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Blind User Sues Southwest Over Web Site, Cites ADA

timothy posted about 12 years ago | from the welcome-to-quebec dept.

United States 1205

scubacuda writes "According to, Robert Gumson, a blind man who uses a program that converts website content into speech, is suing Southwest Airlines (with the help of Miami Beach, FL-based Access Now) for its website being incompatible with his screen-reader program. The case has been filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act under the untested legal theory that ADA provisions on the accessibility of public accommodations to the disabled apply to Internet Web sites just as they do to brick-and-mortar facilities like movie theaters and department stores. There have been previous lawsuits alleging that the ADA applies to the Internet, but all have settled without a ruling on the merits: 1999 the National Federation of the Blind sued AOL alleging its service was inaccessible to blind users (AOL agreed to make its sites compatible with screen reader technology); over the past two years, Access Now has sued Barnes & Noble and Claire's Stores for maintaining Web sites that allegedly violated the ADA (both settled)."

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Probably Not. (-1, Troll)

ProdigyPuNk (614140) | about 12 years ago | (#4399613)

A first post.

All Sites (1)

kevinmarsh (596841) | about 12 years ago | (#4399615)

Does this mean all sites have to comply?

One Question (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399623)

Do screen readers read the meta tags on porn sites?

Good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399625)

I'm tired of these "graphical" websites with text that you can't resize because it's a friggin bitmap. Just stick to html markup dammit!!

Re:Good thing (2)

silvaran (214334) | about 12 years ago | (#4399680)

Opera resizes images with text... the "whole page" is resized, in fact, not just text. Granted, you'll still get bitmapped blocks on image-based text, but it's a step in the right direction...

Re:Good thing (1)

dcstimm (556797) | about 12 years ago | (#4399779)

Thats what I hate about opera.

i have a question (4, Funny)

inteller (599544) | about 12 years ago | (#4399629)

what if I write a website that shows one thing, but spits out text telling the blind person something else. Namely, what if I setup and it have pictures of chicks with dicks? can't wait to see the blind person in the library with this one.

Legal wrangling (5, Interesting)

Raul654 (453029) | about 12 years ago | (#4399630)

Ok, tell me this - where do you draw the line between high traffic commercial websites, and (for instance), mine?

Re:Legal wrangling (5, Funny)

procrustes (569588) | about 12 years ago | (#4399644)

Presumably, the same way you tell the difference between high traffic commercial buildings and (for instance), my house.

Re:Legal wrangling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399679)

I doubt you make your house publicly accessable in the same way you would a personal web site, unless of course you like mud on your carpets.

Re:Legal wrangling (1)

shaunbaker (157313) | about 12 years ago | (#4399708)

common sense, i know that is a very tricky concept for people but most of the laws of this nation are ambigious to say the least. That was done for a purpose and is often a check agianst oppression and the 1% that lie in the gray area. Some states used to not have a justifiable hommicide clause, but no jury would convict someone for a justifiable hommicide...its all about common sense

Re:Legal wrangling (2, Insightful)

BlueGecko (109058) | about 12 years ago | (#4399712)

Q: Ok, tell me this - where do you draw the line between high traffic commercial websites, and (for instance), mine?

A: Wherever the lawyers with the most money decide the line looks best.

Re:Legal wrangling (5, Insightful)

Ron Bennett (14590) | about 12 years ago | (#4399763)

"where do you draw the line between high traffic commercial websites, and (for instance), mine?"

There basically is no threshold for size if the court simply rules the ADA applies as it does in the physical realm. Virtually all commercial businesses (including non-profits) with a physical presence must follow the ADA.

If the court says the ADA applies to websites...*unless* the court stipulates traffic parameters, revenues, etc...every commercial website would then have to be ADA accessible, and worse could be just as easily sued for ADA violations as businesses with physical facilities already are now!

In short if the court rules that ADA applies to websites, unless the court is very specific to how it applies, all commercial websites regardless of size would be subject to the ruling...ouch!!! Talk about a legal nightmare!!

Ron Bennett

Re:Legal wrangling (2)

Moonshadow (84117) | about 12 years ago | (#4399790)

Ok, tell me this - where do you draw the line between high traffic commercial websites, and (for instance), mine?

Good point. I'm going to go gouge my eyes now out so I can sue you and make millions :)

Yet another thing to think about (1)

mazg (449753) | about 12 years ago | (#4399632)

Netscape, Opera, IE, mozilla, backwards compatibility.

And now screen readers. It's getting to be alot of hassle to design websites.

Re:Yet another thing to think about (3, Informative)

Millennium (2451) | about 12 years ago | (#4399781)

That's what standards are for.

Truth be told, if the browser makers and page designers would get off their collective rears and support the standards right, there wouldn't even be a need for screen readers. You'd be surprised at just what HTML and CSS can do for layout; they far surpass anything tables can do, in a browser that actually knows what it's doing. And yet, if you structure your text in a sane, structural manner, an aural browser won't even need to read the screen; it can just speak the text outright. There's even a section of CSS which can be used to alter voice, position, and other aspects of sound.

