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Judge Rules Sites Can Be Sued Over Design

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the some-attrocious-colors-should-inspire-suits dept.

709

BcNexus writes "According to the Associated Press, a California judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought against the Target Corporation may proceed under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The catch here is that the suit, leveled by the National Federation of the Blind, concerns the design of Target's website. Could this set a precedent and subsequent flood of lawsuits against websites? What if another design is not tractable?" From the article: "'What this means is that any place of business that provides services, such as the opportunity to buy products on a website, is now, a place of accommodation and therefore falls under the ADA,' said Kathy Wahlbin, Mindshare's Director of User Experience and expert on accessibility. 'The good news is that being compliant is not difficult nor is it expensive. And it provides the additional benefit of making accessible web sites easier for search engines to find and prioritize.'"

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Why (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073017)

Do we let these defective people live?

Re:Why (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073035)

So our pharmaceutical loving overlords can rape us with somethings besides oil everyday. God bless the empire !

Re:Why (2, Funny)

Headcase88 (828620) | about 8 years ago | (#16073083)

So we don't die from from a disease borne from unsanitized telephones.

Re:Why (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | about 8 years ago | (#16073197)

Who? Judges?

Dunno, get rid of the lot I say.

Re:Why (3, Interesting)

Bones3D_mac (324952) | about 8 years ago | (#16073204)

As one of these "defective" people, I've often wondered about this myself. The end result, is that much of our survival is attributed to the same religious nutjobs that are trying to push creationism over natural selection in our schools. All human life is treated as sacred, regardless of just how far gone each particular human life is. All out of fear of judgement from a god that may not even exist beyond the human mind.

Of course, this isn't performed selflessly. Often times, these same people will try to guilt us for being an unnecessary burden on society or claim that our disability is the direct result of their god's divine punishment for sins we've committed/or are about to commit. (Such as the eventual rejection of the religion that repeatedly has shunned them in some form or another.)

The fact is, neither I, nor anyone else with a similar condition *asked* to be born as flawed beings. It was forced upon us without our consideration or consent. So when the time comes where demands payment for our survival in the form of baptism under their rules and we refuse, we're seen as embittered, ungrateful asshats for rejecting their definition of god.

And, in some sense, they're exactly right. Why should I be greatful to sadistic, omnipotent being who supposed has it within their power to prevent such severe disabilities, but chooses not to under the guise of serving some "greater purpose"? After all, I never asked for it, and no one ever consulted me ahead of time to tell me about the "fine print" in the contract of life prior to my birth.

Yeah, I'm a pessimist, and will probably end up in hell assuming this god stuff is even real. But at least I'll take with me the satisfaction of god having my blood on his hands for choosing not to do anything to help me or anyone else of my kind when he had the chance.

This is Dangerous (2, Insightful)

Damastus the WizLiz (935648) | about 8 years ago | (#16073021)

This just plain scares me. In a society where a criminal can sue the homeowner of the house he broke into and got injured AND WIN. I can only see this as ending poorly for site developers. But I will hope that someone realizes how foolish this kind of lawsuit is

Re:This is Dangerous (3, Insightful)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 8 years ago | (#16073108)

I can see this as ending poorly for site developers who use Flash. But, then. . .

Re:This is Dangerous (1)

terrymr (316118) | about 8 years ago | (#16073171)

Can you cite a case where this actually happened ? I've tried the likes of snopes.com and haven't come up with anything yet.

Re:This is Dangerous (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073207)

Off-topic, but an answer to your question.

While I don't have any web-based citations, there was a case in the late 80's where a student at a high school in Eureka California fell through a skylight and injured himself while trying to break in to vandalize the school. He sued the school for damages, claiming they should have had warnings, visible in the dark, to warn people not to walk on skylights. He won the initial suit, and the school won on apeal - reducing the payout to the kids medical bills.

I was not involved with the incident, but one of my friends was a student there at the time and was well informed on the details. I know. Without a real citation, this becomes a bit of a friend of a friend anecdote.

Cases like this are, admitedly, rare. But they do happen.

Re:This is Dangerous (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073185)

if i catch someone illegally breaking & entering my home i will shoot them with a .357 until dead, dead people cant sue anyone...

