think it's about time. As the baby boomers start to age, this is going to become a much bigger issue. Better to get things correct now than have to go back and change it later.
  • > I believe in freedom for everyone

    Actually, you believe in limiting some people's freedoms to suit yourself. "Freedom for everyone" is not compatible with the ADA or the kind of thinking that produced it.

    When you say "freedom for everyone" like that, you really mean "entitlements for everyone." I.e, that some people should be FORCED to make the lives of some other people "easier" (as defined by the recipient of the entitlement). I thought civilized countries didn't practive slavery... oh, wait...
  • The web IS visual media. Period.

    Not period, but you are correct in general. The web has provisions for audio.

    That's not important, though. What IS important is that you don't see deaf people complaining that they can't listen to CDs. No offence to any 'hearing impaired' (or whatever the politically correct term of the week is for people who can't hear), but this makes me angry. It really does.

    No, I'm not some insensitive punk who doesn't care about the less fortunate in our society. I have utmost respect for people with disabilities who at least try to function normally in society, and more so for those who succeed.

    What REALLY gets to me is politically correctness. Being a un-gay (I think the word 'straight' is offensive to gay people now) white male, it seems that the whole world is out to get me. It's probably politically incorrect for me to even wake up in the morning. After all, I'm not a minority, and therefore, I MUST be some sort of racist. Actually, I'm probably a founding member of the KKK or something.

    Sure, it's not tough for AOL to insert ALT tags in their homepage. But a lawsuit? Come on. They shouldn't be obligated to do so. They should consider it an act of good will to go ahead and pay some highschool student to add "ALT='America Online Logo'" a few times.

    What if my thumbs stopped working? Should I file a lawsuit against yahoo, because in order to search for words, I need to separate them by a space, and I'm used to using my thumbs on the spacebar?

    I know that's a little.. extreme, but all of this PC crap just ticks me off.

    I guess the major auto-makers will soon be in trouble. After all, blind people can't drive, so, it MUST be the fault of the automaker.
  • The real crux of the legality of this lawsuit is whether or not AOL's service, and their webpages, are a public accommodation. Per the text of the ADA, any group which provides a public accommodation must enable access to the handicapped. This is obvious when you have a movie theatre or stadium -- ramps for wheelchairs, accessible bathroom stalls, and braille on elevator controls all make sense.

    What's really being fought here, and don't let the lawyers trick you into thinking otherwise, is whether or not the web is a foray of a private organization into the public eye. If the courts agree that it is so, and award this case to the prosecution, expect to see MUCH more regulation of website content.

    For instance, if mailing lists are public accommodations, for instance, then they must be held up to the rigorous free speech standards of the First Amendment. Owners of the mailing lists will be responsible for activities that take place on them -- and will have to buy mailing list insurance (!!!) And yes, if websites are public accommodations, then they will have to comply with the ADA...which means all good websites and mailing lists will move offshore to more liberal servers.

    *sigh*. Isn't the 'net grand?

  • Whether or not businesses should be forced to make reasonable accomodations (and whether or not the federal government is even remotely capable of defining reasonable) are questions for another time.

    If a site does have crummy HTML or relies on Javascript (which I normally browse without due to security holes 1 through 3000), I will usually just go elsewhere.

    Sometimes, if it's a site that features data I really want to see (ex: http://www.usskiteam.com/ [usskiteam.com] has online access to national rankings, and I like to peruse them, so I have emailed the webmasters and suggest they convince using CGI instead of a half-arsed CGI/Javascript mess (using ASP, of course). No dice, but I had to try). My point, you ask?

    It's worth emailing the webmaster. Occasionally they're completely ignorant and a pointer to htmlhelp.com [htmlhelp.com] will work wonders. If that doesn't work, going elsewhere would be my first choice.

    On other occasions, I will bother to work around the problem (ex: at laxtv.com, a site that is probably down again, Javascript was required for the site to work. I read the Javascript, figured out the redirect URL myself, and went to it manually. Then I bookmarked that page, and I had access to the tv schedules and video feeds I wanted. In that case, mail to webmaster@host bounced. Gotta love professional web desgin.)

    It all boils down to one key question: what is the information worth to you? Is it worth dealing with a registration scheme? Or is it only worth it if you can get in with a standard id such as slashdotid/slashdot?

  • Ever heard of a screen reader? Way to display your ignorance; how you ever got a default rating of 2 is beyond me...


    Yes I've heard of a screen reader, but how that really helps someone do any real web surfing is beyond me. It seems to me that with ALT tags on the relevant buttons then the web site is as accesible to the blind as it's going to get. They can't expect people not to use images or movies or anything visual just because they can't see it.
    They already have the capacity to read pure text, what more do they want?!

