Accessibility in the News—02/03/17.
While there is certainly appropriate flag raising from various industries about the potential of website accessibility lawsuits, it’s important to highlight the phenomenal creativity that individuals and organizations bring to the table in harnessing technology rightly:
- This issue, Apple receives the esteemed Louis Braille Award. It’s an apt recognition for following Braille’s example of opening communication to those with visual impairments.
- In a stunning development, scientists and technologists appear to have taken communication even further, allowing individuals with paralysis to communicate their thoughts through a mind-reading computer.
- A Virginia-based nonprofit is using the web to make travel accessible to people with disabilities
- Our “Accessibility Products and Announcements” section continues to note new product developments.
But website accessibility litigation news is important to watch. It informs organizations not only about legal risk, but of the way digital platforms can be used to deliver services to customers, constituents, and students with disabilities. Read on for perspectives from news, industry, and legal publications.
AITN Quote of the Week
I’m officially disabled, but I’m truly enabled because of my lack of limbs. My unique challenges have opened up unique opportunities to reach so many in need.
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Addressing Poverty among the Disability Community — One Policy at a Time
1/26 | Source: The Huffington Post | Employment, Legislation | United States
Working-age Americans with disabilities face significant barriers to economic success – low expectations, discrimination and a complex public support system that often limits employment opportunities and upward financial mobility. In addition, working age adults with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty than those without disabilities, while the poverty rate among people with disabilities (ages 18-56) is 28 percent compared to 13 percent among people without disabilities. Poverty rates are compounded when taking into consideration additional characteristics such as gender, communities of color and level of education.
While these statistics are sobering, changes to existing legislation could help reduce poverty among this vulnerable population. National Disability Institute recommends the following legislative reforms that, if accomplished, could begin to address and mitigate the staggering instances of poverty among Americans with disabilities across the country:..
Apple Honored with Louis Braille Award for Efforts in Device Accessibility
1/27 | Source: Apple Insider | Tech, Innovation, Accessibility Awards/Recognition, Digital Accessibility | United States
Announced through the ASB’s website, Apple received the prestigious Braille Award for its efforts in building accessibility functions into products like iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac. An institution since 1957, the Louis Braille Award honors individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions on behalf of individuals who are blind or visually impaired, the ASB says. The award has also been handed out to blind or visually impaired people who overcome great obstacles to accomplish outstanding achievements.
Apple engineer Jordyn Castor, who has been blind since birth, was among those who accepted the award on behalf of the company. Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed gratitude for the award and congratulated the company’s accessibility team for their work in a tweet today…
Lynchburg Area Schools Scramble to Meet Online ADA Compliance
1/28 | Source: The News & Advance | Education, Digital Accessibility, Section 508, ADA | Virginia, United States
For those with visual or auditory disabilities, the internet can be a difficult place to navigate, even when aided by assistive technology. To accommodate those users, Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, an amendment to the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, aims to eliminate barriers to information technology. However, school divisions can run afoul of Section 508 through ADA non-compliance.
No local school division website is fully ADA compliant, according to a News & Advance analysis conducted using the free online tools AI Inspector Sidebar for the Mozilla Firefox browser and the WAVE web accessibility evaluation tool powered by Webaim, an internet accessibility watchdog…
U.S. Access Board Releases Information and Communication Technology Standards and Guidelines
1/30 | Source: The National Law Review | Government, Section 508, WCAG 2.0, Digital Accessibility | United States
Earlier this month, in the waning moments of the Obama Administration, the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (the “Access Board”) took the long-anticipated step of requiring websites of federal government agencies to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) 2.0 Levels A and AA. (The Access Board was established in 1973 to develop and maintain standards for accessible design in the built environment, transit vehicles and systems, telecommunications equipment and electronic and information technology.)
On Thursday, January 5, 2017, the Access Board announced the release of the long anticipated “Information and Communication Technology (“ICT”) Standards and Guidelines,” which update and combine the previously separate requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (requiring federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities) and Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1934 (requiring telecommunication equipment manufacturers and service providers to make their products and services accessible to people with disabilities), into one rule. The ITC Standards and Guidelines (also referred to as the “508 Refresh”) were officially released by the Access Board on Monday, January 9, 2017 and published in the Federal Register on January 18, 2017…
‘Switched at Birth,’ a Series Illuminating a World Without Words
1/30 | Source: The New York Times | Deaf culture, Sign Language, Media Coverage | United States
Not all breakthrough television is on a high-profile channel like HBO, and not all of it makes a ratings splash. A case in point: “Switched at Birth,” which begins its fifth and final season on Tuesday on Freeform. It is a series that has shown, consistently and without much fanfare, how to illuminate deaf culture — and, by extension, any other that faces impairments — without being condescending, sensationalizing or preachy.