Re:This is Dangerous (3, Insightful)

himurabattousai (985656) | about 8 years ago | (#16073233)

Those who realize how foolish it is aren't in any position to do anything about it. This adversarial tactic does no one any good. Target gets heat if they actually point out how many blind people use their website (I'm guessing less than a small fraction of 1%). The blind people get heat when they complain about an inherently visual medium not being accessable enough. And, of course, no matter the outcome, laywers get heat for participating in this stupidity.

The reasonable tactic would have been to approach Target and offer to work with them to find a solution. Not only would it be cheaper for all sides in the short and long terms, but the positive light it would cast all parties in would bring everyone more money--more than enough to offset the costs of at least a partial site rebuild. In this case, the cheaper solution is the one that lets everyone win. Sadly, this fight is not about what's best for everyone. It's about sticking it to Target. That is how I think most people will see it.

Incidentally, the people who this is most dangerous for are the ones bringing the complaint. The opinion that people with disabilities want a free ride is not a small one, though almost always, it is wrong. Many, many people will remember this as Target being attacked, not as a last resort, but as an immediate and unwarranted response to a problem that is virtually non-existent. It will be incredibly difficult for this to be spun positively, and I fully expect that this particular disabilities advocacy group will see much smaller donations as a direct result of this lawsuit. Unfortunately, this train of thought doesn't even stop in the minds of the people responsible for the lawsuit. They have no idea how much damage they are really doing to their cause.

Re:This is Dangerous (1)

bird (12361) | about 8 years ago | (#16073239)

*How* is it foolish?

Is the ADA itself foolish, or just when it's applied to commerce sites?

hmmm? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073025)

So does this mean the death of flash only websites lol. Also why understand hancicapped people need assistance I something think we might be going to far I mean there just some things that dont lend them to people with disabilities.

Re:hmmm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073038)

Is English your handicap?

Re:hmmm? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 years ago | (#16073049)

So does this mean the death of flash only websites lol.

Not necessarily. New versions of SWF include ways to make objects accessible. But on the other hand, it could spell doom for sites that exclusively use visual CAPTCHAs [w3.org] .

this is just the beginning (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073027)

The next "target" [foreyes.com]

this is going to be a pain in the... (1)

jigjigga (903943) | about 8 years ago | (#16073030)

this will add yet another layer of craziness to simply making a website that works for everyone. Thanks standards for making our lives easy!

Someone needs to post the actual ruling... (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | about 8 years ago | (#16073031)

Not Mindshare's spin of it. Until then, we don't know enough.

Re:Someone needs to post the actual ruling... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073097)

Google News cluster [google.com] might be of use

RIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073034)

Goodbye all you crapromedia sites! *sigh* wishful thinking...

Good, sorta.. (1)

virtuald (996377) | about 8 years ago | (#16073040)

I think the general idea behind their lawsuit was good -- most websites should be as accessible as possible. However, using a lawsuit to get their intended results -- I think that was a poor idea. And target is stupid for making their site unaccessible anyways.. potentially losing lots of business.

Bad in every way (0, Troll)

DavidinAla (639952) | about 8 years ago | (#16073119)

If a company wants to cater to the disabled (or the brown-eyed or Asians or left-handed Latinos), it should be able to make that decision for itself. But nobody has a RIGHT to do business with any particular company. What's next? Do deaf people sue every company that has a telephone and doesn't offer TTD service?

The ADA sounds good if you don't think it through logically, as do most of the stupid new laws that governments pass which encroach on the rights of individuals. When people claim a new right today, all they do is appeal to our emotions and good will. They don't bother to explain why anyone has a "right" to force me (as a business owner) to modify my business to suit THEIR needs and wants. No such right exists, but nobody has told the federal government that.

David

Re:Good, sorta.. (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 8 years ago | (#16073217)

How is using a lawsuit to enforce rights under existing state and federal law a bad idea? How would you suggest they enforce rights under existing laws? Get down on their knees and beg for people to follow the law out of the goodness of their hearts?

Flash (1)

sskang (567081) | about 8 years ago | (#16073044)

Bye bye roughly 90% of flash sites.

Re:Flash (4, Funny)

Toba82 (871257) | about 8 years ago | (#16073068)

That's the one good thing that can come out of this, I guess.

Re:Flash (2, Funny)

finiteSet (834891) | about 8 years ago | (#16073209)

Bye bye roughly 90% of flash sites.
Or they'll just make them really, really big, with bright, contrasting colors and a short audio clip that reads the contents aloud.

