Posts Tagged ‘web accessibility’

November 29 roundup

Web accessibility: Sylvan’s surrender

The Department of Justice regards online tutoring services as “public accommodations” subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and in September entered into a consent decree with Sylvan Learning Centers, which agreed to provide aids such as written materials and “videotext displays” (as well as free sign-language interpreters) for the assistance of deaf persons who might wish to use its services. As TechLaw Journal notes (Sept. 26-30), and as we have often noted before in our ongoing coverage, there is reason to expect the legal pressure for web accessibility to extend to online businesses more generally.

September 13 roundup

November 7 roundup

  • My informal debate with Professor Silver over the effect of reform on physician supply continues. [Point of Law; Silver]
  • If you’ve been intrigued by Professor E. Volokh’s idea of medical self-defense (and thus payment for organs) as a constitutional right, he’ll be discussing it with Richard Epstein and Jeffrey Rosen at AEI. [Volokh; Harvard Law Review @ SSRN; AEI]
  • Peter Wallison on how over-regulation and over-litigation is killing American competitiveness in the capital markets. [Wall Street Journal @ AEI]
  • Press coverage is finally starting to break through in the Milberg Weiss scandal with a lengthy Fortune profile. [Point of Law]
  • Economists and scholars file Supreme Court amicus brief calling for federal preemption of state “anti-predatory lending laws” in important Watters v. Wachovia case. [Zywicki @ Volokh; CEI]
  • One-sided coverage by the New York Times on the issue of web accessibility for the blind. Earlier: Oct. 27; Feb. 8. [New York Times]
  • Deep Pocket Files update: MADD tries to intervene in stadium vendor case where appellate court tossed $105 million verdict because of unfair trial. See Aug. 4 and links therein. [New Jersey Law Journal]
  • Lawsuit: my dead father’s baseball card mischaracterizes his nickname. [Lattman]
  • Lawsuit: I have legal right to the letter W. [Times Record News via Bashman]
  • Samuel Abady and Harvey Silverglate on libel tourism. [Boston Globe via Bashman]
  • Another roundup of Justice Robert Thomas libel lawsuit stories. [Bashman]
  • $15M Minnesota verdict blaming a delayed delivery for cerebral palsy, despite evidence it was caused by an unrelated infection. [Pioneer Press]

Web accessibility suits: AP weighs in

For aficionados of one-sided litigation coverage, here’s a lulu from the Associated Press. It’s an article on the lawsuit (National Federation of the Blind v. Target) seeking to establish that companies violate the Americans with Disabilities Act when they do not design their websites so as to make them “accessible” to users who are blind, deaf, lacking in motor skills needed for mouse use, etc. The article fails to mention the courts’ rejection of the disabled rights groups’ position in the Southwest Airlines case, though it’s the major existing precedent on the point. And aside from a ritual and uninformative denial by the retailer defendant Target that it is liable, the article presents as uncontroversial the demand that non-accessible websites be declared unlawful, with not a hint of why anyone might consider it a thoroughly disastrous idea. Oh, wait: the article does incorporate a bit of controversy, by recording worries that a victory for the plaintiffs in the Target case might not go far enough and come out being “read too narrowly. Not every business or Web site is subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, said [Washington, D.C. lawyer] John D. Kemp”. (Seth Sutel, “Blind Web surfers sue for accessibility”, AP/San Jose Mercury-News, Oct. 24).

Web-accessibility suits, revived

In San Francisco, federal judge Marilyn Hall Patel has allowed a lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind to go forward against the Target Corp., charging that the retailer’s website,, is insufficiently “accessible” to blind users. Websites are considered accessible to blind users when they (e.g.) include summaries or transcripts for audio/video elements and alt-text for images, while avoiding designs that require users to rely on graphic elements for navigation. Disabled-rights groups had suffered a serious setback a few years ago in their legal campaign to enforce web accessibility, when a court ruled that Southwest Airlines was not liable for the inaccessibility of its online ticket reservation system to some handicapped users. However, Judge Patel (regarded as relatively liberal by the standards of the federal bench) distinguished that case on the grounds that the Target website had more of a “nexus” to physical Target stores than did the airline’s ticketing site. (“Target can be sued if Web site inaccessible to blind, judge says”, AP/Houston Chronicle, Sept. 7; Bob Egelko, “Ruling on Web site access for blind”, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 8; Sheri Qualters, “Discrimination Case Opens Door to Internet ADA Claims”, National Law Journal/, Sept. 28; Slashdot thread). The ruling, in PDF format, is here (courtesy Howard Bashman, who also rounds up other links).

Longtime readers will recall that I’ve been much involved in the web-accessibility controversy over the years. Some links: my May 2000 column for Reason on the subject; various posts on this site, 1999-2002; my House testimony of Feb. 2000; Jan. 8, 2004. And this site’s earlier coverage of the Target case provoked one of the biggest comments discussions ever (Feb. 28, 2006).

Target sued: website not accessible to blind

Per the WSJ Law Blog (Feb. 7): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), represented by Berkeley’s Disability Rights Advocates as well as two law firms, has sued discounter Target, alleging that it violates California disabled-rights law because its website is not operable by blind computer users. “The suit charges that the site lacks, for instance, compliant alt-text, an invisible code embedded beneath graphics that allows blind users to decipher images. The suit also contends that because the Web site requires the use of a mouse to complete a transaction, blind customers are unable to make purchases on their own.” As longterm readers of this site know, demands for website accessibility under the ADA and similar laws have been simmering for years; in 2002 a federal court turned down such a claim with respect to Southwest Airlines’ website, and two years ago (Jan. 8, 2004) a NFB activist said disability advocates were biding their time, waiting for the right case to reopen the issue. It sounds as if the Target lawsuit may be that case. (& welcome readers of John Dvorak, who calls us “the always entertaining”).

More: at, one enthusiast for the lawsuit says that it also calls into question the practices of, whose shopping engine, according to this commentator, powers the Target site. As I discovered when I started writing on this subject six years ago, many advocates of “web accessibility” seem quite surprised to learn that anyone actually disagrees with them on the merits of the matter, as opposed to just not being well enough informed about it. And: coverage in’s Recorder (Matthew Hirsch, “Suit Alleges Target Denies Blind Access to Online Shopping”, Feb. 14).

Web accessibility: still waiting for a case

In October 2002 a federal judge ruled against a claim that Southwest Airlines had violated federal law by failing to make its web site fully accessible to disabled internet users; the judge said a Web site isn’t a “place of public accommodation” covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act because it isn’t a “place” at all. In large part because of that ruling, there hasn’t been the rush that many of us expected to file ADA complaints against online publications and e-commerce providers. But the National Council on Disability, a federal agency, put out a position paper last summer (Jul. 10) aimed at renewing the push to get ADA applied to the Web. And disability rights activists, who are conceding nothing, hope to re-litigate the issue. “‘The Southwest Airlines ruling has set back the process of trying to get Internet sites covered by the ADA,’ said Curtis Chong, who heads the computer science division of the National Federation of the Blind. ‘But one of these days we’ll find a better place to file a better suit and maybe try and get it taken care of.'” If that ever happens, all hell is likely to break out in the online world. (Mark Thompson, “Courts Yet to Make Definitive Ruling on Online Access for the Disabled”, Online Journalism Review, Dec. 10). In its update the magazine quotes at considerable length what I told a Congressional panel in Feb. 2000 (and even runs my picture). Update Feb. 8, 2006: NFB sues retailer Target under California state law.