Luckily, the browser makers are finally starting to get things right, even if they're four years late. Perhaps eventually the Web will recover from the bastardization of HTML that came with the advent of 4.x browsers and table-based layouts. The sooner this happens, the better for designers, users, and everyone else.

Re:Yet another thing to think about (1)

enderak (557146) | about 12 years ago | (#4399786)

It's getting to be alot of hassle to design websites.

Not if you stick to the standards [] , and get rid of stupid stuff like flash buttons. Or at the very least, provide both flash and non-flash versions of your site.

If you can't stick to standards, you shouldn't be writing a web page anyway - at least not one that you want to make sure people are able to read.

I think the answer is easy (5, Insightful)

acoustix (123925) | about 12 years ago | (#4399634)

If the company doesn't cater to your needs then they don't need your business.

Too many people think suing is the answer to everything.

This would be like me walking into Target (or any other store) and suing them because they don't sell XL-Tall shirts that will fit me.

Re:I think the answer is easy (5, Insightful)

CTho9305 (264265) | about 12 years ago | (#4399643)

I think the reason for the ADA is that there are NOT enough disabled Americans to have any measurable effect if they don't support specific companies.

I do agree with you remark about Target.

Re:I think the answer is easy (1, Troll)

raian (23120) | about 12 years ago | (#4399672)

This would be like me walking into Target (or any other store) and suing them because they don't sell XL-Tall shirts that will fit me.

No, it would be like you not being able to walk into Target because you can't fit through the door.

Re:I think the answer is easy (5, Insightful)

captainstupid (247628) | about 12 years ago | (#4399690)

If only it were that simple.

Just because you're XL-Tall doesn't mean you're disabled. You can still get in the store, find your way around, and purchase things at the cash register. You might not be able to find a shirt that fits you, but at least you can *find* shirts.

This guy is suing because they won't let him in the store (effectively). It's like he's walking to the front door and somebody says to him, "I'm sorry sir, but you can't come in the store."

Granted, this guy might be money-hungry. However, previous cases show that the companies that were sued (AOL in particular) settle by making their site accessbile to screen readers. In all likely hood, that is all this guy wants. That's all any blind person wants.

They just want in the store.

Who are you to compare their blindness to your big and tallness?

Re:I think the answer is easy (1)

Vess V. (310830) | about 12 years ago | (#4399711)

It's like he's walking to the front door and somebody says to him, "I'm sorry sir, but you can't come in the store."

How the fuck is that? Please explain.

Re:I think the answer is easy (1)

captainstupid (247628) | about 12 years ago | (#4399740)

This guy is trying to visit a site, he can't have access to any of the info on it because it won't work with his screen reader, right?

He is being denied access to a store/site because he is blind. Simple enough.

Re:I think the answer is easy (2, Interesting)

Cubeman (530448) | about 12 years ago | (#4399772)

No he's not being denied access. It's more as if you were allowed into Target, but were physically unable to spend money, or something. He can have someone else read him the page too, I'm sure there's someone around him who can see. When there is a blind person who really has no way to obtain the content, then it's worth suing.

Re:I think the answer is easy (1)

captainstupid (247628) | about 12 years ago | (#4399803)

"He can have someone else read him the page too, I'm sure there's someone around him who can see."

And how do you know this? How can you possibly speak for every blind person?

You (Cubeman) shouldn't be given special provisions because you're learning disabled. I'm sure you have someone follow you around to explain everything to you, right?

Re:I think the answer is easy (4, Insightful)

Ghoser777 (113623) | about 12 years ago | (#4399769)

Well no, it would more like having all the products in the store on a seven foot high shelf, so only seven footers can reach the items.

But wait, that business would go out of business real quick because a large number of people are under seven feet tall. The difference with the blind is that they make up a smaller segment of the population, and so an inaccessible business won't be effected by a small backlash from a minority group. Majority groups are always insulated from these issues, but minority groups rarely are.

I agree that suing probably isn't the answer. Instead, whatever documents that enable a business to operate should be temporarially suspended until that business comes into alignment with federal law.


Interesting (2, Funny)

TheRealFixer (552803) | about 12 years ago | (#4399637)

I wouldn't be surprised if he wins. I mean, the ADA is the reason you find braile on ATM machines... when they still can't read the stupid screen!

He'll win, and before long, every commercial website will have to be made compatable with the ADA.

Re:Interesting (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399664)

Quite a few ATM's have speech now.

Re:Interesting (3, Funny)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 12 years ago | (#4399678)

Funnier still, there's braile on the keys at the at the drive-up ATM, too.

Re:Interesting (3, Funny)

TheRealFixer (552803) | about 12 years ago | (#4399686)

Heh... if blind drivers are trying to use ATM machines, I'd think the bank has a bigger problem than ADA compliance.

Re:Interesting (3, Interesting)

reverse flow reactor (316530) | about 12 years ago | (#4399685)

Banks Sued over ATM Use: Advocates for the Blind Say Mellon and PNC Should Provide Voice-Operated Machines []

Now talking ATM machines are being devleoped [] and installed [] .

