Accessibility in the News—02/23/17.
Disability access and disability discrimination lawsuit articles ran the gamut this week: from discriminatory firing in the workplace to a rash of physical access lawsuits to an online retailer losing their request to dismiss a case over an inaccessible website. Private-sector businesses are continuing to be held responsible for making their online environments accessible—and it’s going beyond websites. Accessibility lawsuits have affected mobile apps, too: A ridesharing application lawsuit is pending resolution, awaiting final features testing to make sure the app is accessible for blind customers. All of these accessibility lawsuit stories point to a main driver of accessibility and accessibility regulations: facilitating greater independence for those living with disabilities.
That was certainly the issue for a young girl with cerebral palsy. This week, the Supreme Court granted her the right to take her school district to court for disallowing her service dog at school. This ruling makes it easier for students to address discrimination claims in court without being limited solely to administrative appeals within the school system—a process that can be time consuming while the student’s need for education continues.
There’s continued strong admonition for banks to ensure website accessibility for their public-facing content. Much of it is a reaction to escalations in demand letters and litigation. There doesn’t seem to be any indication of a slowdown, either. An aging population will likely continue to bring access issues to the forefront of the online marketplace. Currently, “low vision ranks behind arthritis and heart disease as the third most common chronic cause of impaired functioning in people over 70,” according to another article. That New York Times feature attempts to tackle what it’s like to go blind and how to postpone doing so. The comments for that news article are also varied, thought provoking, and insightful.
AITN Quote of the Week
“I was slightly brain damaged at birth, and I want people like me to see that they shouldn’t let a disability get in the way. I want to raise awareness—I want to turn my disability into ability.”
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Austin Ridesharing Lawsuit over Blind User Access Nears Resolution
02/14 | Source: Austin Business Journal | Mobile Apps, Blindness/Visual Impairment, Digital Accessibility, Accessibility Lawsuit/Litigation | Texas
Two ridesharing companies have been sued in federal court by the National Federation of the Blind’s Texas chapter over allegations that their mobile apps cannot be used by the blind. One of those companies, however, said it recently updated its app to resolve the issue.
The companies involved in the suit, Get Me LLC and RideFare LLC, rose to prominence in Austin during a regulatory debate that culminated in Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. ceasing ridesharing operations within city limits in May. Dallas-based Get Me was first launched as a concierge delivery service in 2015 but began to offer a ridesharing service in Austin last December. RideFare, which operates the Fare ridesharing service, scrambled to launch in Austin less than two weeks after Uber and Lyft ceased operations inside the city limits…
At Last, the Refresh of Section 508 by Debra Ruh and Rosemary Musachio
02/17 | Source: The Huffington Post | Section 508, Government, WCAG | United States
On January 19, 2017, the United States Access Board issued a final rule to make Section 508 Refresh official. The landmark regulatory update will become effective March 20, 2017. Therefore, until the latter date, federally created information and communication technology (ICT) still has to comply with Section 508. Federal agencies and contractors will be required to comply with Section 508 Refresh starting January 18, 2018.
Section 508 Refresh has climbed a bureaucratic mountain. Since its conception in January 2008, Section 508 Refresh has been changed more than a baby’s bottom. It has gone through several updates and delays. To help it remain at its peak, we need to know how to comply with its revised sub-provisions and reap its benefits.
If you wish to examine the new rule, you can read the full text of Section 508 Refresh. Otherwise, Ruh Global Communications’ Chief Accessibility Officer, Rosemary Musachio, will brief us on Section 508 Refresh…
Community Banks Should Be Wary of ADA Claims
02/17 | Source: JD Supra | Banking, ADA, Demand Letters, DOJ, Blindness/Visual Impairment, Digital Accessibility | United States
A number of community banks have recently received an unpleasant delivery: a demand letter from a law firm stating the bank is not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) and suggesting a proposed settlement. The demand letter often alleges that the bank’s website falls short of the Department of Justice’s (the DOJ) prescribed accessibility requirements for blind or visually impaired persons and asks the bank to sign a settlement agreement incorporating injunctive relief and, of course, demanding lawyer’s legal fees…
The Worst That Could Happen? Going Blind, People Say
02/20 | Source: The New York Times | Blindness/Visual Impairment, Personal Account | United States
“Feeling My Way Into Blindness,” an essay published in The New York Times in November by Edward Hoagland, an 84-year-old nature and travel writer and novelist, expressed common fears about the effects of vision loss on quality of life.