The series is about two families whose daughters, Daphne (Katie Leclerc) and Bay (Vanessa Marano), were, well, switched at birth: Bay ended up being raised by Daphne’s affluent parents, John and Kathryn Kennish (D. W. Moffett and Lea Thompson), and Daphne was raised by Regina Vasquez (Constance Marie), a single mother. The catch: Daphne lost most of her hearing as a young child. When, in the premiere, 15-year-old Bay discovers the mistake while doing a school blood-typing project, the Kennishes meet a biological daughter who communicates largely in sign language…
Accessibility for the People with Physical Disabilities
1/30 | Source: The Daily Star | Advocacy, Government, Disability Rights | India
The definition of accessibility refers to the abilities and opportunities to reach desired goods, services, activities and destinations. To add, accessibility must comply with barrier-free environment which means environment designed to be free of obstacles. It is friendly towards people who are physically disabled requiring the use of wheelchairs and prosthetics.
In addition to that, the UN accepts the concise and pragmatic definition of accessibility that refers to provision of ‘flexibility’ to accommodate each user’s needs and preferences. Moreover, Article 2 of the Convention of the Rights of the People with Disabilities (CPRD) provides the definition of universal design of accessibility which includes the design of products, environments, programs and services to be usable by of persons with disabilities where needed. UN has identified a set of universal design principles appropriate to countries:..
Accessibility Advocate Appeals Access to Information Fee
1/30 | Source: The Star | Advocacy, Government, Business, AODA | Ontario, Canada
The Wynne government is denying Ontarians the right to know the details behind its promised 2015 crack-down on businesses that ignore their responsibilities under the province’s landmark accessibility legislation, an accessibility activist says.
Lawyer David Lepofsky asked the government for details of its plan to beef up enforcement the day after it was announced. That was in a June, 2015 Toronto Star story about the government marking the 10th anniversary of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) with a 10-year provincial action plan. It would ensure the province’s 1.8 million people with disabilities can live, work and play to their full potential by 2025 as set out in the 2005 legislation…
Florida Federal Court Holds That a Website is Not a Place of Public Accommodation
1/30 | Source: JD Supra | ADA, Title III, Digital Accessibility, Accessibility Lawsuits/Litigation | Florida, United States
A Florida Judge Holds that SeaWorld’s website is not a place of public accommodation covered by Title III of the ADA but the decision has its limits. Defendants fighting website accessibility lawsuits in the past several years have not had a great deal of success, so the recent decision by Florida federal Magistrate Judge Carol Mirando holding that SeaWorld’s website is not a place of public accommodation was a small bright spot — albeit one with limitations.
The disabled pro se plaintiff in this case sued SeaWorld under Title III of the ADA because the business allegedly did not provide him with an electric wheelchair or allow his two service dogs entry. The court held that the plaintiff did not have standing to bring these claims because there was no threat of imminent harm. The plaintiff also alleged that SeaWorld’s website was not accessible to individuals with disabilities, although it is not clear how his disability impacted his use of the website. The court rejected this claim, holding:..
Dramatic Rise in Website Accessibility Lawsuits Expected to Continue—Nutter Bank Report
1/31 | Source: JD Supra | ADA, Title III, Digital Accessibility, Accessibility Lawsuits/Litigation | United States
There was a significant increase in 2016 in the number of website accessibility lawsuits filed under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), with reports of more than 250 such lawsuits filed by the end of the year against a wide range of businesses, including banks. Other sources reported that fewer than 50 website accessibility lawsuits were filed in 2015. Legal commentators expect the upward trend to continue in 2017, with most lawsuits filed as class actions. In general, these lawsuits claim that a particular business has violated the ADA by failing to maintain a public website that is accessible to persons with visual, auditory, cognitive recognition, speech or other disabilities…
Bank Websites Attract ADA Claims: A Survey of the Issues
1/31 | Source: Lexology | Banking/Financial Services, ADA, Title III, Digital Accessibility, Accessibility Lawsuits/Litigation | United States
Banks and other businesses of all sizes have recently faced a growing wave of claims and lawsuits alleging that their websites do not comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). There have been suits in many different jurisdictions against businesses ranging from motel chains, cosmetic and skin care products, and retail chains, to chocolate companies. Claims against banks of all sizes have increased in recent months filed by the same cluster of firms that previously alleged ADA violations because drive-up ATMs were allegedly not accessible to the visually impaired, and alleged violations of since-repealed “two sign” requirement in the Electronic Funds Transfer Act.