But don't worry, the ATM machine does not read outloud your bank balance (my, wouldn't that produce some awkward situtation), as they are going to use earphones [] or simple headphones to maintain your privacy.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399729)

this way, when the headphone is on, any mugger can sneak up with even greater ease!! sounds like a good alternative to braile...

Re:Interesting (1)

DAldredge (2353) | about 12 years ago | (#4399691)

ATMs all have braile because it is less expensive to make just one case that has braile insteed of two.

Re:Interesting (2)

TheRealFixer (552803) | about 12 years ago | (#4399723)

But why did they have to be made in the first place? I don't know about you, I can't recall ever seeing a SINGLE blind person using an ATM machine. It's a little difficult for them to use ATMs, you know. A few bumps on the buttons aren't going to solve that problem.

"ATM Machines" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399702)

Yeah the GUI Interface on ATM Machines sucks. Some are cool with LCD Displays and SCSI Interfaces, but they're still based on NT Technology. And you always need a PIN Number to access them.

Re:Interesting (5, Insightful)

Gerry Gleason (609985) | about 12 years ago | (#4399714)

You have a point, but not about the ADA, rather about the designer of the ATM.

There might be a valid reason for it. You don't know that the display doesn't have the capability to adapt, or even output audio based on the person's identity or a special input. Also, with a brail pad, someone could help you read the screen without having to know your password.

It does seem awfully strange unless there is more to it than meets the eye.

overkill (-1, Flamebait)

ehlo (578765) | about 12 years ago | (#4399639)

Its amazing how dumb reasons people sue for these days. This is an excellent display of "Rednecks With Too Much Time On Their Hands". This is a product of boredom. So it doesnt comply with his specific screen reading program. Ask the neighbour boy to read it for him. Im sure that, had he called the company in question, they would have gladly taken the time out to read anythign he was interested in for him free of charge. I hope he loses.

Re:overkill (1)

kingofnopants (600490) | about 12 years ago | (#4399735)

but he's blind. Even if it is a stupid reason, the puppy dog factor will sway the jury that the big bad corporation abused him in some way.

Solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399642)

Match based on useragents, and redirect screenreaders to "We don't care about your business. Shop elsewhere and keep your damn lawsuits to yourself."

standards (5, Informative)

proj_2501 (78149) | about 12 years ago | (#4399648)

This why html standards exist. XHTML requires all img tags to have alt="" attributes, which several images on the southwest web page do NOT have. These images seem to be the only links to any other functions on the first page.

Re:standards (1)

teknikl (539522) | about 12 years ago | (#4399771)

In taking a brief look around for any relevant standards, that was the one key item I found.

So this is all about ALT image tags. Hell, Lynx users have been bitching about that for YEARS.

Seriously though, can you sue over a non-standardized standard? We can all agree on whether or not somone can get a wheelchair up stairs. I suppose now we'll trust ~software compatability~ to be our guide on this issue.

Nail down what a blind reader wants and needs in terms of accessability on a site and its likely not very tough to meet.

Just wondering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399650)

How many websites actually DO comply with these standards?

Re:Just wondering (2, Funny)

kingofnopants (600490) | about 12 years ago | (#4399746)


blah (1)

Spicy Bisquit (100885) | about 12 years ago | (#4399654)

granted that blind people should be allowed to view the internet, but this seems to be more a case of access now taking advantage of the situation to earn money. i wonder how much the barnes and noble and other settlements were. then again, lawyers are just here to serve the people, right?

I have a disability... (5, Interesting)

flogger (524072) | about 12 years ago | (#4399656)

Does this mean I am going to go out and sue all glove makers because they don't make a right hand glove with no thumb? No. That is plain stupid. The term disability means, acording to []
2. A disadvantage or deficiency, ...
3. Something that hinders or incapacitates.

Why can we not accept that there are things that we cannot do and not sue others while pretending it is someone else's fault that we have a disability.
Are these (the ADA) the people that made it so that there is Brail on Drive up ATM machines?

Only in Lake Wobiegon (sp?) is everyone above average...

Re:I have a disability... (2)

binaryDigit (557647) | about 12 years ago | (#4399751)

Does this mean I am going to go out and sue all glove makers because they don't make a right hand glove with no thumb?

No, because the presensce of the thumb does not prevent you from using it. If you had six fingers and could somehow prove it was a "disability", then you'd have a case.

Re:I have a disability... (5, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 12 years ago | (#4399788)

Are these (the ADA) the people that made it so that there is Brail on Drive up ATM machines?

After having witnessed this in use the other day, I agree with it.

Two women drive up to the ATM. The passenger gets out, walks around to the machine, starts punching buttons. Gets her money.
And then I realize she is blind. Walks around the car and gets in. They drive away. No problem.

Without Braille on the buttons, she would have had to give her card, and PIN, to the driver to do the transaction. It's not just drivers that use those machines.

Re:I have a disability... (2)

Dannon (142147) | about 12 years ago | (#4399789)

Only in Lake Wobiegon (sp?) is everyone above average...

That's Lake Wobegon. Where the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and where all the children are above average.

Just so you know. :)

Re:I have a disability... (2, Informative)

r_weaver (563014) | about 12 years ago | (#4399791)

I've seen the "It's stupid to put Braille on Drive up ATM's" topic rehashed several times in this thread.

