Disabled Sue Over Web Shopping

WSJ, March 22, 2013 > Advocates for Blind, Deaf Say Netflix, Target Are Legally Obligated to Make Sites Easier to Navigate

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) , and the National Association of the Deaf have recently won legal challenges against Target Corp. and Netflix. Their contention is that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) implies a legal obligation for companies to make their websites as accessible as their stores. They are pressing firms to install the digital equivalent of wheel chair ramps and self-opening doors.

In the past the NFB has worked with eBay, Monster.cm, TiketMaster and Travelocity to make their websites more accessible to people with disabilities. It can’t be any thing but good for business, even if the cost of retrofitting a corporate website can exceed 10% of total website cost (vs. 1-3% when phased in from the beginning). Other disagree.

If it is the intent of the NFB, and other advocacy groups, to require personal access to online businesses, is it too much of a stretch to expect that mobile communications device manufacturers will also be required to provide an interface for people with physical disabilities?

It’s not a stretch to think these types of things apply to mobile devices. But I wouldn’t expect to see the iPhone 5 braille edition any time soon. There are all kinds of third party accessibility devices available, and iOS and Google both have good accessibility interfaces. If you dig into an iPhones settings you can make the text bigger, change the contrast, and do all kinds of voice over settings for the blind. You can even give Siri an accent, haha.

Web accessibility has been around for a while, and plenty of people have adopted it so it’s not that far fetched to see it happening in the courts. Especially when a lot of businesses are moving to certain transactions that can only be completed online. Take airlines for example - where many charge you an additional fee if you are calling on the phone.

companies here tried to force people off paper bills onto online billing, which caused an uproar. lots of old people like paper bills, and they like standing in line at the post office to pay them, it gets them out of the house, they have a chat to the clerks in the post office. access isn’t just about being able to use something easily. I’d hope companies would view offering a range of interactions to be a strength and a point of differention.