    Kintanon
  • The complaint with AOL seems to be that they offer no text equivalent for their images/icons (no 'alt' tags), so that a reader is incapable of 'rendering' them for the blind!



    And this warrants a lawsuit HOW?! It's AOL's choice as to which consumers they support. Do they have a spanish version browser? Hungarian? Mandaran Chinese? Can I sue them because I can't afford AOL's rates and that is denying me the ability to view their cheesy icons?

    Kintanon
  • Hmm, so I suppose those using a text only browser like lynx are not using the web since it "IS visual media". With an alt tag behind an image that is also a link, a reading application could read the tag describing the link, letting the blind user know whether or not she would like to follow it. Without any textual information, the link isn't too useful, unless the reader looks at the underlying html source.

    I agree that using a graphical browser like NN or Opera makes for a more rewarding web experience. But it isn't the only to way to surf.


    Oh wait, last time I checked TEXT was VISUAL. You can not FEEL the web, you can not HEAR it, or Taste it, or smell it. You can SEE it, or someone/thing can see it and translate it into sound for you. But it is inherently visual.

    Kintanon
  • Text isn't visual. I sent email to a person I know. I saw the email, when I was sending it, because I used a visual editor. She never saw my email, even though she received it and wrote back. She felt my email as a series of dots on her fingertips.

    Text is *not* the same as visual content.

    Why do you think the web is visual? Not because *it* is visual. Because *you* are.

    Don't let your experience blind you to the way the world works when you aren't looking.



    Incorrect. Your VISUAL media which you created was translated into physical media in the form of brail by a program at the other end of the connection. Once it had become brail and physical it was no longer part of the Web, was it? It was then, at that moment, a piece of physical media which she had in her hands. It was seperate from the Web in every way. The Web is visual. But it can be translated to the physical or audible media.

    Kintanon
  • Last time I checked, the web was a bunch of electrons going over some wires. You can't SEE, HEAR, TASTE, SMELL or TOUCH those electrons. Oh sure, you can get some software to translate it into text or sound or braille, but it's inherently electrons.



    Of course. I agree completely with that. But there are a lot more people who had the desire to translate those electrons into text than into anything else. No one is stopping anyone from creating things to aid the Blind in using the Web, there are a lot of things out there already. But forcing people to meet some random requirements set by an agency full of unelected officials with nothing better to do.

    Kintanon
  • It is about the AOL service. The whole GUI client they have to connect to AOL. This is what is inaccessbile not the website

    And to this end I say, is there any language that AOL's browser does not come in? Because if so I'm going to contact some lawyers and find some people who speak/read nothing but that language and sue the hell out of AOL.

    Kintanon
  • Get this straight, this IS NOT a tort suit. Money has nothing to do with this. So all of you bozo's who want to pull the lawyer card can just go jump in a pile of AOL CD's! This is simply a suit to force a company to comply with a law. No money! Debate if the law is good or bad all you want; but don't whine about money because this has nothing to do with it! The Spanish Inquisiton was more tollerant then some of the folks here. I put this question to all of you, why SHOULDN'T the blind have access to AOL? I doubt I will get an intelligent answer to this question. I'll sum up the standard answers from /.'s on this right here:
    1) Because
    2) They suck!
    3) They use MS.
    4) They use AOL! [DUH]
    5) They should have used Linux.
    6) Government sucks!
    7) You suck!



    There is no one here saying that the blind should NOT have access to the WEB. However, no one should be required to change the way their website works simply so the blind people can get every nuance of the page, nor should AOL be required to alter their browser to accomodate the blind. There are plenty of better alternate ISPS that they can use with Lynx or anything else. They are not being kept from enjoying the web simply because AOLs browser isn't friendly to them. They are being prevented from enjoying the web because they are ignorant of anything outside of AOL. I'd say it would be a good thing if they all became a little more educated and picked up a decent ISP. This does not warrant a lawsuit, nor legeslation.

    Kintanon
  • You're really pulling all the stops out on this one, aren't you? I bask in the glory of your ignorance.

    Read the article. It tells you why they are filing suit. It's not a frivolous matter at all.

    There is no legal precedent for this because all previous suits of this nature have been settled (read as: paid off) out of court. In this case a group of people have decided to stick it out to set a legal precedent.

    "The law requires businesses and other organizations to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities in order to provide them with access equal to that enjoyed by others."



    Look, these people are complaining because they can't see the buttons on AOLs browser and AOL hasn't made provisions to allow their readers to translate it into brail/sound. I don't see how AOLs browser has anything to do with websites in general. And this ONLY makes sense if AOL also supports every language on earth to allow people of all nationalities to enjoy their service.
    They have no call to sue AOL because their browser is noncompliant with ADA standards. They should just use a browser that is. They are going to have to find someone else to sue in order to change the way Websites are designed.