Think about it -- a visually impaired person is not going to drive himself to the ATM, right? So how is he going to get there? Perhaps a Taxi? Should he have to rely on the Taxi driver to retrieve his money from the ATM? Or should he sit at home and wait for a trusted friend to take him so the bank doesn't have to pay the extra $20 for Braille signage on its $20,000 ATM machine? Or maybe he should have to make the walk to to a walk-up ATM with proper signage? Afterall, he's disabled so he should have to walk like the rest of us, right?

And for those that wonder what good the Braille does in the first place if a person can't read the screen: most of the ATM's for a particular bank use the same UI (and they publish guidebooks to document it), but the formfactor differs from machine to machine, so it's nice to have labels for the card slot, depository slot, etc. Check here [] for some Braille ATM sign samples.

This is getting ridiculous! (5, Funny)

OmenChange (183545) | about 12 years ago | (#4399657)

I just have one thing to say to people whose screen reader software can't read this post and are offended enough to sue:


Oh wait, nevermind.

What about international sites? (1)

Lockz (556773) | about 12 years ago | (#4399660)

The US Government and it's judicial system has seen fit to cover international websites in it's law sometimes. When will the time come to sue a webpage from another country because a blind person from the US couldn't read it? It's not going to end soon, unfortunately.

Better solutions (1, Troll)

Wonko42 (29194) | about 12 years ago | (#4399662)

I don't suppose it occurred to Mr. Gumson to send a nicely-worded letter/email to Southwest Airlines asking that they make their pages more friendly to users with disabilities? Or did he just speed-dial his lawyer at the first sign of non-compliance?

I'm all for blind people being able to buy airline tickets online, but I hate over-litigious disabled people just as much as I hate anyone else who sues first and asks questions later.

Re:Better solutions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399713)

What good would it do? Seriously, people think that writing letters can change things. Letters are completely ineffective over 99% of the time. I suspect that you have not had much experience with corparate America. I have had the extreme misfortune of dealing with these kinds of things before. Hell, it is annoying. Nobody listens to you because they have a "the customer is dumb" mentality.

Litigation is just about the only way to get things done these days....

Re:Better solutions (5, Insightful)

scotch (102596) | about 12 years ago | (#4399756)

Maybe he did write a letter first. Why do you assume he didn't write first?

Re:Better solutions (1)

plierhead (570797) | about 12 years ago | (#4399797)

Perhaps he was not trying to address Southwest's site in particular, but rather to raise awareness generally ? In which case his approach might be justified for the benefits it will bring to the sight impaired.

And other posters have claimed that resolving the problem is fairly easy in the scale of things, so if that is indeed true, you'd have to imagine Southwest have had a chance to resolve things and have opted not to.

Re:Better solutions (1, Offtopic) (184378) | about 12 years ago | (#4399806)

I hate over-litigious disabled people just as much as I hate anyone else who sues first and asks questions later.

What do you think the chances are Mr. Gumson was not born blind? Seems pretty aggressive for someone who's lived with blindness their whole life...

Human Rights (5, Insightful)

duncan bayne (544299) | about 12 years ago | (#4399663)

This strikes me as a matter of simple human rights. Does anyone have the right to force a company to spend money on a minority, or accept customers they wouldn't otherwise accept? I don't believe they do.

If the minority (in this case, the blind) are sufficiently profitable as customers, it's likely the company will spend the time and money to cater for them. Or, perhaps, the owner(s) of the company feel that their public image would be best served by catering to the minority. Or maybe they respect the effort many blind people make to achieve their goals, and decide to assist them.

Either way, it's the choice of the company - what right has any individual or group (including the State) to force a company to accept customers they don't want?

Re:Human Rights (2)

binaryDigit (557647) | about 12 years ago | (#4399774)

This strikes me as a matter of simple human rights. Does anyone have the right to force a company to spend money on a minority, or accept customers they wouldn't otherwise accept? I don't believe they do.

Uh, you're too late. This is what ADA is all about. The govt mandating that concessions be made to a minority of the population. This case is but one example.

Re:Human Rights (5, Insightful)

scotch (102596) | about 12 years ago | (#4399787)

Yeah!! Any why should companies have to hire blacks and women if they don't want to?

I don't think there are enough blind people or disabled people to make it profitable for most companies to accomodate them. That's why the law was put in place, as a measure of human decency that allows these people to function normally in society.

Re:Human Rights (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399807)

go away you heartless fuck.

Some sites on Web accessibility (5, Informative)

sellout (4894) | about 12 years ago | (#4399668)

I think this is something that site designers should be aware of, so here are a few links to pages that discuss Web accessibility.

I hope that helps those of you who are interested.

Imagine what'll happen next. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399669)

What's next? RealAudio having to include video streaming for subtitles?

Why this isn't a joke... (5, Insightful)

Bonker (243350) | about 12 years ago | (#4399670)

A lot of people assume that the ADA is a farce designed to quiet the disgruntled whinings of mentally or physically disabled people. It's a bone tossed to them in much the same way that senior citezens get discounts and prefferential treatment in businesses. It's annoying for other customers and frequently inconvenient.

