Web accessibility suits hit art galleries

More than 75 New York City art galleries “have been hit with lawsuits alleging they are violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) because their websites are not equally accessible to blind and visually impaired consumers. Art galleries are the latest business sector to be targeted with a wave of such lawsuits. Thousands of other businesses, including hotels, resorts, universities, and restaurants have been served with similar complaints last year.” Deshawn Dawson, a legally blind person living in Brooklyn, has filed at least 37 of the suits; he along with another frequent filer are often represented by attorneys Joseph Mizrahi and Jeffrey Gottlieb. Art and design schools around the country have also been hit, and some New York galleries have settled claims rather than take the risks of litigation and a possible adverse verdict [Eileen Kinsella, Artnet News, first, second, third pieces]

10 Comments

  • Do you know of a compliant website so we would have an example of what’s needed?

    • Unfortunately, they don’t exist – and everyone knows it.

  • When is someone going to sue the radio stations for not including some sort of readable text for deaf people? It should be possible to include such a stream into a side channel. With an emotive description of the music being played, or the lyrics, translated, if necessary, into whatever languages might be spoken by deaf listeners..

  • Time for someone to fight it in order to get a court ruling demonstrating that these are not good faith lawsuits. Perhaps a counter judgment against these lawyers and plaintiffs would stop the madness.

    • I have a very small business under a LLC with a small website. When setting up my website I put a text caption on every image. Is that enough? Did I miss one? I’m trying to sell software. The last thing I want to do is spend thousands of dollars settling or tens of thousands of dollars contesting a lawsuit.

      Unfortunately suing small businesses appears to be profitable for lawyers.

    • It is not merely that the lawsuits are not good faith, it is that they are demanding the impossible. The web itself can never be accessible to the blind. Never.

  • As a side note, here in the county in which I live, local governments are taking down massive portions of their websites to give them time to revamp them to be “ADA compliant.”

    Pages with links to services, meetings, agendas, etc all disappeared until the governments can hire people that know what the regulations are (if such a person exists.)

  • BOB/CC
    and exactly what makes you an “expert”? Are you any of the following?
    blind
    visually impaired
    programmer
    other computer science professional
    web developer
    expert with the requirements of the 2000 508 rules
    expert with wcag 2.0 a/aa
    expert with 508 2017 updated rules
    Just saying something doesn’t make it so. Claiming that “this is not possible” as a categorical statement only displays that you are clueless. There is nothing in HTML which of itself precludes an accessible document. Remember, HTML is a document standard which includes linking to other documents… Hyper Text Markup Language. With the important word in those four being “text”, blind/visually impaired persons do not have a text problem. They have a non-text problem. But I will stop since you do not wish to be convinced, you merely wish to keep your preconceived notions of what is and how things should be.
    Now, depending on what they were looking for, my opinion will change. There is nothing that will allow a blind person to see and understand the mona lisa or other paintings. On the other hand, for business matters, such as hours of operation, entrance fees, ticketing, etc, a web site could be quite accessible.
    My understanding is that some of the web based “radio” is actually streaming lyrics with the music? And that is a bad thing why?

    • I don’t know about Bob or CC, but I’m actually pretty well versed with the section 508 stuff. I’m not sure I’d call myself an expert, but I do deal with it as part of my job, having a couple contracts with strong section 508 focuses (because the contracting officer has a been in their bonnet about it), and have worked with a number of actual experts on accessibility challenges, both internally and external consultants. The universal consensus, from everyone I’ve worked with that deals with section 508 professionally, is that there simply isn’t such a thing as being “fully compliant.” You can be compliant to varying degrees, but the very nature of the thing, as it currently stands, makes it impossible to be “completely” compliant.

      I understand that this is the Internet, and I haven’t provided proof beyond my simple assertions, but I’m not exactly willing to say who I work for or what agencies we have contracts with. So this may not be persuasive. Oh well.

      • EPerformance 4.31 is close, there are multiple alterations in the pipeline for it. It’s coming out clean in the tools anyway… unfortunately it took reporting lots of issues with 4.3.0.7…
        But yes, compliance actually takes effort and thought about what you are doing when you are designing a web based application.
        On the other hand, I do not have any real problems with this site. And when I had a problem with baenebooks.com I didn’t file a lawsuit, I wrote them an email and explained the problems I was having and expressed a willingness to talk with them about ways of maybe fixing the issues. After all, I wanted a site that worked, not a payday. I have never had a webmaster for a site tell me “we don’t want your kind around here, go away” or even the inaction equivilant… I guess it’s just how you express yourself and how you approach the problem, and mainly what you hope to “take away”.

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