Mr. Hoagland, who became blind about four years ago, projected deep-seated sadness in describing the challenges he faces of pouring coffee, not missing the toilet, locating a phone number, finding the food on his plate, and knowing to whom he is speaking, not to mention shopping and traveling, when he often must depend on the kindness of strangers. And, of course, he sorely misses nature’s inspiring vistas and inhabitants that fueled his writing, though he can still hear birds chatter in the trees, leaves rustle in the wind and waves crash on the shore…
NHS Property Services Launches Online Access Guides
02/21 | Source: Facilities Management Journal | Digital Accessibility, Healthcare/Medical, | United States
NHS Property Services has published online access guides for a number of its hospitals, health centres and clinics.
The company partnered with social enterprise, DisabledGo.com to commence a pilot project which involved producing detailed access guides for 30 properties that are owned by NHS Property Services, including; Skipton General Hospital, Farnham Hospital and Sevenoaks Hospital. DisabledGo also provided some advice and guidance on how each property could potentially be improved in future.
The access guides provide a useful resource to disabled people, their careers, friends and family, by detailing how accessible a site is. The guides talk people through the accessibility of the properties, providing information on transport, car parking and main entrances. They also provide further detail on walking distances to toilet locations, fixtures and fittings, dimensions, signage, hearing assistance and lighting…
Palo Alto School Website Violates Disability Act, Advocate Says
02/21 | Source: The Mercury News | Digital Accessibility, Education, OCR | California
A special education advocate from Michigan has filed a federal complaint alleging the Palo Alto Unified School District discriminates against students with disabilities.
The school district does not have a website that is accessible to students and adults with disabilities, such as vision or hearing impairments, according to a letter Superintendent Max McGee received Feb. 6 from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
Marcie Lipsitt, who is not named in the agency’s letter, confirms that she filed the complaint after receiving a request from a California resident…
Stop Alienating Your Website Visitors by Overlooking Web Accessibility
02/22 | Source: Techworld | Digital Accessibility, W3C, WCAG, Inclusivity, Customer Service
How easy is it to navigate your website? Does the experience differ if the site visitor has low levels of literacy or suffers from visual impairment? If you’re not delivering an inclusive, user-friendly online experience, you might already be alienating millions of users who suffer from a disability.
In 2008, the World Wide Web Consortium developed a series of standards – the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 – that aim to ensure all websites are accessible to people with disabilities, including those with hearing impairments, blindness, and learning disorders. Although governments around the world are putting measures in place to enforce these and other similar guidelines, many businesses still lack awareness of basic accessibility issues…
5 Steps to Make Sure Your Website Is ADA-Compliant
02/22 | Source: Entrepreneur | Digital Accessibility, ADA, Banking, Business, Compliance | United States
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation. Most people are familiar with the physical accommodations businesses make, such as automatic door openers and wheelchair ramps. But the ADA applies to the virtual world as well.
Under the law, websites should be just as accessible as ATMs (ever notice the Braille there?), elevators, terminals and other user interfaces. Not only should your site be accessible to all on a laptop or desktop but also on tablets and mobile phones. Failing ADA compliance creates poor and awkward experiences for people with physical disabilities. Simply put, ADA compliance is assuring your website falls within a set of prescribed accessibility standards…
The Ascendency of Accessibility: Surge in Website Lawsuits Continues
02/22 | Source: Lexology | Digital Accessibility, Retail, Hospitality, ADA, Title III, Accessibility Lawsuits/Litigation | United States
The proliferation of accessibility lawsuits under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has not abated. It is well-documented that ADA-related litigation increased by 37% from 2015 to 2016, which is symptomatic of long-term trends. Growth is fueled in part by litigants’ increased focus on internet-based technologies, including websites and mobile applications. This trend is unlikely to wane in the near future, especially given the continued expansion in e-commerce and internet-enabled applications that retailers, hospitality providers, and other commercial enterprises rely on for advertising, customer engagement, and sales growth.