And in other news... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073045)

And in other news, the National Association of the Deaf is suing Apple because iPods to not adequately provide for the music needs of the non-hearing. Also, the National Association of the Mute is suing AT&T because telephones do not adequately provide for the communication needs of the non-speaking. Multimedia and communications companies have also been informed by the National Association of the Blind, Deaf, Mute, Crippled and Crazy of their intention to file a number of lawsuits.

Deaf people use TTY (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about 8 years ago | (#16073078)

Also, the National Association of the Mute is suing AT&T because telephones do not adequately provide for the communication needs of the non-speaking.

Your analogy falls apart. Deaf people can tunnel text over a voice channel and have been able to do so for decades, even back when AT&T had a monopoly on telephones. It's called a teletypewriter [wikipedia.org] . Nowadays there's even a relay service to translate between voice and TTY modes.

Re:Deaf people use TTY (1)

cortana (588495) | about 8 years ago | (#16073198)

Could the blind person not gone to a competitor's web site?

How about sites that only work in IE? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073046)

Should they be sued because I can't use them in Firefox (or vice versa)?

Re:How about sites that only work in IE? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073136)

Depends--is "running Firefox" protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act?

That's too hard a question for me, so I'll leave it to you to figure it out.

Re:How about sites that only work in IE? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 8 years ago | (#16073200)

it depends but its most likely a situation similar to one of dodging the need to have auto insurance by not having a car.
If you code a website for MSIE 6.458.999 with Adobe Flash version 11.1345 and Windows media Player 12.16.1768 then you will have problems with FireFox and many other clients (btw scifi channel its supposed to be a WEBSITE not a Flashsite) and this may include blind enabled browsers (that may break if you upgrade too fast)

(i swear the website for "Now that sane people have taken over the world we will now post the shootings online" group will be viewable in Lynx)

Re:How about sites that only work in IE? (1)

paskie (539112) | about 8 years ago | (#16073184)

Well, perhaps if you consider yourself disabled because of using Firefox...

What's the problem? (1)

trinaryai (949870) | about 8 years ago | (#16073048)

I'd at least like to know what aspects of Target's web site are considered inaccessible and how the plantiff believes they could be made accessible so I can advise clients properly. Anybody know?

Re:What's the problem? (1)

abandonment (739466) | about 8 years ago | (#16073101)

exactly - how the f*k are we supposed to know what is considered 'inaccessible' - ie worthy of being sued over - without some specific, clearly defined guidelines.

i run a number of websites that sell video games and tools for game developers - am I going to be sued because these sites are graphically intensive? or because the games (products) themselves are 'inaccessible' to the blind?

this is ridiculous.

Re:What's the problem? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 years ago | (#16073144)

exactly - how the f*k are we supposed to know what is considered 'inaccessible' - ie worthy of being sued over - without some specific, clearly defined guidelines.

A good place to start is the WebXACT [watchfire.com] tool (formerly known as "Bobby") that sees how sites conform to Section 508.

Section 508 has been around for years now and might be the specific, clearly defined guidelines you're looking for. The good thing about Section 508 is that if you write XHTML and just separate content and style, you pretty much comform automatically.

Re:What's the problem? (1)

Nuskrad (740518) | about 8 years ago | (#16073160)

how the f*k are we supposed to know what is considered 'inaccessible' - ie worthy of being sued over - without some specific, clearly defined guidelines.

You mean like... the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [w3.org] ?

Re:What's the problem? (1)

doobie (2546) | about 8 years ago | (#16073165)

They didn't have a Spanish version available.

Re:What's the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073132)

The plaintiffs charge that target.com fails to meet the minimum standard of web accessibility. It lacks compliant alt-text, an invisible code embedded beneath graphic images that allows screen readers to detect and vocalize a description of the image to a blind computer user. It also contains inaccessible image maps and other graphical features, preventing blind users from navigating and making use of all of the functions of the website. And because the website requires the use of a mouse to complete a transaction, blind Target customers are unable to make purchases on target.com independently.

Re:What's the problem? (1)

cortana (588495) | about 8 years ago | (#16073213)

I just checked out their front page. Their craptastic design has no text, everything is constructed from images. Idiots!

Ex-social worker's view. (1)

gettingbraver (987276) | about 8 years ago | (#16073230)

I had to look up stuff like the original Rehab Act and amendments, the ADA, state legislation all the time so clients would be able to get some assistive technology. Finding a funder was another nightmare that was not always a success.

A starting point is Section 508 of the Rehab Act. [wikipedia.org]

As for the technical assistance sites, there are just too many to list.

