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Should Online Stores Be Subject To ADA?

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the accessibility-rising dept.

546

prostoalex writes, "HTML tutorials usually mention alt tags for images and noscript tags as something optional that a Web designer should add to a site for the crawlers and users browsing with graphics or JavaScript turned off. However, a recent lawsuit against Target by the National Federation of the Blind accuses the retailer of not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since Target's online store is unbrowsable with a screen reader, the nation's 200,000 blind people who go online cannot become paying customers, the NFB contends. From the article: 'In denying Target's motion to dismiss the suit two months ago, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel... held that the law's accessibility requirements applied to all services offered by a place of public accommodation. Since Target's physical stores are places of public accommodation, the ruling said, its online store must also be accessible or the company must offer equally effective alternatives.' Does the judge's name ring a bell? Yes, it's the same Marilyn Hall Patel who handled the RIAA's case against Napster in 2001." Web builders and tools may need to start brushing up on the Web Accessibility Initiative.

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About Time! (4, Interesting)

overshoot (39700) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738075)

Maybe finally we can put a stake through the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned Flash-only sites.

It's got my vote. (3, Insightful)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738385)

If it ends up banning flash from being a part of web site's UI, it's got my vote.

Re:About Time! (4, Informative)

Phil John (576633) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738645)

It's a common misonception that flash ins't accessible, the latest versions are very much so. JK Rowlings new site is meant to be a good example of this.

Re:About Time! (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738649)

Flash can actually be sensibly used and have full support for screenreaders, magnifiers and other aids for people with disabilities. Think of it as a full-blown object oriented programming language for graphically heavy applications.

It's just that 99 times out of 100 it's used for pointless little animations or as a substitute for actually trying to write some proper f'ing HTML which renders sensibly. It's a case of the many giving the few a bad name.

ADA is bad law (-1, Flamebait)

XanC (644172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738107)

ADA = tyranny of the handicapped.

Re:ADA is bad law (3, Funny)

Snarfangel (203258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738139)

Luckily, my house has stairs, so they'll be stuck milling around outside in their wheelchairs when they come to get me.

Re:ADA is bad law (2, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738175)

> ADA = tyranny of the handicapped.

Flash = tyranny of the clueless.

I'm no fan of the ADA, but anything that puts Flash developers on the streets with signs saying "Will skip intros for food" is OK by me.

I'm with you on that one (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738463)

Amen, brother.

Re:ADA is bad law (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738179)

ADA = tyranny of the handicapped.

Well, anyway, interpretations of ADA are taken too far. There are some things that handicapped people just cannot do - that's the very definition of a handicap. Should we require rock-climbing equipment stores to accomodate double amputees?

-b.

Re:ADA is bad law (4, Insightful)

Malc (1751) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738425)

Yes, but this is browsing the web, not a physical activity. Using the web is now a normal and necessary part of life for so many people. It doesn't take much to accomodate blind people at design and implementation time. If the web site designers/developers had done it correctly from the beginning then it wouldn't be so costly. It seems to me that many UI designers (be it web, traditional software application, media such as DVD, etc) are either ignorant or lazy. And anybody with a Comp. Sci degree has no excuse and should take this as a given - either that or their university was shit and the degree certificate isn't worth the paper it's printed on. This is fundamental and very basic HCI.

Re:ADA is bad law (0, Flamebait)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738503)

Yes, but this is browsing the web, not a physical activity.

Using the phone is also a normal activity. Should be require every mom-and-pop store and restaurant to buy a TDD (Teletype Device for the Deaf) so that deaf people can call them on the phone and place orders? Disabled people have to allow for some loss in "functionality" compared to normally abled people. Deal with it and move on.

-b.

Re:ADA is bad law (2, Interesting)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738637)

Nope. Deaf dude calls relay operator, relay operator calls store and "translates" between.

Unfortunately, use of a relay operator is becoming common for scammers, etc. to hide accents and out of area calls.

Re:ADA is bad law (3, Insightful)

Malc (1751) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738643)

So easy to say that (and so flippantly too) when you're not disabled.

Re:ADA is bad law (2, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738653)

Should be require every mom-and-pop store and restaurant to buy a TDD (Teletype Device for the Deaf) so that deaf people can call them on the phone and place orders?