After all, how many handicapped parking places does the mall need?

What people who think that this is a joke fail to consider, however, is the fact that without the ADA in place, businesses can and will discriminate against handicapped people.

Consider for a second your state's major university. We'll use the University of Texas for an example, because I'm familiar with it. Most of the buildings were constructed in the first half of the twentieth century. Most of the multi-story buildings have elevators, but not all of them. During class-time, the elevators are so full that if you want to get to class on time, you have to use the stairs. Remember that Austin is very hilly. There are stairs everywhere, even for one-story buildings.

Now lets assume that you were in a car wreck with a drunk driver and lost the use of your legs. Despite your new disability you are a smart individual who can get a job that does not require the use of your legs.

Without all those nice wheelchair ramps and wheelchair accessable elevators at the university, you are shit out of luck for actually getting to class... to say nothing of managing to cross the stage when you actually manage to earn your diploma.

We look at wheelchair ramps and other disability accomodations as commonplace. The truth is that very few businesses and schools had them before the ADA forced them to. It may be unthinkable now to descriminate against someone because he's deaf, blind, or crippled, but before the ADA went into effect, nobody thought twice about descriminating against people like that.

The ADA is not a joke.

Re:Why this isn't a joke... (1)

dpille (547949) | about 12 years ago | (#4399760)

Sure, I'll agree the ADA Is not a joke, very important. But arguing its extension to website content is completely insane. It's the equivalent of requiring braile translators on commercial radio stations. Where's the line drawn, too, is another question: after Southwest complies with this first court decision, would they have to add parenthetical labels indicating color over their logo so the colorblind can get the same internet experience as those with color vision? What if I'm dyslexic in English but not Zulu? The ADA is totally serious- the equivalent of the 1964 civil rights legislation for the disabled- but extending the ADA to cases like this is far, far more out of hand than affirmative action.

Help help I'm being oppressed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399762)

Give me a break! Why do blind people need jobs, don't they have family to take care of them? Well this *is* America.. where families throw their kids out the door once they turn 18 and the children sever any communication with the rest of their family. What's next, blind people want their right to drivers' licenses?

Huh? (1)

gabba_gabba_hey (309551) | about 12 years ago | (#4399675)

This seems to me to be analagous to demanding that all newspapers are printed in braile. This person does have other access to the information - the telephone for example. While it would certainly be nice of the site to comply with standards thereby broadening access for the blind, I don't see how suing them to accomplish this is in any way reasonable.

Finally an excuse for using good 'ol HTML... (2)

Ron Bennett (14590) | about 12 years ago | (#4399689)

Finally I have a good excuse for using good 'ol HTML on sites, especially message boards like Marihemp Network Message Boards [] I run, other than it speeds things up - which in the world of cable and dsl doesn't fly anymore.

Personally, I think it's high time for companies that have public websites to strive for universal accessibility regardless of browser, etc - I really HATE seeing blurbs such as "MSIE 5+ required", etc on websites - defeats the whole idea of HTML and universal access.

While it's perhaps unrealistic for sites to work with various ancient browsers, a person with a basic browser that supports tables and other basic HTML (say HTML 3.2) should be able to access any publicly *commercial* website without hassles and plugins like flash and pdf - both of which I personally hate...webmasters who use pdf are too damn lazy to type while those who _require_ flash totally misunderstand the concept of HTML and universal accessibility.

End of rant :-)

Ron Bennett

Re:Finally an excuse for using good 'ol HTML... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399776)

I agree and disagree.

I think that all sites should be designed to standards. But I think they should be designed to the current standard.

ie building a site now should be XHTML. End of story. You can't draw a line and say you must forever support HTML 3.2. You should always support the current standard, not a browser or an old stanrdard. That too defeats the purpose of the standard.

HTML 3.2 will work in any browser to the end of time, so old sites are fine. XHTML is what you should use for new sites.

People should upgrade to a current browser, or they are just as much a part of the problem as web designers that don't understand the concepts of interoperability.

A standards compliant web site designed well can be as pretty and graphical as you like and still drop down to flat text in lynx without a problem.

And if you follow the rule, this idiot blind man would have nothing to complain about.

Suing is a waste of everybodies time and money, where a polite letter and some backing from the ADA would have surficed.

Instead we have some idiot continuing to the path of ruining the world for everyone.

I can see something good come from this.... (1)

dieMSdie (24109) | about 12 years ago | (#4399692)

Someone who is blind needs to sue the publisher of an E-Book that has been locked to not allow the text to be read aloud. And sue Adobe while they are at it.

Get a grip (1, Insightful)

MalleusEBHC (597600) | about 12 years ago | (#4399696)

It is retarded to be suing over this. Not to be insensitive to disabled people, but if you are blind and want to fly with Southwest, pick up a damn phone and call them. You can do everything over the phone that you could online. If you are really this angry about Southwest's site not being compatible with a screen reader, don't give them your business. There are plenty of other airlines out there.

That doesn't go far enough (1, Funny)

SexyKellyOsbourne (606860) | about 12 years ago | (#4399697)

The blind are not only entitled to an easy-to-access website, they should also not be discriminated against becoming air traffic controllers and yes, even pilots!