Not expensive? By what standard? (4, Interesting)

ScentCone (795499) | about 8 years ago | (#16073050)

Smaller businesses can take years to squeeze the cost of a total site re-design out of their profits. A large, sprawling site that's been growing for years may not lend itself to anything other than a major piece of work. That's not to say the business shouldn't do it for other reasons (like SEO), but if they want to alienate some customers because for them, that's less expensive than a big IT project, that should be their call. Not a lawyers. I can't believe that any business not in the mood to do this doesn't have competition that is.

Of course, I smell some consulting blood in the water, here. On the other hand, one of my customers sells eyewear for sports. Somehow I don't think that redesigning their site for the blind is going to be high on their list. The irony is, they can still get sued anyway. Brilliant.

No kidding (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 8 years ago | (#16073086)

For example my parents run a quit shop, not in the US so this doesn't apply, however it gets me thinking. They have a large amount of fabric online you can buy. It's just pictures and sku numbers. There's not any text descriptions. Why? Well that takes time to write, time they don't have. Their web person doesn't even keep up with the load of things to be done as it is, much less have the time to write up fabric descriptions.

So to say it "wouldn't be expensive" to do this is BS. They'd have to hire someone. That's expensive, especially considering they aren't making a profit right now. It also wouldn't be worth it, there are a whole lot of blind quilters since it is a visual medium. There's nothing stopping a blind person from doing it, of course, but it's hard to appreciate your work if you can't see it.

So ya, I'm sure the expense is minimal for large companies, but you've got to think about the small businesses too. When your entire web team is one person, and your entire staff is like 6 people, hiring another person IS expensive, really expensive.

Re:Not expensive? By what standard? (1)

Aluvus (691449) | about 8 years ago | (#16073094)

On the other hand, one of my customers sells eyewear for sports. Somehow I don't think that redesigning their site for the blind is going to be high on their list.

Redesigning it for the color-blind might be.

Blind person who buys goods for sighted person (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 years ago | (#16073096)

On the other hand, one of my customers sells eyewear for sports. Somehow I don't think that redesigning their site for the blind is going to be high on their list.

One member of a family uses sport eyewear. Another member of the family, who holds the purse strings, is blind in one eye and legally blind in the other. One of your customers will likely lose business to a competitor whose site is more accessible to blind people.

Re:Not expensive? By what standard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073174)

Blind people are people. They have to make do just like everybody else. Unless the store says "no blind people allowed", it should be their choice how their website works. The blind can always ask for a redesign or take their business elsewhere, but lawsuits are just going to make lawyers rich.

Re:Not expensive? By what standard? (1)

Aqua OS X (458522) | about 8 years ago | (#16073180)

Small businesses typically don't have massive sites. In most cases adding a bunch of ALT tags to images is not going to break the bank.

In Target's case, they have a large company with a site that's driven by a database and modular components. Adding ALT tags to their product image really shouldn't be that big of a deal unless they did some sloppy development. Their legal fees probably cost a lot more then their development costs. I imagine the plaintiff simply followed through with this case to set precedent.

That said, Target is retarded for not accounting for universal design at the get go. I'm sorry, but it's not like blindness and or visual acuity problems are rare. There is a growing demand for accessibility, and as tech savvy people age this is only going to increase exponentially.

Re:Not expensive? By what standard? (1)

Azreal (147961) | about 8 years ago | (#16073193)

I'm too lazy to look it up right now, but just as a side note..there may be an "out" with in the ADA already. I happened to do some research into the act a while ago for an essay and I believe it's written that businesses must attempt to comply with the ADA as long as it isn't prohibitively expensive. There were many small businesses that couldn't say, afford to install an elevator to make their business accessible to the handicapped. Although, any redesigns from that point on must take the Americans with Disabilities Act into account.

Really bad. (3, Insightful)

Toba82 (871257) | about 8 years ago | (#16073055)

This is not a good thing, at all. How exactly do you define a 'service'? How do you define 'accessible'? The judge should have instead called for an extension of the ADA, with explicit description of what sites it applies to and what it means to be accessible.

Re:Really bad. (4, Insightful)

SEE (7681) | about 8 years ago | (#16073227)

Um, no. It isn't a judge's job to advocate legislation. It's a judge's job to apply existing law to specific cases. It's exactly the judge's job to interpret 'service' and 'accessible', and to then explain how he reached those conculsions in his opinion (thus "case law" and "precedent"). That's how the Anglo-American system of law has worked for several centuries now.