Well, in California, we have a statewide, free, public relay service so that TDD users can communicate with anyone with a phone with no problem, so its not an issue. I thought that was fairly common, and not unique to California.

Re:ADA is bad law (2, Interesting)

krlynch (158571) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738669)

Should be require every mom-and-pop store and restaurant to buy a TDD?

That's an interesting parallel case. However, in this case, the law requires that the PHONE company (and hence you) find a way to make the PSTN work for the deaf. There are organizations (names escaping me right now) that have non-deaf operators that provide the interface between the deaf and the non-deaf worlds: if you are deaf, you call these operators via TDD, and they make a voice call to the destination, translating back and forth.

Should the law perhaps require ISPs to fund a similar service for the web? The blind call up the service, and operators with special training "translate" the essentials of the page into spoken word? I don't think that's a great idea, but until the technology of screen readers and authoring tools catches up, maybe they should?

Re:ADA is bad law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738617)

Yes, because Computer Science has so much to do with web design.

Let me guess...you work for Human Resources?

Re:ADA is bad law (1)

john82 (68332) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738557)

Don't be an a**.

Web commerce is definitely something that handicapped people can do. This really is not that big of a deal if you use your head. Especially for such retail giants as Target, there is no reason why they can't implement ADA for their customer web sites.

Re:ADA is bad law (1)

thewiz (24994) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738243)

You say that now, but I'm sure you'll sing a different tune if you go blind or deaf.

You'll sing a different tune if you go blind... (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738311)

"You say that now, but I'm sure you'll sing a different tune if you go blind or deaf."

"Georgia, Georgia, The whole day through Just an old sweet song Keeps Georgia on my mind...."

Re:ADA is bad law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738323)

And he'll sing no tune if he goes mute!

Re:ADA is bad law (1)

Snarfangel (203258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738467)

You say that now, but I'm sure you'll sing a different tune if you go blind or deaf.

I doubt I could carry a tune if I were deaf.

Re:ADA is bad law (3, Insightful)

PMCausey (535514) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738249)

Define bad law for me.

Is a law bad because it requires businesses to accommodate ALL customers, regardless of whether or not they can see, hear or walk? Or are you a part of the group of pseudo-libertarians who think that government should butt out?

If it wasn't for ADA, my wife (who is confined to a wheelchair) and I would be extremely limited in where we go, what we do, and where we can shop, eat, or stay.

So it seems a bit ridiculous to you that Target was the target, and they want them to make the site accessible to the blind. It seems even more ridiculous to me that Target wouldn't do that in the first place (it may cost a bit more, but seeing as how they are a "good corporate citizen (compared to WalMart)", it would be befit their image.

Oh, but they don't want to. Now you see why laws like the ADA have to exist.

Re:ADA is bad law (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738389)

why is your wife's handicap the business' problem? if you can't eat at Steak and Tacos, that's their fault, not yours. You don't have nor should have a right to eat wherever you like.

it's expensive to build wheelchair ramps (at times financially impossible) and to demand a small mom & pop shop to do so is absurd.

Re:ADA is bad law (1)

valintin (30311) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738525)

Part of doing business in the community is that you have to be a part of the community. If you can't provide a service for people there is no reason you should be aloud to operate. You don't have nor should you have a right to do business wherever you like.

Re:ADA is bad law (2, Insightful)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738591)

They're part of the community that can walk up steps. If they dont want to cater to 100% of the population that's their choice.

It is their loss (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738451)

I'm sure you don't want my sympathy so I won't attempt to give it.

But in truth I have mixed feelings about enforced compliance with the ADA on online stores, for commercial organizations. They are trying to sell a product or provide a service - if they don't want your business (by way of not properly accomodating you) then don't give it to them! It is just that easy! Go to their competitor and let them reap the reward.

But then you start trickling down the web chain and think, what about non-profit orgs? Should they be enforced? What do you think from your POV? Should they have to take money out of their battle chest for whatever cause they are fighting so (parallel to your argument, no offense given) someone's blind wife can read what is on the page?

Re:ADA is bad law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738455)

I tried looking at your site but, I blind and your site doesn't have any sound.

Hypocrite.

Re:ADA is bad law (1, Insightful)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738483)

Is a law bad because it requires businesses to accommodate ALL customers, regardless of whether or not they can see, hear or walk? Or are you a part of the group of pseudo-libertarians who think that government should butt out?