    Kintanon
  • there is just a LITTLE differnce between the making the net usable to a blind person and making visual art enjoyable to a blind person. i'm guessing that they are using the standard in the americans with disibilities act, that is you must make resonable accomadation to the point where you don't change the nature of the job, eg. a ramp into a building is reasonable but making it so a blind person can drive a bus isn't, there is no way to make the change because to drive you NEED to see, you don't need to be able to walk w/o assistance for an office job. see the line? it isn't a bright line but it is there. back to the paintings vs. the web thing. a painting really can't be adequately translated into into a nonvisual medium, you could describe it but it loses a lot, you could make it raised but you lose color, it has to be visual to get the effect. now the web can be made nonvisual, as many people said before, lynx is a text browser that could be made into speach if the site is well designed. thats a resonable accomodation, making paintings non-visual isn't.



    Soo..... If I want to make my website full of images, and I don't feel like putting alt tags on them, I can be sued for noncompliance with ADA regulations? Say it's a business site and not a personal one, can I be Sued now?

    Kintanon
  • So the fact that I'm typing this in without looking means taht this message is 'non-visual' and therefore is NOT part of the web? Or does it become 'deperate from the we b in every way' once you read it with your VISUAL output device? - Theo pardon any typos, I wasn't lloking at the screen while I typed this, so I may have missed a couple, or over backspaceed.


    Ok, let me explain what I THOUGHT I was saying since so many people seem to have thought I was saying something else. You type something in, it is translated from electrical pulses to 1's and 0's and on up the chain of information until it becomes text. There are simply more outlets for the 1's and 0's as visual representation of information because THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE WHO CAN SEE! If the blind want to write their own AOL Browser I'm sure they can get permission to do so. But I can't see how forcing AOL to alter its browser is going to help them out all that much. AOL isn't the only ISP, nor do they have the only browser. This isn't going to help the blind at all in the long run. It's just going to let them hear all of those 'image, image, javascript, image, submit' pages using AOLs browser. Yay....


    Kintanon
  • To illustrate this, my favorite(?) quote here today is "What are blind people doing on the net anyway?"

    Great. Definitely not the words of an intelligent, respectable human being. And definitely not what I am supposed to expect from Slashdot readers.



    As the person who originally said 'What are blind people doing on the net anyways' I feel obligated to respond to this. I don't apologize for what I said, I feel that the blind have every right to do anything and everything they are capable of. I feel they have the right to develop any and all technology which will aid them in their quest to perform every possible task without hinderence. However this should not exted to forcing other people to do something to accomodate them. My reasoning goes as follows:

    Person opens store, store has steps to get into the entrance.

    Disabled person finds store, steps would force disabled person to shop elsewhere, have someone else purchase items, obtain aid in climbing the steps.

    Disabled person calls lawyer demanding that store be forced to put in a ramp for them.

    Now Store is being forced to close down, install ramp.

    We move from forcing 1 individual to do something to forcing another individual to do something. This isn't right. It's just NOT right to force one set of people to do something simply to accomodate another set of people. Especially when the benefits are far outweighed by the cost. Can you imagine having to pay 5000$ to put in a wheelchair ramp, as well as getting it approved, getting permits, haveing it inspected, etc... just so ONE person can shop in your store?!

    I'm short, there are a LOT of short people, and by short I mean 5'6, 5'7. Not REALLY short, but short. I'm going to sue Walmart because they have stuff on the top shelves of their store and I can't reach it. I'm being prevented from purchasing certain items I desire without assistance.

    Kintanon
  • If she is a qualified employee, you should build the ramp or make other accomodations that don't require her to go into that room. If it is too expensive to build the ramp, you can get assistance. If it is still too expensive you don't have to. You can get free technical assistance from the DOJ.



    Ummm, they were going to build the Ramp, but it was going to take a month or so to have it built. The lady claimed that it was unacceptable and quit, and sued them for it.

    Kintanon
  • I am completely sick of this neo-lasse faire (sp)resurgence. It's people like you, who believe that inalienable rights are so far removed from your life that they don't exist, who are dragging the US down into the sea of Big Brother commercialism. You attack the righteous when they have been stepped on with weak put-offs like 'So what? You should have expected it. They can do whatever they damn well please!' Lest you forget, we in the US fought long, protracted wars to secure you those rights you are so willing to give up in the name of 'cheaper chips' and corporate handouts.
    The blind are taking their chance to secure rights for themselves. You have a right to view commercial webpages, Why the hell shouldn't they?



    I have NO PROBLEMS with the blind being able to view commercial websites. However I do not believe that there is any need for legislation requiring said commercial sites to drasticly alter their content in order to be blind friendly, nor do I believe that there is any need for legislation to force AOL to make it's craptastic little browser blind friendly. There are alternatives to AOL, there are alternatives to most websites. Especially commercial ones.