Re:Really bad. (2, Informative)

MP3Chuck (652277) | about 8 years ago | (#16073237)

"How do you define 'accessible'?"

I'd point you to section508.gov [section508.gov] , but ... it's inaccessible (i.e. "Firefox can't establish a connection to the server at www.section508.gov"). Granted, Section 508 only legally applies to government agencies, but I would imagine (IANAL, of course) that compliance by commercial websites would be sufficient in cases like this.

WAI [w3.org] 's WCAG [w3.org] might be a good place to start if you're concerned about whether your site is accessible. I'm also pretty sure there are Section 508 and WCAG validators out there.

Re:Really bad. (2, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 8 years ago | (#16073242)

A judge's job is to interpret the laws that exist, not to "call for" new laws. And, here, the judge only allowed only the parts of the claim relating to information concerning Target's physical stores to go forward, and threw out the rest of the claims. So it seems that the judge feels that the applicable laws (both the ADA and the state law at issue) is already clear: inasmuch as the features of a website pertain to the use of a physical facility, they may be within the coverage of those laws.

Easy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073056)

It's quite simple to just create 2 versions of a webpage - an eye candy version, and an accessible version. What's the big deal? Nobody gets upset when companies are forced to build wheelchair ramps...

Ironcically, I had to get someone else to read the captcha image to me so I could make this post - In the words of slashdot, "if you are visually impaired, please email us at pater@slashdot.org".

Egg on marketing's face (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 years ago | (#16073223)

It's quite simple to just create 2 versions of a webpage - an eye candy version, and an accessible version. What's the big deal?

The versions may slip out of sync. If not, and the accessible version is usable enough, then people will start using the accessible version because accessible pages are generally more usable anyway, and all the money that the company's marketing department spends on making the eye candy version look good will be wasted. Marketing doesn't want to make itself look like a waste of money.

It would be interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073061)

If Firefox developers launched a version for people with disabilities. Then, site owners that refuse to offer content for non-IE browsers or rely on Flash-ridden pages could be sued!

Shades of the Massachusetts open format args (1)

catalina (213767) | about 8 years ago | (#16073066)

Wasn't one of the arguments against open format in MA that FOSS tools didn't provide accessibility?

How does this ruling impact the use of OSS tools to build web facilities?

Re:Shades of the Massachusetts open format args (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 8 years ago | (#16073143)

I can use vi or emacs just fine to compose web pages. Even intricate dynamic designs. There's this 'alt=' tag that I can use to caption graphics. Heck, the Mozilla Composer defaults to YELL at me for not putting in alt tags when I insert graphics.

Huh? I can't develop a big Flash extravaganza 'splash' page at the front of my site with OSS?!?

Accessibility (5, Funny)

bryan8m (863211) | about 8 years ago | (#16073067)

I'm considering adding braille to my website and building ramps between pages for those in wheelchairs.

Re:Accessibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073084)

Make sure that the text entry fields are large enough and have metal handles mounted on the sides.

Re:Accessibility (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 8 years ago | (#16073252)

well if you had just thought a moment and
1 put "alt" tags on your pics (this would be the e-version of braille)
2 put a nice walkway instead of cramming your pages together (standard html links anyone) or put in proper lifts (saneish js or xml link bars)
you wouldn't have this problem

oh btw a comment to one of the posters make sure your text entry boxes are sized large enough to fit the input and you should be fine
(hint if they are writting War and Peace into the box make sure its more than post-it(tm) size)

Don't bother reading the article (4, Interesting)

El Cubano (631386) | about 8 years ago | (#16073074)

This is one time where I would say that reading the article is a waste of time. In fact, the article is actually an advertisement for this Minshare outfit. There are eight paragraphs in the article and five of them are about Mindshare and nothing else. Can we please find better material for the front page of slashdot?

may contain NUTS (0, Offtopic)

stewwy (687854) | about 8 years ago | (#16073076)

I bought a packet of peanuts the other day (in the UK )and being bored read the back of the packet there was a warning on the back 'MAY CONTAIN NUTS' My point is this is the same sort of thing ie excessive sensitivity

Re:may contain NUTS (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073124)

As more and more commerce, social interaction and government services move online, making sure that those people in society that are disabled are not left out is not excessive sensitivity. You might as well say that providing public transportation for the poor and sidewalks for pedestrians is excessive sensitivity because buses and sidewalks take up perfectly good space where you could be driving your SUV.

having a site be accessible is easy - provide a plain text alternative. Simple.