Australia, along with other socialist paradises like Canada and Europe, are way ahead of us -- just look at the link below!

Daily Telegraph: Blind, disabled 'should be able to fly' []

Miss the point (3, Insightful)

Savatte (111615) | about 12 years ago | (#4399698)

Not to be flamebait or anything, but I think we just have to accept that someone who is blind can never get the full effect out of the web, because you can't cut out the visuals and achieve the same result. It would be like cutting out the images in a movie but wearing headphones describing what you are supposed to see. Hearing what you are supposed to see and seeing it use vastly different sense.

Yes, it sucks to be handicapped. I would imagine blindness is one of the least desirable handicaps, but at some point, we just have to accept the fact that blind people can't effectively surf the web.

Alternative accessibility (2)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 12 years ago | (#4399703)

Are tickets for Southwest Airlines (at the same price) available via other means? Phone, travel agent, whatever. Yes, they are.

Does every avenue have to be available to every person, no matter what the disability?

If you're blind, use the phone. If you're deaf, read (Web).

Try Surfing the web blind... (5, Interesting)

flogger (524072) | about 12 years ago | (#4399705)

Try this "Speak IT" site [] and install the readers...
Then come back to Slashdot, Highlight this whole discussion and listen...

Re:Try Surfing the web blind... (1)

jeffy124 (453342) | about 12 years ago | (#4399770)

ok then, if I'm blind, how do I highlight the discussion?

wheelchair parking (2)

Alien Being (18488) | about 12 years ago | (#4399707)

I think it's fair to set some reasonable requirements for equal access to information on commercial sites.

For blind people with PCs, this means "just the facts, hold the Flash". That's what I want too, just like I want that great front row parking spot.

I wonder which site will be first to require a special permit to visit the streamlined pages.

Why can't this guy just... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399715)

pick up the fucking phone and schedule his airline ticket. I mean, the airline website is only one means of purchasing a ticket. Duh. I think he just wants the cash. Fucking ass greedy people.

A few observations (1)

adrew (468320) | about 12 years ago | (#4399717)

Please forgive me if I seem a bit ignorant, but I honestly don't understand where this guy is coming from.

I mean, none of the companies listed in the story are exclusively web-based. Nothing is stopping him from visiting a traditional brick-and-mortar store or calling the company's toll-free number to place an order.

And Claire's? I guess I can kind of see where he's coming from with the airlines and bookstore, but why the hell would a blind man want to purchase cute little earrings and hairclips from Claire's?
Internet shopping is probably more convenient for persons with disabilites (as it is for all of us). But the stores have already spent countless dollars making their brick-and-mortar facilities ADA-compliant, what with all the elevators, ramps, special restroom facilities, minimum aisle widths, etc.

And wouldn't it be more productive to simply ask nicely to have the website updated? Immediately going to litigation rarely solves anything....sounds like this dude has an axe to grind.

Southwest Airlines Motto (1)

linuxislandsucks (461335) | about 12 years ago | (#4399718)

Southwest Airlines where we fly blind to combat terrorism.

This is a bit too much (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399719)

I can understand regulations regarding safety for disabled people. I can also understand regulations for public services. But I don't see why a private corporation should be required to make their services available to the blind. Last I checked, private companies were allowed to deny service to anyone for any reason. By not making their web site accessible, they're implicitely denying service to blind people. Sounds legal to me. Are they going to sue the publishers of books for not offering every title in print on tape?

I'm so conflicted. (2)

Nathaniel (2984) | about 12 years ago | (#4399724)

On the one hand, I think it's wrong to require that someone else go to extra work just to satisfy a minority interest when that minority interest could just avoid doing business with them. [1]

On the other hand, if this is successful, it might make people fix many of those sites that break when javascript is turned off, and I'd personally like that quite a bit.

[1] Don't get me wrong, I agree with the idea that certain public spaces must be accessable to handicapped people. In particular, I agree that handicapped people must be allowed reasonable access to all government buildings that the general public is allowed access to. What isn't so clear in my mind is that private businesses like restaurants should be required to comply with accessability laws. Personally I think it's certainly in their financial interest to do so, but I disagree with the idea of forcing them to comply by threat of law. In the same way, I don't agree with the idea that a private business like an airline should be forced to change web pages by threat of law. However, they do have what ammounts to a government granted oligopoly, so maybe that would be fair. Of course, that wouldn't be the logic used to justify it, so it would still spill over into places it wouldn't be justified. Sigh.

sounds to me (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399726)

that what this guy really needs is a better seeing eye dog.

Re:sounds to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399795)

But seeing eye dogs are quite expensive because it costs so much to train them. You see, dogs are colour blind and there a re sitiations in which colours must be distinguished for them (ie. traffic lights.) Maybe this guy just wanted the money to buy a seeing eye dog. :)

Form of involuntary servitude (1)

mc6809e (214243) | about 12 years ago | (#4399728)

If someone doesn't want to serve the blind why should they be MADE TO SERVE THEM? Isn't forcing one person to serve another a form of slavery?

I suppose the logic is that business people can afford to be slaves.