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against disabled persons in places of “public accommodation.” As a result, businesses that provide goods or services to the public must provide disabled persons with the same type of access to those goods and services, and must remove certain existing barriers to access. Although individuals may have legitimate claims under Title III, the majority of these lawsuits are filed by a small cadre of plaintiffs’ attorneys and advocacy groups. These attorneys and groups specialize in identifying potential ADA violations, locating suitable plaintiffs, and then filing numerous lawsuits that typically settle quickly for nuisance amounts. The incentive for these serial litigants is the ADA’s private enforcement incentive: plaintiffs who prevail on their claims generally recover attorneys’ fees, expert witness costs, and other legal expenses…
Party City Loses Bid to Have Website Accessibility Case Thrown Out
02/23 | Source: PennRecord | Digital Accessibility, Accessibility Lawsuit/Litigation, ADA, Title III | Pennsylvania
Event superstore Party City found itself in a lawsuit on Sept. 6 when plaintiffs Rachel Gniewskowski, R. David New and Access Now Inc. sued the retailer in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, alleging that Party City’s website was not accessible to visually impaired consumers.
The plaintiffs allege a lack of accommodation that violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In October, while the Pennsylvania lawsuit was pending, Party City settled a similar lawsuit filed by plaintiff Andres Gomez in Florida, entering into a confidential settlement agreement for an undisclosed amount. Based on that action, Party City unsuccessfully attempted to have the Pennsylvania suit dismissed.
“Party City tried to get the case dismissed on the theory that it had already settled another case with another plaintiff about its website, and the court rejected that argument,” Minh Vu, an attorney at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, told the Pennsylvania Record…
The Ex-Trader Turning Disabilities into Profits
02/23 | Source: BBC News | Personal Account, Business, Disability, Innovation | Toronto, Canada
It’s a fast-paced, risk-taking industry glamorised by Hollywood and writers alike, but when one Wall Street trader left the floor he identified a huge market being ignored by the business world. Canada-based businessman Rich Donovan worked as a trader for Merrill Lynch for 10 years after he graduated from the prestigious Columbia Business School. It was competitive enough, but with cerebral palsy he felt he had more to prove.
“I was told to my face that I would never be a trader. They were wrong, but that’s just the reality of having a disability. You figure out how to work around it.”…
Wonder-ful News: 13-Year-Old Girl Wins Supreme Court Decision over Service Dog
02/23 | Source: Yahoo News | Supreme Court, Disability Rights, Service Animals, Education | United States
You may have seen photos of a young girl and her goldendoodle Wonder on the steps of the Supreme Court on social media, so who is she and why is she smiling? That would be Ehlena Fry, a 13-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court unanimously sided with Fry, which may allow her to sue her local school board for damages for the emotional distress she said she suffered by being denied the assistance of her service dog. The ACLU represented the Frys.
“The school district had decided that Wonder wasn’t necessary,” Stacy Fry, Ehlena’s mother, told Yahoo News. “They were providing an aide to do all the tasks that they thought Wonder could do for her, but Wonder was so much more than just somebody who could open doors. He was her chance at independence.”
Wonder can do tasks for Ehlena, such as opening and closing doors as well as allowing for seamless transfers from her walker to a toilet seat. Her school gave Wonder a 30-day trial but ultimately returned to the no-dog policy. Stacy told NPR that the trial was filled with “animosity,” and said that at one point Ehlena was asked to demonstrate Wonder’s ability to perform a toilet transfer in front of adults…
Michigan Medical Services Firm to Pay $21.5K to Settle Disability Discrimination Suit
02/23 | Source: Insurance Journal | Disability Rights, Healthcare/Medical, Employment/Workforce, Discrimination | Michigan
A medical services provider serving the Muskegon, Michigan, region will pay $21,500 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC announced it had charged that Muskegon Family Care violated federal law by firing an employee on the basis of her medical condition.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Avis Lane worked for Muskegon Family Care as an outreach-enrollment coordinator. Before she began work, the company required that she submit to a post-offer, pre-employment physical. The medical specialist who conducted that physical recommended that Lane be put on a medical hold due to medications she was taking. Notwithstanding the recommended medical hold, the company allowed Lane to work for over a month. Eventually, Muskegon Family Care fired her based on the recom¬mended medical hold, the EEOC said…
WHO: Depression Largest Cause of Disability Worldwide
02/23 | Source: VOA News | Mental Health, Depression, Healthcare/Medical, WHO | International
More than 300 million people, or more than four percent of the global population, were living with depression in 2015 – an 18-percent increase over a 10-year period. New figures released Thursday by the World Health Organization show that depression was increasing worldwide and now was the leading cause of global mental and physical disability.