Re:may contain NUTS (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 8 years ago | (#16073140)

That label shows up in the US too. I've even seen that notice at some restaurants and ice cream parlors too. It seems like people are contracting weird allergies, I mean, there's an allergy to latex such that at least some hospitals have banned deliveries of latex balloons.

Re:may contain NUTS (1)

coolgeek (140561) | about 8 years ago | (#16073141)

Are you sure the disclaimer isn't just a CYA for those packages that contain something other than nuts?

Re:may contain NUTS (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 8 years ago | (#16073154)

Since peanuts are legumes (members of the pea 'family' of plants) and thus not 'nuts,' perhaps they were warning the customer that since they also process and package walnuts at the same facility, there is a risk of nut content making it in with the peanuts.

Good. (3, Insightful)

Virak (897071) | about 8 years ago | (#16073077)

Maybe this'll get all those so called 'web designers' to realize that there's more to web sites than making them look pretty.

Re: your sig (1)

Mad Merlin (837387) | about 8 years ago | (#16073202)

Some people, when confronted with a problem, think "I know, I'll use regular expressions." Now they have two problems.

The first problem of which is obviously "What am I going to do with all this free time I have now?", but what's the second?

Re:Good. (1)

pixelguru (985395) | about 8 years ago | (#16073211)

I've personally been fighting with creative directors for years over the need to make sites accessible. Many agencies see no value in it because the clients don't ask for it (unless they're a big institution or an edu). What they're slowly realizing is that making a site accessible has benefits beyond catering to the blind. The sites have cleaner code, intelligent markup, and are much friendlier to handheld screens.

Re:Good. (2, Interesting)

cvd6262 (180823) | about 8 years ago | (#16073212)

I was once a graphic design major, but I got fed up with the attitude of "designers" and relegated it to a minor instead (I had enough credits at that point).

My design background, which was colored by engineering, had emphasized working within the boundaries set by the project and/or needs of the client. You're right that many web site designers feel that form is all that matters, functionality be damned.

In fact, many graphic designers (who would be better called "visual artists") feel that to bend their visual presentation to any other variable is a form of prostitution.

We'll see if this ruling forces come changes to the field, the same way the ADA long ago changed the interior design field.

PS - I know there are many good, even great designers (both on and off the web) who are not as described above.

Same in the U.K. (5, Informative)

Phil John (576633) | about 8 years ago | (#16073079)

It's the same situation in the U.K. The Disability Discrimination Act specifies that any place of business must be accessible to people with disabilities (including web-sites).

I see the legislation as a "good thing", the internet is the great leveller, many people who otherwise would find it hard to make purchases or converse in real life find fewer barriers.

It goes further than just visually impaired visitors however, you have to take into account things like colour-blindness, essential tremor (so big chunky web 2.0 buttons are fine!).

All of our sites and web apps (including admin backends) have been fully DDA compliant for several years now. Being compliant makes business sense, it doesn't cost much more to build it in from the start and then you increase your potential client base - plus you get a warm fuzzy feeling when you know you're not preventing people from accessing your services.

Re:Same in the U.K. (1, Interesting)

LordLucless (582312) | about 8 years ago | (#16073195)

it doesn't cost much more to build it in from the start

If you're building from the start, that is. If you've already got a huge, existing website, then it can be quite the PITA

Not to mention that without any legally-defined standards, you can just be sued by someone with a disability you haven't considered. What if your site's navigation is too complex for a person with mental retardation to use? What if a double-amputee is trying to use your site with no arms? What if someone is dyslexic, and can't read your sites content?

I'm all for accessible content, and sites I develop are generally fairly good in that regard. But I still don't want to be sued because someone with Parkinson's couldn't click the right button.

Microsoft isn't going to like this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073087)

This could be the end of sites that only work with IE.

One of the local companies, with whom I USED to do business, had a site that totally wouldn't display properly on Firefox. As far as I could tell, it didn't conform to any standards. The designer couldn't design with real html. All he knew were Microsoft tools.

Is this the end? (1)

mr1337 (799579) | about 8 years ago | (#16073092)

"The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled yesterday that a retailer may be sued if its website is inaccessible to the blind."

Time to patent a Braile monitor.

Another thing to think about is how this will affect other industries... Music companies being sued for not making their music accessible to the deaf? Telephone services being sued for those who can't speak?