    Kintanon
  • O.K., I'll grant you that the web is a "visual" medium. And I'm sure you'll agree that this "visual" medium must be navigated. Do you agree with this? Assuming you said "yes", how do you navigate? Personally, I prefer the keyboard to the mouse. So, this stuff to help the blind also helps many who aren't overly fond of using a mouse. I call it a winning situation. It really comes down to writing half way decent HTML. A web page that can be viewed with any browser can most likely be easily navigated with a keyboard. Or now are you going to argue that people who use keyboards shouldn't use the web? Maybe the web should only be used accessable through WebTV?
    Maybe you think that applications shouldn't have scrollbars because everyone has a wheel mouse. Just how far are you willing to take your stupidity



    ok, it looks Like I'm going to have to say this EVERY time some half assed idiot takes issue with my post. I did NOT say that I had any objection to people using proper HTML to make their sites blind friendly. I object to LEGISLATION which forces them to do so.

    Kintanon
  • You're just not thinking.

    GET OVER THE EYES FOR A MOMENT.

    If, indeed, the Braille representation is not part of the web, then neither is the set of pixels on my display, or the set of pixels on the display of the author.

    The web is a digital medium; we translate it into whatever encodings we want, but it has no *native* form other than streams of bits you can't see.

    You're just stuck because you have eyes, and you've always seen things, and you can't get your head around the idea that this is not the only way the world could work.

    The Web is not visual; you are merely seeing a translation to your preferred medium.

    Stop projecting your experience as if it's the "real" world. It's just your experience of that world


    I wrote that post as I was leaving from work, I wrote it hastily and didn't explain what I was saying completely. MY statement was corrected around post 500 by myself. Please read it to understand what I THOUGHT I was saying.

    Kintanon
  • No, "suicidal stupidity" is living in an ideologically-defined fantasy world the way you do.

    Facts won't hurt you, really. Just try a few.


    The only way to find out what reality is like is to go out and look. Idiots like you tortured Galileo because his facts didn't agree with their theories. Who laughed last?


    *walks outside, looks up, watches the sun go from one horizon to the other, concludes that sun revolves around earth*

    I'd say that just 'go(ing) out and look(ing)' isn't quite enough to determine reality when there are so many things that can not be determined without access to information and resources that the common person does not have.

    Kintanon
  • I think the more appropriate question is this: what the hell are ignorant and narrow-minded people doing on the net anyways!?!? Perhaps you could shed some light on this, Kintanon?




    Hmmm... because I hold an opinion contrary to yours on the governments role in forcing compliance with the standards of an unconstitutional agency, and have a problem with blind people suing private businesses, that makes me ignorant and narrow-minded? Blind people are going to miss a LOT of the stuff that is on the web. They will have to learn to deal with that. You can not FORCE someone to write a 5 page description of a picture on their website simply so you can understand it. You can not force people not to use pictures of an kind on their website just so you can understand it. Once the government starts doing that, then you have moved from forcing the relatively small percentage of blind people to find an alternate means of obtaining the information, to forcing the company or individual to spend a lot of time and money to make something accesible to a small # of people.

    Kintanon
  • Please reference posts 458-505 (chronologicaly) regarding some of my earlier posts. I wrote them while leaving from work and did not properly explain my positions. They make more sense now.

    Kintanon
  • The spoken word came first, and you use it yourself, I bet. Forget this obsession with the primacy of visual text, it is nothing more than a weak paraphrasing of all the expressions, overtones and richness of the spoken word- to which a blind person might be considerably more sensitive than you are, making you the crippled one.
    Text is nothing. Written language is a cheap hack- anything expressible in it can be expressed with the spoken word, which was around first, and continues to see more use on a daily basis.
    _You_ are behaving like a loony. Perhaps you might consider not behaving that way.



    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Ok, now that I'm finished laughing at you I'll point at that visual communication was around before speech. People communicated with gestures, crude pictures, etc... Before they could speak beyond grunts and groans (This is if you ascribe to the theory of the evolution of Man. In Creationism we were more or less as we are now.). The text that I am typing right this moment is a visual medium. It will be translated into 1's and 0's, sent across the net, and eventually be translated back into visual Text, or spoken word, or brail or what have you. BUT, it is not my responsibility to make sure that my text is readily translatable into anything.

    Kintanon
  • If there was only one disabled person in the world, then you might have a point. However, there is a growing % of the population who are disabled.

    As for your silly walmart example. Reasonable accomidation includes having assistants assist you. A store doesn't have to have braille price stickers if they have an assistant who will read out the prices on request.