The current wave of website ADA claims follows a relatively consistent pattern. The targeted bank or other business receives a letter from counsel stating that the firm represents a person with a visual impairment. According to the letter, the client attempted to use the target’s website and found that the site did not comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) in a number of ways, which are listed. (It is by no means clear that this is true.) The letter continues by advising the target that because the site does not comply with WCAG 2.0, it violates Title III of the ADA relating to public accommodations. The letter offers to work with the target to remedy the non-compliance, possibly by use of an expert retained by claimant. The letter contemplates entry of a consent decree, and, not surprisingly, seeks payment of significant attorney’s fees that, while high, is less than it would cost for the business to litigate the matter to conclusion…
Locked-In Patients Tell Doctors They are ‘Happy’ after Computer Reads Thoughts
1/31 | Source: The Telegraph | Innovation, Health/Medical
Locked-in patients trapped inside their paralysed bodies have told doctors they are ‘happy’ using an astonishing new brain computer interface which deciphers their thoughts. In a groundbreaking experiment, four people who were incapable of even moving their eyes, were able to respond with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to spoken questions.
On seven out of 10 occasions the patients said they were happy despite their utterly debilitating condition which means they require round the clock care for all their basic needs. In one case, a family requested that the researchers ask one of the participants whether he would agree for his daughter to marry her boyfriend ‘Mario’. The answer was “No” nine times out of ten.
“The striking results overturn my own theory that people with complete locked-in syndrome are not capable of communication,” said Professor Niels Birbaumer, a neuroscientist at the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Geneva, Switzerland…
‘Hamilton’ Lawsuit Turns Spotlight on Broadway Accessibility
1/31 | Source: Variety | Performing Arts, Blind/Visually Impaired, ADA Accessibility Lawsuits| New York, United States
A lawsuit brought against the producers of “Hamilton” and the owners of the theater in which it’s playing has turned attention to issues of accessibility for disabled Broadway theatergoers — an often-overlooked subject where real accommodation and good intentions can meet murky questions of demand and execution.
The class action suit filed earlier this month in the Southern District Court of New York alleges “systemic civil rights violations” against blind and visually-impaired theatergoers, an accusation prompted when plaintiff Mark B. Lasser, a blind theatergoer from Denver, Colo., contacted the “Hamilton” box office about audio description services and was told none were available. That violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the suit…
New Route-Finding Map Lets Seattle Pedestrians Avoid Hills, Construction, Accessibility Barriers
2/1 | Source: Washington Today | Innovation, Transit/Transportation | Washington, United States
Transportation routing services primarily designed for people in cars don’t give pedestrians, parents pushing bulky strollers or people in wheelchairs much information about how to easily navigate a neighborhood using sidewalks. For someone with limited mobility, using sidewalks or pedestrian paths in an unfamiliar area can be like driving without directions and hitting dead end after dead end. Obstacles include hills that are too steep for wheelchairs or people with certain health issues to climb and sidewalks without sloped “curb cuts” that allow people using wheeled devices to safely and easily cross intersections.
On Wednesday AccessMap – a University of Washington project spearheaded by the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology — launched a new online travel planner offering customizable suggestions for people who need accessible or pedestrian-friendly routes when getting from point A to B in Seattle…
Court Says Settlement Agreement Does Not Bar Later Website Accessibility Lawsuits by a Different Plaintiff
2/1 | Source: JD Supra | Business, Accessibility Lawsuits/Litigation, ADA, Title III | Pennsylvania, United States
With the recent proliferation of web accessibility demand letters and lawsuits, businesses often ask whether settling a claim with one plaintiff will bar future lawsuits brought by different plaintiffs. One federal judge recently said no.
Plaintiffs Rachel Gniewskowski, R. David New, and Access Now, Inc.—represented by Carlson, Lynch, Kilpela & Sweet—sued retailer Party City in the Western District of Pennsylvania on September 6, 2016, alleging that Party City’s website is not accessible to visually impaired consumers in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). On October 7, 2016 (while the Pennsylvania lawsuit was pending), Party City entered into a confidential settlement agreement with Andres Gomez, who had previously filed a similar lawsuit in Florida. Both lawsuits contained the same basic set of facts and legal claims, and sought similar relief—modification of the website to make it accessible to, and useable by, individuals with disabilities…
Videos Pulled from City Website, YouTube Channel over Accessibility Issues
2/1 | Source: Global News | Government, Digital Accessibility, Video, AODA | Ontario, Canada
Video records of council sessions, committee meetings, and other political debates have been pulled from the city’s website and YouTube channel over a failure to comply with accessibility rules. The videos violate the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act because they don’t have closed captioning for the hearing impaired.