Dan Chisholm, Health Systems Adviser in WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and a lead author of the report, noted that depression was a disorder that can affect anyone, at any point in their lives.
“If you look at the prevalence of different disorders around the world and you look at the disability that is associated with them – if you combine those together, depression ends up at the top of the list because it is very common,” he said…
Fenton Man Assists the Elderly and Disabled with Home Accessibility Challenges
02/23 | Source: The Lasco Press | Lifestyle/Assistance, Physical Disabilities, Senior Care, Community | Michigan
For most people climbing a few steps to reach the front door of their home or ascending a staircase to access their house’s second level is a daily occurrence to which little thought is given. But, for the elderly, those with certain illnesses, and individuals with physical disabilities; climbing a flight of stairs can seem like scaling a mountain. Thankfully there are companies like Senior Home Solutions that can assist homeowners in restructuring entrance ways, converting interior living spaces for additional safety, and tackle home design issues to make daily living more accessible to those individuals with physical challenges.
But it’s not only about building wheelchair ramps and installing chair lifts along staircases, Senior Home Solutions offer several different products designed to improve the quality of life of those needing some extra help in dealing with everyday life tasks…
Another Wave of Lawsuits Claiming Disability Violations by Small Businesses, This Time in Colorado Springs
02/23 | Source: The Denver Post | ADA Lawsuits, Accessibility Lawsuit/Litigation, Discrimination, Business, Compliance | Colorado
A 31-year-old father of two has turned small businesses in a small spot of eastern Colorado Springs into ground-zero for the latest swarm of federal lawsuits claiming discrimination against the disabled.
In nearly two-dozen lawsuits filed on Feb 15, Terrell Frederick, an avid cyclist who is a self-employed insurance benefits consultant, says the businesses violated the Americans with Disabilities Act for infractions as minor as not securing carpet edges to the floor or having a toilet paper dispenser at the wrong height.
Some of the 22 businesses sued are cited for not having proper signs identifying handicapped parking spaces even though the spaces have large blue and white international handicap symbols painted on the asphalt. ADA also requires the signage…
Walgreens Features Model with Down Syndrome
02/24 | Source: Disability Scoop | Down Syndrome, Media Coverage, Marketing | United States
The smiling face of a 7-year-old with Down syndrome will greet customers at thousands of Walgreens stores this spring as part of an Easter promotion. The drugstore chain said a photo of Grace Driscoll, a Chicago kindergartner, is part of signage appearing in all of Walgreens’ more than 8,000 locations nationwide.
Driscoll is one of two kids featured in a “dangler” hanging from the ceiling above the section of the store with seasonal merchandise, which went on display right after Valentine’s Day.
“This would probably be the first time that we’ve profiled someone with a cognitive disability in recent memory,” said Phil Caruso, a spokesman for Walgreens. “We wanted this marketing campaign to be inclusive. This image felt authentic — it didn’t feel forced — and that worked for our brand.”…
- University of Central Florida
- Horizon Bank
- Harvey Mudd College
- Kent Police
- Chemung Canal Trust Company
Accessibility Products and Announcements
- Assistive Technologies for Visual Impairment Market is Expected to Boost Up Over the Period of 2017 – 2022
- Equidox By Onix™ Now Includes PDF Export Functionality
- Texas Medical School Offers Groundbreaking Assistive Technology to Students With Disabilities
- Cryptzone Highlights Compliance and Accessibility Best Practices at CSUN Assistive Technology Conference
- Blackboard Promotes The Creation Of Inclusive Online Learning Environments At 32nd Annual CSUN Conference
- 508 compared to EU standards (EN 301 549) — Courtesy of Microsoft Accessibility Team
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