    Soo... I don't have to put a wheelchair ramp in my business if I am willing to have someone help them up the stairs? What if there is only one disabled person in my neighborhood? Should I have to accomodate that one person who has the opportunity to shop at my store?

    Kintanon
  • Reading information. Dealing with morons like yourself. I'd have my companion describe the pictures to me, but since his command of english is severely lacking and he is colorblind, he isn't much help. And yes, Kentanun, he is a dog. I supposed I should have placed that in an ALT tag for you. I am always amazed when somebody realizes I'm blind (the sunglasses and dog aren't as much of a clue as one would suspect) and then talks louder and slower so that I can understand. A similar problem to this is some restaurant owners don't want my companion dog in the restaurant with me. They complain about the dog hair that they have to clean up. Well, shouldn't you be cleaning your restaurant anyway?


    Excellent! A blind person. Now, do you, as a blind person, have any burning desire to see legislation passed forcing AOL to make their browser compliant to ADA standards? Does it somehow reduce your experience of the net for their browser to be the way it is? Would it not be much more useful for the blind to be contacting individual websites and companies to get the websites redesigned to better accomodate text to speech software and screen readers? This does NOT NEED legislation. Oh, and I don't give a shit if you're blind or not, competent is competent, and you are clearly competent.

    Kintanon
    PS. It was interesting to see how the phonetic spelling of my name came out... I spell it K I N T A N O N. At least I know the program pronounced it correctly.
  • You're just trying to make a point. You can't possibly really be that stupid.

    People can, in general, learn multiple languages.

    Blind people cannot, in general, learn to see.

    The question is also, of course, one of *cost*. How much would it cost for the next version of AOL's installer to use text rather than pictures of text to describe what it's doing? Not a whole lot.

    I really look forward to hearing the kind of things you'd say if you ever spent a week or two without the use of your eyes.


    I was trying to make a point, and I made it. I can learn multiple languages, blind people can go to different web sites, purchase equipment which makes the site more accesible to them. But it is not the responsibility of the website owner/designer to make sure that the site is available to everyone anymore than it is the responsibility of someone to make sure I learn mandaran chinese at their expense so I can read their website.

    Oh, and I spent several days without the use of my eyes after a rather nasty accident with a Cat. I've also spend months at a time without the use of my arms as I've broken each one multiple times.
    I became ambidextrous after smashing the hell out of my right wrist, so I know what it's like to be somewhat disabled. No where near what some people go through, but a little taste nonetheless.

    Kintanon
  • What if they want access to AOL's local content? AOL spends a fair chunk of money building content you can't get unless you're a subscriber.



    You've reached a key issue now, WANT vs NEED. They do not NEED access to AOLs local content. They may WANT it, but they don't NEED it. Hence there is no reason to legislate that AOL rewrite their browser to be blind friendly.

    Kintanon
  • You've never tried to lift a person in a wheelchair up even a few stairs have you?
    Even with the most lightweight chair, it's hard work, and VERY VERY scary for the disabled person, who never knows if he's going to be tipped out onto the floor.

    Your neighbourhood would have to be very small to only include one disabled person.



    I am 5'7" 120lbs, I have helped a 190lb person in a wheelchair up a flight of 9 (I think it was 9) steps at our church because the Ramp was closed for repairs. It wasn't that difficult for me, and it was jut a bit bumpy for her. If I can do it, then anyone can.

    Kintanon
  • These are the same people who fight for government regulations that put braille on drive up ATMs.

    These are the same people who protest the movie 'Mr. Magoo.'

    As for the 'government at work' arguments, read the article this, is a civil lawsuit. I don't want to smack the blind on the back of their collective heads and say, "Too bad," but this is just overstepping the boundries of accessability. The same way the braille ATM does.

    Do they really expect proprietary AOL software(crap) to work well with their speech synths? If anything this more proof that AOL stinks, especially for the blind. Try a different ISP, you'll like it.

    The foundation for Nacrolepsy are filing a lawsuit against /. user gad_zuki! for writing posts that aren't interesting enough to keep them awake.


  • Actually it has a lot more to do with accessability regulations, and legal fears of not blindly following regulations. Heh, I love puns.
    There was a discussion about it at the straight dope website.

  • Shocking? Very, then you'd know your friend can read the CRT and has been lying to you about being blind all along.

    "More than one window," heh you crack me up.

  • The blind can 'surf the net' just fine, thank you!

    There are a variety of very good speech synth programs available (if you have the patience to wait for the computer to read it out to you) as well as devices that spit out text in the form of braille flashes on a reader. (a little like a scrolling lcd display, but the dots are solenoid actuated pins)

    The blind can (gasp) type too!

    The complaint with AOL seems to be that they offer no text equivalent for their images/icons (no 'alt' tags), so that a reader is incapable of 'rendering' them for the blind!