“This is something that they’ve known since 2014,” Councillor Mo Salih explains, “I recently discovered it myself and have been working aggressively to have this situation rectified.”
The matter was brought forward to council on Tuesday and by Wednesday morning all of the videos had been pulled. But Dr. Jeffrey Preston, Fanshawe College professor and disability rights advocate, says taking down all of the videos is not in the spirit of the AODA…
Blue Trunk Foundation
2/2 | Source: Charlottesville Tomorrow | Travel, Accessibility Resources | Virginia, United States
Blue Trunk Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information about accessibility to make it easier for people to travel in their own city and around the world regardless of their age, disability, or health conditions. Our core service consists of online, accessibility-related information about hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, and transportation. Individuals using our site will be able to look up whether a specific business has the accessibility features they need. For example, the website will be used to look up parking and bathroom information, wheelchair accessible entrances, braille signage, or tactile emergency alarms. Our services will be provided online through a mobile-optimized, Section 508 compliant website. These services will be expanded to include mobile app platforms after the website is established. Our vision is to be the premier source of reliable information about accessible travel worldwide..
‘Tiny Desk’ Winner Gaelynn Lea Advocates for Accessibility
2/2 | Source: News WABE | Personal Account, Awards/Recognition, Music, Media | Minnesota, United States
In about a month, we’ll learn the winner of the third annual Tiny Desk Contest, the songwriting and performance contest from the creators of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. Last year, the six judges received over 6,000 entries, listening for what host Bob Boilen identified as “something singular, a song and sound that felt original, and a performance that felt inspired.” In the end, the judges’ decisions were unanimous: Gaelynn Lea of Duluth, Minnesota.
Gaelynn Lea is a classically trained violinist whose music, Bob Boilen wrote, “is steeped in Celtic tradition and American fiddle tunes. Her fiddle style is shaped by those traditions but also the challenges she has.”
One challenge being playing an instrument that is almost as large as she is. Gaelynn was born with brittle bone disease, so she’s quite small – she estimates about 68 pounds – and she plays her fiddle upright, like a cellist…
Disability Activists, Amplified: Social Media Gets the Job Done
2/2 | Source: CNET | Advocacy, Disability Rights | United States
Mia Ives-Rublee is getting used to maneuvering her wheelchair through a sea of legs at protests. For Ives-Rublee, who was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, commonly known as brittle bone disease, exercising her right to protest in public is not easy. At a protest over President Donald Trump’s immigration ban at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Sunday, the 32-year-old social worker-turned-activist had to hunt for curbs with ramps to even enter the building. She jockeyed for position to hold up her sign to arriving passengers that read, “All are welcome.”
A week earlier, Ives-Rublee was in Washington, attending the Women’s March demonstration. Rolling through the crowd in a sea of knitted pink hats Ives-Rublee said she was reminded of the many fights her mother had with school administrators to make sure she and her two siblings, who also have disabilities, were included in their community.
It Took President Obama Less than a Day to Get the White House Website up to Code. President Trump’s Still Isn’t.
2/2 | Source: Policy Mic | Government/Politics, Digital Accessibility, Section 508, Disability Rights | Washington, D.C.
Almost two weeks since Donald Trump’s inauguration, the White House website may not be in compliance with federal rules governing website access for people with disabilities and non-English speakers.
Under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, federal websites and websites that receive federal funds are required to have accessibility features for blind and vision-impaired people. And a Bill Clinton-era executive order requires federal websites to meet certain requirements for assisting people with limited English proficiency.
Kenneth Shiotani, a senior staff attorney for the National Disability Rights Network, pointed out the Trump administration’s failure to display accessibility features for people with disabilities…
Accessibility Products and Announcements
- Retail Savings Guide for People with Disabilitie
- Colour Contrast Analyser
- Trivantis Releases Lectora Online 3.3 With WCAG 2.0 AA Support
- Vision Releases Results of 3rd Annual “What’s Next” Survey
Is Your Website Accessible?
Almost every week, website accessibility lawsuits make headlines. Don’t let your organization become the topic of the next news story! Microassist accessibility services cover accessible elearning, website and application development, audit and remediation services for websites and documents, and more. If you have any questions at all about the accessibility of your website or digital assets, contact us today for a consultation.