Where will this end?

Re:Is this the end? (3, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 years ago | (#16073115)

Time to patent a Braile monitor.

Braile displays have been available for years now. In fact, the CSS 2 spec allows you to write one stylesheet targetting, say, visual displays, and other for braile.

Re:Is this the end? (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 8 years ago | (#16073118)

A lot of web sites still have a lot of text even if it seems like mostly graphic design.

There are text to speech programs for web sites. There are braille output devices, I think you might have seen one in the movie Sneakers.

So no, your comparisons don't apply. I don't understand your telephone comparison either, aren't you aware of TDD?

Re:Is this the end? (1)

bladesjester (774793) | about 8 years ago | (#16073164)

At least I wasn't the only person who thought of Whistler from Sneakers when I saw the words 'Braile monitor'

Re:Is this the end? (1)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | about 8 years ago | (#16073138)

Another thing to think about is how this will affect other industries... Music companies being sued for not making their music accessible to the deaf? Telephone services being sued for those who can't speak?

Ha! Hilarious! You stick it to those irrational fucks, man. And speaking of silly things, what's with requiring buildings to have ramps? What're they gonna do, claw their way up them? They can't walk! Ridiculous!

More information (5, Informative)

fragmer (900198) | about 8 years ago | (#16073099)

Yahoo Finance News article [yahoo.com] has detailed information on the ruling.

This is ridiculous (0)

Millenniumman (924859) | about 8 years ago | (#16073112)

Businesses can make their store/website however they want. It is theirs. If they do not make it accessible, they will lose business, and someone will make theirs accessible, to get that business. Why must we have these ridiculous laws?

Re:This is ridiculous (1)

miskatonic alumnus (668722) | about 8 years ago | (#16073157)

You know, a lot of folks said the same thing about admitting black people into their establishment. This ruling was probably made for the same reason.

Re:This is ridiculous (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about 8 years ago | (#16073219)

You know, I wouldn't have any problem with establishments not admitting black people; the same thing would happen. In cosmopolitan areas, the establishment would go out of business as people began to avoid it. In redneck areas, blacks still aren't allowed to patronise the establishment, it's just their kept out by the abuses of the other patrons rather than the policy of the storeowner.

Of course, there's also a qualitative difference. You don't need to do anything special to make your store "black-friendly". You don't need to spend money on ramps, elevators, etc. Whereas for disabled access, it imposes a financial burden on behalf of the operator.

Re:This is ridiculous (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | about 8 years ago | (#16073243)

That argument would apply to the ADA as a whole, and for me that's enough to dismiss your reasoning outright. The fact is, there are some choices business owners just shouldn't be able to make. For example, the decision to not serve hispanics, or to dump toxic waste into the sewers. The decision to not make a place of business accessible to the disabled qualifies.

Now, what constitutes 'reasonable accomodations' for website design is up for debate, but I can't imagine that they'd have had a problem if they'd followed the w3c guidelines.

Target? I love that you're not Wal-Mart and everything, but please just stop fighting this and add the damned alt tags.

I'm confused. (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | about 8 years ago | (#16073116)

A company didn't make it's website accessable to the blind, and they're getting sued? How does that make sense? They don't HAVE to sell their products to blind people if they don't want to...

What's next, suing Target for not sending out braille catalogs?

Re:I'm confused. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073189)

So, you say a company may choose to whom they sell? Does this include the choice to not sell to, say, foreigners? Or to "whites" only?

Re:I'm confused. (2, Informative)

SEE (7681) | about 8 years ago | (#16073246)

They don't HAVE to sell their products to blind people if they don't want to...

Actually, in the United States, they do have to even if they don't want to, because Congress and the first President Bush enacted a law to that effect.

American's really love to sue (1)

pembo13 (770295) | about 8 years ago | (#16073125)

Or is just a "developed nation" thing? There seems to be a workable lawsuit for anything that one person doesn't like about something else. To the best of my knowledge, Target doesn't have a monopoly on any essential product. Nor do they prevent anyone from coming to their store. Suing them do the design of their website for all things is ridiculous.

Re:American's really love to sue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073229)

Being a fiercly patriotic American I have to bite my tounge here, but I agree with you. I don't really know if it's a "developed nation" thing, but you're right - lawyers OWN the United States, and that SICKENS me and about 280 million plus other people. The problem is that our laws are SO backward, SO screwed up and SO OVERLY COMPLICATED that nobody can do a damn thing about it.

