103 members of Congress to DoJ: do something to stop wave of web accessibility suits

“Responding to the surge of website accessibility lawsuits filed under Title III of the ADA, 103 members of Congress from both parties sent a letter to Attorney General Sessions urging action to stem the tide of website accessibility lawsuits.” The group is led by Ted Budd (R-N.C.) and J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.) [Minh N. Vu and Samuel Sverdlov, Seyfarth Shaw]

Related, more trouble coming down the road: “The World Wide Web Consortium just published an expanded version of the WCAG to add 17 more requirements to address new technologies and other digital barriers for individuals with disabilities.” [Kristina M. Launey and Minh N. Vu, Seyfarth Shaw]

And yet more: federal-level reform is one thing, but a California state court decision in Los Angeles sets the stage for costly liability under the state Unruh Act no matter how Washington goes.

15 Comments

  • Legislators appeal to executive branch to fix a statute, which is the job of the legislature. I think I know what Philip Hamburger would say.

  • Hey, aren’t there things ….. what’s the word…… they make things legal or illegal or require people to behave in a certain way…… it’ll come to me, right on the tip of my…. laws. That’s what they’re called. Laws.

    Does the Justice Department make the laws? Doesn’t Congress know anyone who can tell them who does that?

    Bob

  • How about those members of Congress do something instead? Why defer to a regulator when you can simply make law? Website accessibility is a moving target that nobody can hit.

  • People can hit it… It’s relatively easy. Even a federal employee can determine if a site is accessible or not and whether or not it complies with the requirements of section 508. Now let’s see, target stores have to be accessible, yet their web site which is much, much, much easier for a blind individual to go to doesn’t?
    Perhaps removing accessibility as a private cause of action would improve things? Me personally, I have found that if you contact the right people, actually explain the problem, they usually can and do fix it. But i’m not looking a payday, only usability. 😀

  • cecil notes that web pages are not accessible to the blind. How exactly can that even happen? A blind person can physically feel their way around a store. What is the analog for navigating web pages? Are to make concerts accessible to the deaf? Certain disabilities simply cannot be fixed. That the web is not accessible to certain people is sad but not a cause for shutting it down for the rest of us.

    • For those who came in late, I have been debating web accessibility as a policy issue for 20+ years and there are a variety of ways (such as the use of alt text and video description) in which web designers can, sometimes readily and sometimes at much trouble and expense, make their pages more usable by persons who are blind, deaf, impaired in fine hand movement, etc. Our web accessibility tag has more: https://www.overlawyered.com/tag/web-accessibility/

    • It’s not the web. After all, I am blind and I am here, It’s particular sites.

  • Demanding outrageously expensive fixes (and I’m not just talking about websites) for the benefit of a few will only force worthwhile services for everybody, such as web sites, to shut down.

    It’s high time that Congress put sensible boundaries on, if not repeal, the ADA.

    But in the meantime there is something very helpful the Justice Dept can do — once Trump gets a replacement justice confirmed to replace Kennedy, Sessions can file suit to overturn Wickard v Filburn and its successors, thus restoring a sane interpretation of “interstate commerce” to Constitutional law and taking away a huge host of unauthorized and unjustified federal powers, including ADA.

    • Remember, Susan Collins won’t vote to confirm a Justice unless they support Stare Decisis. She’s more concerned with Roe, but it’s hard to think of a decision more embedded into the legal framework than Wickard v Filburn.

      If it goes away literally thousands of laws and tens of thousands of regulations go with it.

      I would prefer that, but I certainly don’t expect it in my lifetime.

      • I doubt very much there will be five votes on the Supreme Court any time soon to reverse Wickard v. Filburn, which means a quixotic suit proposing its overthrow might just entrench it over a longer period.

        Discussion of stare decisis during a Supreme Court vacancy often falls short on nuance. Every justice, no matter how visionary, agrees that stare decisis must often prevail in favor of retaining many mistaken old decisions, and no justice, no matter how cautious, in fact would feel obliged by stare decisis to protect every mistaken old decision no matter how much harm it was doing. I haven’t looked up exactly what Sen. Collins may have said, but all the players in this particular game who are judges occupy some point on the spectrum other than the endpoints.