If the majority (sympathetic public) wants to make a minority (business people) serve a third group (the blind) then in a democracy the public wins.

Another example of how democracy and freedom are not the same thing.

They also forbid browsing,linking, spidering, etc. (5, Interesting)

Nicopa (87617) | about 12 years ago | (#4399737)

In their terms and conditions [] "Southwest Airlines" also state that they forbid "deep linking", using robots to spider their site, or just using any program to get their pages.

In fact, their license seems to forbids the use of any HTTP user agent to "acquire" some of their pages. Beware, by browsing their site you are risking to get sued =).

Simple solution for the blind... (1)

NoFX (231408) | about 12 years ago | (#4399739)


Web access is a not a requirement to book flight tix...

Can I sue them because I want to turn off images? (0)

Prince_Ali (614163) | about 12 years ago | (#4399742)

I don't agree with the lawsuit, but I also think that anything important should be text.

About time (5, Interesting)

Eol1 (208982) | about 12 years ago | (#4399745)

About time. I used to be a lead web developer at a US public university and was delegated by my director to provide accessability for all regardless of physically handicaps. After a couple years of doing this, developing in this manner became second nature and even as a nonvisually disabled person, I became more and more annoyed by sites that just didn't care.

It amazing me at the lack of professionalism in the web developer community for not addressesing this issue w/o legal being required to. It takes all of 15 minutes to run your site through bobby and the learning curve for meeting the W3C WAI guidelines is low. To not take the little time out of your unimpaired life to make life easier for others amazes me. Especially when 70% of it is just following good web coding practices (eg non-visual cues, alt tags, not using/requiring javascript/flash, using aural spreadsheets, etc etc). People seem to think that you can't design a site not using these items or that their site will be ugly / not satisfy the client. Both are wrong. Often you can use nice visual ques AND provide a seperate or alternate site for visually impaired people. Or just layout your site so even without visual ques, it is still usable. They aren't asking for amazing aural sites, they are asking for FUNCTIONAL aural sites. As for extra cost and time you spend designing these feature, bet that time is a hell of a lot cheaper that the multimillion dollar lawsuit you can/might get slapped with.

Trying surfing the net with lynx for an entire day, see usable it is. After thinking how bad that is, try downloading / buying your favorite aural browser for a real eye opener. Its not pretty. Now try doing that your whole life.

What about me??? (2)

teslatug (543527) | about 12 years ago | (#4399748)

I can't see, hear, or feel anything with my fingertips.

[Ed. I am actually a trained monkey typing this for my master. Man those bathroom monkeys don't know how good they have it. I'd like to see them have to keep up with Slashdot]

Solution: Pick up the phone (2)

Mnemia (218659) | about 12 years ago | (#4399761)

Why do these people feel the need to reach for their lawyers before even using common sense? What on earth is the point of voice-accessible websites for an airline when virtually ALL airlines provide 24-hour a day toll-free phone numbers where you can talk to a real person and/or use an automated system to do everything you can do on the Web?

I know that some airlines charge more for reservations not made online, but that could easily be waived for the disabled if they didn't have another option. It just seems nuts to me to try to force a company to spend millions of dollars that will be passed on to all the other customers for something that is a non-problem. The airlines already have voice information - on the original voice communicator - the PHONE! ;)

competitors (2)

M@T (10268) | about 12 years ago | (#4399768)

I'd be thinking this is a good time for one of Southwest's competitors (are there any? NB: I'm not a yank) to do a quick hack and start offering a site accessible to the blind... ..nice low cost media campaign for the duration of the lawsuit resulting in good press and potential customers - blind or otherwise.

2 Birds With One Stone... (2)

MBCook (132727) | about 12 years ago | (#4399773)

Good for them. I'm not blind, or disabled in any way (unless lazy is now a disability). I think that this is a good thing. Now while they shouldn't be allowed to sue small website (like my personal site, if they wanted), I see no problem with letting them sue large stores over their websites. Just because someone is blind (which is next to never their fault) doesn't mean they shouldn't be able to shop online too. Sure you could argue "they could get a sighted friend to do it for them", but the point of the ADA was so that you wouldn't need to have some friend near you all the time to do everything for you, correct?

OK, you've read that little raint, so what's the second bird? I am getting very tired of websites that use flash and images for everything on the page. They take a long time to load, they're slower, you can't copy text from them, and you can't view them is text-only browsers. Many of these sites don't even look right on moderatly new browsers (like the 3.x and 4.x serires of IE). Lawsuits to benefit a small group of people can be good for everyone sometimes.

PS, this is all IMHO. I don't mean to offend anyone with this. Somethimes these things can be touchy subjects. Blah blah blah...

It's not that hard (3, Interesting)

rakeswell (538134) | about 12 years ago | (#4399782)

A couple of years ago, when I was in production support, I had to respond to our VP level concerning complaints from our clients who could not use our site with the standard screen readers. This was a novel issue to me at the time and I quickly familiarized myself with screen reader technology and the W3C's accessibility quidelines [] .