God Bless America, but for crying out loud stike the damn laywers with a bolt of lightning.

Designer's perspective (4, Insightful)

SocialEngineer (673690) | about 8 years ago | (#16073128)

I've been making a huge push for standards compliance - and it looks like those of us who still fight for it might finally have their voices heard. I just finished up a design contract for a hospital, recently - one where their current (soon to be old) website was all but easily usable by the blind.

For those of you who think that the blind don't surf, they do; Do you think TTS readers are just so you can make your computer say naughty words? There are numerous blind users on the web.

While transitioning from crap to standards compliance is a pain in the butt to do, once you are there, it is usually smooth sailing (assuming you have an experienced designer do the site). I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to manage some of my current web projects while using tables for layout, and whatnot.

Now, if only IE would catch up on the standards game..

Re:Designer's perspective (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about 8 years ago | (#16073234)

Just wait till you're sued by a Parkinson's victim because your buttons are too small. Your never going to be able to create a website that caters for every variety of disability in the world - and now you can be sued because of it.

What about the colorblind? (1)

lemur3 (997863) | about 8 years ago | (#16073129)

We are people too!

maybe the colorblind are not disabled, but, I would surely love to get some money from the websites I have been unable to read or navigate due to poor color choices!

Re:What about the colorblind? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 8 years ago | (#16073163)

maybe the colorblind are not disabled, but, I would surely love to get some money from the websites I have been unable to read or navigate due to poor color choices!

Due to all the diffferent shades and varieties of colorblindness, we'll end up with every single site either white on black, or black on white.

Unconstitutional (1, Insightful)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | about 8 years ago | (#16073135)

I would think what this judge did violates the 1st Amendment.

What? (1)

Jugalator (259273) | about 8 years ago | (#16073158)

Are you saying Slashdot can sue Kuro5hin??

Re:What? (1)

Jugalator (259273) | about 8 years ago | (#16073166)

Ugh, thought this was about suing for similar designs, not for accessibility design crap.
Well, there's the sound my silly joke falling flat on its face. :-(

Info about making your site accessible (1)

MayHanasDaddy (961298) | about 8 years ago | (#16073183)

First, the inspirational quote: "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." -- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and Inventor of the World Wide Web

Some info for people who want to learn more:
"Website Accessibility Initiative (WAI)", published in 1999 by the "World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)". [w3.org]

Lighthouse.org [lighthouse.org] A lot of help on designing with vision-impaired people in mind.

And finally, (Please don't slashdot this poor guy's site)... online classic stories (Twain, H.G. Wells, etc.). It's called www.readeasily.com , and was setup specifically for vision-impaired, but with such good stories that I often go there myself.

What about the US Government?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073205)

There are several US Government sites which "require" Windows, IE and there is no way to get what you need (e.g. fill forms) if you have other browsers or operating systems.

A lot of over the top responses... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 8 years ago | (#16073206)

...but note that only the claims related to information related to the physical stores were allowed to proceed, those related to online services/information not related to the physical stores were thrown out.

And even those that were allowed forward simply allow the plaintiffs to make the case that the law was violated.

There's more to it (2, Insightful)

Expertus (1001346) | about 8 years ago | (#16073215)

This article did not have much detail, but some [com.com] reports [sfgate.com] from February when the suit was initially brought provide a bit more insight.

the suit charges that visual information is missing "alt-text," or invisible code that allows screen readers to detect and vocalize a description of an image. In addition, the site lacks accessible image maps, an impediment to jumping to different site destinations
If all Target had to do was add some alt-text to their images, it seems foolish for them to refuse to do so - which leads me to believe that there is more at play here.

I think that it is in the best interest of a business to make themselves accessible to the widest audience possible, but it seems that the litigants want to hold the nation's businesses to standards created by the TTS industry (I'm assuming they use some variant of TTS software - I know very little about software for the blind). An international standard would be ideal, but in an age where technology changes so rapidly, it will be difficult to regulate compliance with ADA laws. If we compare this to wheelchair access ramps, we have a design that has fundamentally remained unchanged - wheels going up a ramp. It would be like requiring companies to rebuild their ramps every few years to accommodate new wheelchair designs while expecting them to maintain backwards compatibility with older models.

Two Words (well four)... (1)

isny (681711) | about 8 years ago | (#16073235)

Anyone remember: OMG! Ponies!!!
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