        • True enough.
          Politicians are rarely precise in this kind of statement regarding confirmations because they are often focused on a desired result rather than how a judge forms his opinions on those cases. Susan Collins is looking for a candidate who agrees that Roe v Wade should stand. Since most candidates won’t give a direct answer to that question she is going to question their attitudes on stare decisis instead. If a nominee is (in her opinion) not deferential enough to prior S.C. decisions look for a “no” vote from her.

      • I often lean to the libertarian-right in these arguments, but see a reasonable “interstate commerce” application in Wickard v. Filburn. although the farmer was not selling his excess grain on the interstate market, he was using it to raise livestock that would enter the interstate market. My principal objection is to extension of “interstate commerce” powers to questions having nothing to do with interstate commerce, eg national marijuana prohibition.

  • When i was in college i had a part time job working in a computer lab. At the time I was studying Drafting and I was asked to help with the layout of a new computer lab. I was shown the room that it was to be located in so that I could measure it for the layout drawings and was told that it needed 24 workstations..
    I turned in a layout and was told that it was unacceptable, because every workstation was not wheelchair accessible. I told them that the room wasn’t large enough to make all 24 workstations accessible. I had the first 12 workstations accessible. I was pulled off the project when I told them that there were exactly two students in wheelchairs on campus. They really didn’t like it when I pointed out that the room that the Lab was to be in was on the third floor of a building that had no elevators.

  • Yippee, I have a live example to share. On July 4, 2018 Baen changed it’s web site, prompting the following email exchange.
    Cecil,

    Thanks so much for all the constructive feedback. We truly appreciate it!

    Our Web Team is currently working to fix all the screen reader issues and we were wondering if you would be so kind as to test some fixes for us as we move forward?

    Thanks for your patience and support of Baen Books!

    Regards,
    V. Z.
    Baen Books Web Team

    From: cecil
    Date: Monday, July 9, 2018 at 5:13 PM
    To: Baen Support
    Subject: RE: new baen look

    I have to admit though, this gives me an issue…
    New Releases (5)
    More
    Buy
    More
    Buy
    More
    Buy
    More
    Buy
    More
    Buy
    Rather than knowing what five books are new, I have a list of “more buy” Where in the past I would have had the title without clicking on the link. I am of course presuming that there is a picture or something which lets sighted people know what they are getting more information about, or purchasing?
    If possible, replace the more link with the title of the book?
    Thanks,
    Cecil
    _____________________________________________
    From: cecil
    Sent: Monday, July 09, 2018 4:11 PM
    To: ‘baensupport@principledtechnologies.com’
    Subject: new baen look
    Hi,
    I am totally blind and use a screen reader. I had issues with the new site. Some of it is just that it isn’t intuitive for someone who doesn’t see the page change… For example, clicking download makes the page above where the “cursor” is change… And since it’s not a reload, the screen reader doesn’t start back at the top or area where the change occurred and read. I eventually found the read online and other download options, but it was frustrating. When making changes in the future, could you keep the visually impaired in mind too? It wouldn’t hurt my feelings for a stripped down, text only, fast/easy/all traditional links version to be available. 😀
    Great content! I love the books and being able to read them on my pc. I get electronic books from the library of congress, but can only read them on special devices, or android/IOS if I had a cell phone. It’s just so much easier to be able to read on my pc while waiting for meetings or after hours patching to start.
    I’m not one of the “bah, humbug, change” crowd, but you can file this with them if you need to categorize and nothing else fits. 😀
    Thank you,
    Cecil

    *** end paste ***
    Note, Names have been edited, except those specifically published.
    My response was that of course I would love the opportunity to give back and that I stand ready to assist in whatever ways I can. This may not work in every single case ever, but it’s the approach I favor. Explain what you’re having an issue with, and usually the web site owner will do what they reasonably can to help. I have never had a web site owner tell me “I don’t care” or “It’s too much trouble to change it” or “my other customers like it this way” or the like. Approaching people reasonably usually gets a reasonable response. I hope this helps your understanding a bit my side of the argument. Any that wish can go look at baenebooks.com and see the way it is, may change without notice, for an understanding of the issues I pointed out in the emails. Of particular note, I don’t know what you see, but I cut/pasted what my screen reader saw from the web page to the email and described it in my terms.

    • Wow Cecil! Great news. I’m on that site all of the time.

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