    Sidenote: Pretty much any Lynx/AvantGo friendly page is also friendly for the visually handicapped. Keep that in mind the next time you say to yourself 'Screw anyone who doesn't come in here riding Mozilla or IE'.
  • AOL provides DESIRABLE, PREMIUM PROPRIATARY CONTENT no one else does! (Did I just say that? I'll have to wash my mouth out later.) In many locations, they are also the only 'local' ISP. If the blind want AOL's content, or are stuck out in the telecommunications boonies, THEY HAVE NO CHOICE BUT AOL.

    As for your weak agrument that you can't sue for a Mandarin Chinese AOL, the reason is thus; The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides those with disabilities the mechanism to sue AOL for discrimination. All commercial enteprises are expected to be adaptable by the disabled under the act. Being Chinese is not a disability covered by the ADA, nor is there any US government mandate for commercial businesses to provide 'equal service' to Chinese.

    I am completely sick of this neo-lasse faire (sp)resurgence. It's people like you, who believe that inalienable rights are so far removed from your life that they don't exist, who are dragging the US down into the sea of Big Brother commercialism. You attack the righteous when they have been stepped on with weak put-offs like 'So what? You should have expected it. They can do whatever they damn well please!' Lest you forget, we in the US fought long, protracted wars to secure you those rights you are so willing to give up in the name of 'cheaper chips' and corporate handouts.
    The blind are taking their chance to secure rights for themselves. You have a right to view commercial webpages, Why the hell shouldn't they?

    Stupidity may be a disability covered by the ADA.

  • by JordanH (75307) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @10:35AM (#1563142) Homepage Journal
    • And, finally, I have to say that I am utterly fucking disgusted with the ./ people who are whining about Political Correctness. We're not talking about some pointless argument over semantics. We're talking about locking out a portion of our community, a portion of the community that is already excluded from so much in our society, from the explosive growth in our economy and society taking place on the Internet. For a group of people who whine so much about being excluded, about being ostracized because they are different, this attitude is utter hypocrisy!

    I couldn't agree more.

    I'm generally pretty conservative, but I just don't see the ADA as being a burden on society. The intent is that society will benefit by allowing handicapped people to function as productive members of society. Anybody have a problem with this?

    Now, there are people who try to abuse it. Like the policeman who was fired because he couldn't make a comprehensible report and claimed to have "Disability of Written Expression" or the people who tried to claim that they were discriminated against because they couldn't perform certain jobs, like being a pilot, that required a certain standard of uncorrected vision.

    The geeks whining about special accomodations or comparing this to something we might see in a "Harrison Bergeron" world are pretty clueless. I've known productive blind computer programmers. As others have mentioned, there are OCR devices that will read a computer screen.

    I, for one, am disappointed that the Web is as much a visual medium as it's become. I like to think that the Web is best when it's a information, primarily written language, medium. I'm not looking forward to the day when high speed access turns it the Web into just Interactive TV.

    In so far as the Web is written language based, simple accomodations, like ALT tags, and command-based systems so that people can navigate without the need for visual cues, are all that's needed. It wouldn't be hard to do and everyone could benefit. If more sites were Lynx accessible, we'd have a Web that was more useful to people with slow connections and simple character based systems, too.

    There's a lot of hyperbole about all of this. From the link [usdoj.gov] in this story about the guidelines the Federal Government is adopting, you can find this document [usdoj.gov] that really explains what the Fed is doing. A particularly interesting extract is:

    • 9) Are there any exemptions to the technology accessibility standards?

      A Federal agency does not have to comply with the accessibility standards if it would impose an undue burden to do so. This is consistent with language used in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other civil rights legislation, where the term 'undue burden' has been defined as "significant difficulty or expense." However, the agency must explain why meeting the standards would pose an undue burden for a given procurement action, and must still provide people with disabilities access to the information or data that is affected.

    Is this too much to ask? That we make some effort to give people with disabilities access to information?

    Someday, someday soon perhaps, the Internet will be a necessity. You may need it to apply for Government services or licenses. You might need it to access the future version of Libraries. Do we really want to make decisions now that closes the Internet off to people with disabilities?

  • ATMs (at least in the US) use a standard menu structure and the same configuration of buttons.

    If you learn once, you've learned for all of them.

    This isn't necessarily true. I encountered (to my utter disgust) *advertising* inserted into some NorWest ATMs. It demanded an extra keystroke to pass the ad, which was in the middle of the sequence. There was no audio indication that you had to do something different this time. A blind person would have no clue as to how to navigate the new sequence.