I suggested that it would not be a terribly huge undertaking to bring our site into a minimum level of compliance. Nope, this was deemed too costly relative to the small segment of our clientele who were disabled. Failing that, I suggested that we could simply ensure that all new development going forward implemented the accessibiltiy guidelines.

Well, two years and a new redesign later, and this still hasn't been implemented. I mean, how hard is it to include accessibility in the business requirements for the new development being farmed out?

Here's a web app [] that validates a URL against the W3C's accessibiltiy guidelines.Most sites will generate a ton of errors, but you'll also notice that this accessibility boils down to simple things like using *correct* html, making sure you supply text in alt and title tags, etc.

I'm not certain, but I think accessibility concerns was a reason that has caused the W3C to want to deprecate the use of framesets: screenreaders have a hell of a time trying to present essentially two different documents at the same time with any level of coherance.

This is a different problem from physical access (3, Interesting)

starseeker (141897) | about 12 years ago | (#4399783)

I don't know how the law is written, but the technology problems to handle in such a case are highly nontrivial.

Consider. We have plenty of trouble now with websites which can only be viewed in one browser. This is visual display, mind you, which the vast majority of browsers are built to do by default. We can't even follow the standards well enough to handle the default access method well.

Now, we add a whole new method of content rendering. We can't even impliment the main standards properly. How do we plan to ensure that an audio interface can successfully read a website, as well? Keep in mind that this is not what the web was originally designed to handle.

Then there is the problem of economnic considerations - without a simple standard in widespread use, implimenting an audio interface becomes costly. It is desirable for handicapped people to be able to participate, but statistically they represent a fraction of the viewership. There won't be money in it, so companies aren't going to be happy about it. This will inevitably show up in the final result.

Finally, and this is perhaps the most difficult point - how do we update the truly staggering amount of content already out there, much if unskillfully written and poorly maintained in the first place?

Total access is a good goal, but the technological tools just aren't robust enough yet to handle it. The law needs to take that into account - this isn't a matter of adding a ramp, lowering telephones, handicapped parking or other straightforward and easily solved problems. Audio internet is a HARD problem, converting content on the internet is even harder, and it's just not going to be happening in the short term.

In the end I think it is a good one to solve, both for the sake of those who need it and the fact that a more robust audio structure on the internet is likely to have many other benefits, as well. But that kind of work takes years and years. I don't know if the legal system will be able to figure that out.

Well... (1)

Ledora (611009) | about 12 years ago | (#4399793)

My dad found a sign at the DMV 8ft in the air hanging with brail on it telling the needed paper work for a drivers liscene. Do blind people drive as much as the public seems to think and who knows an 8ft blind man? also *insert a star trek joke about the black man here*

Re:Well... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4399802)

why you star trek geeks always tryin to bring the black man down?? crazy cracka!!

Wrong on two counts (1, Flamebait)

Fastball (91927) | about 12 years ago | (#4399794)

First, Southwest Airlines is a private company. They can run their web site any way they see fit. Or, they don't have to have one. We're talking about a web site, something so often confused for a currency mint. Web sites are the cost of doing business, a necessary evil really, and as such, they cannot be mandated like ramps and elevators.

Second, unlike entry into a building, there are alternative airlines. No one said he had to fly Southwest. Crikey!

Hell, assume I'm completely wrong. Does this mean anyone with a web site has to be in compliance with this cat's text-to-speech converter? While noble, this complaint has no business in the legal system. What happens next? Money changes hands? If this guy wants to affect change and get what he wants, he should 1) write a letter to Southwest explaining his problem, 2) write his congresscritter explaining his problem, and/or 3) fly with somebody who meets his accessibility needs.

To whom it may concern... (1)

Zarbuck (590310) | about 12 years ago | (#4399800)

This is really not a new thing but it is nice to see that it is starting to come out in to the open. If you have not all ready heard it you should listen to the audio form the "Low Bandwidth Access to the Internet" panel that was at H2K back in 2000. They talked about how most of the web sites are not assessable by screen readers and I am sure that it has not got any better over the last 2 years. Any way if you want to hear it it is still on the H2K website.

Free Market Solution? (1)

tyen (17399) | about 12 years ago | (#4399808)

Is there any way for the free market to supply a solution for the disabled? There are tons of travel sites that aggregate travel options for the non-disabled, one of them would want the additional business if the different disabled communities communicated the market potential to the site owners.

Instead of foisting the cost of accessibility upon all travelers who will not benefit from it, why not let the disabled pay for the added cost of accessibility by supporting a site (or sites) that cater to their needs for a small additional fee? And if enough market demand exists, an additional surcharge would not even be necessary.

Litigating this will simply ensure that the disabled get the lowest-possible cost solution after a court judgement finds in the plaintiff's favor. That translates into offerings that meet the bare minimum legal requirements, and provide no value-add features that the non-disabled might enjoy.

Why is this all on Southwest? (1)

c.derby (574103) | about 12 years ago | (#4399811)

I took a look at Southwest's website. Its not like its Flash laden or anything. OK, what I want to know is why is it Southwest Airlines' fault that the screen reader (what is basically "third party software" as far as they are concerned) can't read their website? Shouldn't it be the responsiblity of the company that produces the screen reader to improve their product?
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