    Hmmm. If the ADA can be used to force banks to skip those extra prompts (and put the English/Espanol preference on the card where it belongs) it could be a big win for consumers tired of these nuisances.
    --

  • Just think, use the brain that is, about how you would feel if you had a sister or brother that was blind and AOL and other portals kept making no work whatsoever to accomodate them. If the pages will not use LYNX, the blind and visually impaired probably cannot acess it.
    Think, about what your opinions would be if you were to be blind tomorrow.
    For 5 1/2 years I worked with a blind woman and my nominal superior had his glaucoma just barely under control. I thought about it everyday.
    I look back in shame, while waiting to get into my quantum mechanic prof's office to go over an equations from an experiment that had me stumped, and listening to someone who seemed to not have enough self confidence (I was thinking - why is this guy whining so much) and worried if he can get a job with math and chemistry degrees. I felt about two inches tall when he walked out and I realized he was blind.
    Mark Rogness, Des Moines Iowa
  • What is the world coming to? The next article we see is going to be DEAF SUE RADIO CONGLOMS FOR LACK OF ADA COMPLIANCE. This is ludicrous. There are some things I can't do, like sing...but I'm not going to sue the Kereoke guys if they don't want me to sing...as a matter of fact I think they would be doing the right thing. We all have our weaknesses and advantages and we can't sue somebody just because they aren't equal in every aspect. I'm going to sue the blind people because they can hear better than me (and they are going to be rich after this frivolus lawsuit). Think I'm upset? Well, yeah...I guess it all comes down to the fact that I think this is complete BS.
  • Very good points.

    Speaking as someone who spends upwards of ten hours a day with my face held about nine inches from a VDU screen, I take quite an interest in what life is like for blind people.

    Given the work and hobbies of the typical /. reader, I'd suggest that others do the same.

    jsm
  • Long before the invention of the IMG tag, universal access was a vital part of the HTML spec -- the spec didn't actually define the presentation of content, just its semantic structuring. Presentation and syntax are supposed to be separate, and the loss of handicapped access is only one of the punishments inflicted on the public by intermingling the two. (There's a very good discussion of these issues in David Siegel's article stumping for the adoption of CSS [webreview.com].)

    There are two questions that have to be asked here:

    1. Is access to AOL an important part of public life?

    This is debatable only to the extent that you focus specifically on AOL's terrible, spammy services; if you use AOL as a stand-in for internet access in general you have to answer yes. Nobody would argue today (especially not on slashdot) that access to internet resources is not significant.

    2. Are there reasonable steps that AOL could be taking to make it easier for handicapped users to access their services?

    This is a little touchier, because it focuses on the question of what is reasonable design. AOL will probably argue that it needs to rely on an image-heavy layout in order to stay competitive, but that's a hard thing to actually prove. (When you add images, how many users do you add because they're impressed by the flashiness, and how many users do you lose because they're annoyed with the long download time? Both numbers are hard to measure.) And yet, the extent to which blind users lose access to AOL's sites as a result are generally much easier to substantiate: I think it'd be pretty easy for a lawyer to demonstrate how AOL sites are completely unusable for the blind.

    I'm all for this lawsuit. Not simply because it's another thorn in AOL's butt (though it is), or because I think we should do what we can to make life a little easier for blind people (though we should). But because I love spare, trimmed-down HTML, and I long for the day when 40-something marketing directors stop treating the Web like it was TV or a magazine. If this suit is successful, it'll get us one day closer to the day when the user, not the producer, controls the presentation -- and that will benefit everybody, blind and sighted alike.

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but if you're taking legal advice from some guy bullshitting on some web site, you deserve what you get.

    Francis Hwang

  • My congratulations on your post--a splendid example of shooting off your mouth without pausing to think first.

    I'm a whole whopping 21 years old, and do you see me sue-crazy like the rest of the damned upper class schmucks who don't know what else to do with they're money other than smoke crack and shoot heroin? Fuck all of them. Grow up, and get on with it. Stop impeding the progress of one of the greatest technologically advenced nations in the world with this same old bullshit. The masses have had enough. Give it up you dumb schmucks.

    That you're 21 doesn't surprise me in the slightest. That you have absolutely zero sympathy for people with disabilities suggests strongly that you are white, male, American, and healthy. You don't have any form of disability, and you don't know anybody (or care about anybody) that does.

    Someday, possibly, you will grow up....
    ...and when you do, you may discover yourself falling "through the Looking Glass" as we say, into the world of the disabled. Maybe you'll get married, and your wife will have a car accident when she's pregnant. Maybe you and she will get stupid and do the Natural Childbirth thing--eschewing hospitals for a whole wheat birth experience at home. A swell idea, right up until the baby can't get oxygen. Or maybe you'll have a "normal" birth, only to visit the next morning and hear your pediatrician ask the most ominous question you'll ever hear:

    By any chance...did your wife have amniocentesis before the baby was born?

    And then you might discover that it's your child that doesn't qualify for heart surgery--because she doesn't fit the Aryan profile. And it's your child that doesn't get to go to school, because she doesn't fit the Aryan profile. And it's your child that doesn't get to play at the park, or attend multiple-story schools, or event use the toilet on an airplane. And then maybe you might discover that there are people out there don't have all the advantages you have.

    I have my own reservations about the ADA. It drives me crazy when people who ought to know better use the ADA as a means of extorting money--and frankly, that's what I think this NFB suit is. Should AOL use ALT tags? Yup. Does Shockwave make a website unreadable to the blind? Yup--and companies that make their sites unreadable deserve to have their contempt publicized. But what is happening here is simple extortion: AOL will settle this by becoming a corporate sponsor of the NFB, the NFB will reap thousands (millions?) and AOL will write off the expense as Danegeld. (Coastal villages in Britain used to pay the Vikings off so they wouldn't ransack the town.)

    But what really scares me about the ADA is the knee-jerk reaction of reactionary jerks like you. I worry all the time about the eventual backlash against Special Ed funding and Mental Health/Mental Retardation programs, and I wonder when people will start thinking publicly about saving public funds by "euthanizing" these poor, suffering little victims. People like Peter Singer (at Princeton) and the L.A. chapter of MENSA are already saying it. And all they need is the unwitting assistance of a lot of healthy, white, male 21-year-olds with no sense of social responsibility....

    Perhaps it is you that should grow up.

  • I'm deeply saddend by the comments here.

    What is funny, is that many of you will have sight problems that develop as you age. From my understanding a large percentage (60%) of blind people had a "normal" life until they were in their 40's 50's or 60's -- at which point they were struck blind due to a stroke...

    What makes democracy work is when we stick up for the rights of other people. We do this becuse when people wait until their own rights have been taken it is very often too late. What makes capitalism work is an underlying democracy -- a system which keeps one person's rights from trampling on another's. Many of you are large advocates of freedom. However, when it is not your freedom... you turn a blind eye.

    These blind people whom you wish to steal rights from have paid tax dollars which have helped to fund the public institutions which created the Internet. Shouldn't they be allowed to benefit from its existence as well as you?

    Two weeks ago, I was at a DC SGML conference where a web accessibility talk was given. It changed my perspective on things. We sat in a room (all 40 of us) and listened to a "web reader" browse the web. It was amazing. When I'm 60 and blind from staring at a CRT my whole life I want to be able to sit back and enjoy the wealth of information on the Internet. The last thing I want to hear is "IMAGE, IMAGE, JAVASCRIPT, IMAGE, IMAGE, JAVASCRIPT, SUBMIT"

    Come On! Certainly the minimum we can do is add a few ALT tags to our web site, test with Lynx, and ask Bobby to take a look at it just to make sure... Why you all line up and support a corporation's (a non living being) right to deny access to a class of people is beyond me. In fact, I'm surprised. Especially for slash dot people.

  • by benenglish (107150) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @10:37AM (#1563209)

    As the maintainer of a government web site, I can only say how much I agree. Those repeatedly posting that the web is a visual medium are just flat wrong. The web (and to a greater extent and more importantly the internet) ain't about pretty pictures or fonts only the designer of them can read. It's about ideas. It's a mechanism for communicating those ideas. And anyone who says "They're blind! Let 'em eat cake!" is not only heartless but ignorant. It is simply unacceptable for society to take a group of people who "see" the world in a different way and shut them out. Isn't that what all the Hellmouth uproar has been about? Saying "Blind people? Fuck 'em!" is the moral equivalent of saying "Plays Doom? Put 'em in isolation!" Neither condition is a good reason to cut people off from the rest of the world. And folks, I believe that the 'net has reached a level of importance, of validity, and of ubiquity that cutting people off from the online world is nearly the equivalent of shutting them out of the physical world.

    I know my blind users appreciate the fact that I'm not trying to win any design contests. I'm just trying to communicate. Just like any other Any Browser [anybrowser.org] proponent. :-)

    As for the nuts and bolts, it's not all that hard to make sites useful to everyone. Check out the IRS web site [ustreas.gov] for a look at a huge site that works in text only mode. And if you're open to making the sites you design more useful, try the basic information available from the Department of Justice page on this topic. [usdoj.gov] There's even a fine page on the topic from the General Services Administration [gsa.gov]. Just because they're government sites doesn't mean they're bad.

    On the flip side, of course, I think the folks filing this suit could have chosen a better place to try to make available for the blind than AOL. Suppose they get everything they ask for and AOL becomes totally accessible? What then? A whole new group of folks gets to look at the service and decide that it's crap?

    :-)

    Sorry. I couldn't resist the cheap shot.

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