It's a bad law because it goes way overboard in forcing businesses to accomodate every single person on the planet and every single malady they could possibly have. If the government feels that strongly about it, it can pay for it. Then people can decide with their own wallets, at the polls, whether these sorts of things are worth it.

So it seems a bit ridiculous to you that Target was the target, and they want them to make the site accessible to the blind. It seems even more ridiculous to me that Target wouldn't do that in the first place (it may cost a bit more, but seeing as how they are a "good corporate citizen (compared to WalMart)", it would be befit their image.

Whether they want to is their own business. Where does it stop? Do they need to supply deaf/blind people with special tactile screens?

And big businesses are one thing, but this crap gets absolutely ridiculous when you talk about small businesses. So now we have to saddle every poor bastard who just wants a website with a bunch of ridiculous rules? No thanks.

I'm sure it really sucks being blind, but to me, as long as Target makes accomodations in some way, that should be enough. I'd make a blind-only site that redirects them to a page containing nothing but a phone number, and let an operator help them out.

Re:ADA is bad law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738511)

Then why isn't your own website ADA compliant?

Re:ADA is bad law (3, Insightful)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738397)

I just don't understand why people would be content to let a group of their fellow citizens be disenfranchised from large segmens of society because of their disability. Our sense of fairness demands that if we can do something to bring accessibility to people who don't have it, then we should.

These accesibility laws are not about making special exceptions to handicapped people. It's simply allowing handicapped people to live, participate, and work to contribute to themselves and their community just like everybody else.

Re:ADA is bad law (2, Informative)

cshark (673578) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738485)

I've said it before, I'll say it again:
It is absurdly difficult to accommodate screen readers.
They are undetectable, and cannot be sniffed.

Therefore, you have to assume that potentially anyone coming in can be using a screen reader. You have to program extra code, but not too much extra code, or the screen readers will be reading "spacer" "spacer" "spacer" for three hours. You need to have noscript, and noembed tags in everything, and offer an alternate text version of your site that needs to be up to date and relevant. The law even goes so far as to state that you need to have alternate text on images, or specify the location of a file with a description of the image in it. Style sheets can be against the rules or not, depending on which contradictory section you intend adhering to, and you can pretty much forget about rendering anything on the client side. Although flash can be accessible if you write your code in sequence, make your text selectable, and make sure to specify an alternate text version of your applet (just in case).

It's a frustrating, even maddening standard to work with, especially when your boss won't spring for Jaws (or the like), which he sees no point in doing because no one in your workplace actually needs it.

I wonder if Porn sites could be held to that kind standard...
The entertainment value there would be priceless.

Re:ADA is bad law (1)

gumbright (574609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738625)

I agree, but this is one of those really difficult problems as it requires drawing a "line" and the line is arbitrary.

Take this (completely made up but potentially real) situation:

A bar is required to be handicapped accessible. In that bar is a mechanical bull. If the bar is ADA compliant, shouldn't the bull be too? Isn't it arbitrary exclusion to the wheelchair bound to not be able to ride the bull?

Admittedly, this is a goofy case but it displays how difficult it is to draw the line. It certainly makes sense to have things like municipal offices, etc handicapped accessible, but does everything need to be? A handicap by definition means that some mediums are going to inaccessible to you.

The ADA over-represents a minority, but its intent is good. One main problem is its treatment of a failure to consider this minority constituting active discrimination.

And because the line is so hard to draw you end up with some really goofy extensions. I lived in Naperville, IL and at one point they were considering requiring that all new home built be ADA compliant. So if you built a house, and were not handicapped you would still be required to comply (at significant additional cost and a with a serious restriction in design options).

To the OP, web access for the blind is certainly good but is it an inalienable right? I thought the way things worked was that the market sorts it out. One store has an accessible website, one doesn't so the first store gets the blind folks business, simple as that. How/when has that changed?

Probably just as well... (4, Insightful)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738121)

Plain old HTML sites are a lot faster than the newer Flash-y sites with the latest doodads. Examples of well-designed sites (get the job done with a good, fast interface while managing to look good) are Google, LiveJournal, and Craigslist. All of which I can use with Lynx should the desire strike me.

-b.

Re:Probably just as well... (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738209)

Plain old HTML sites are a lot faster than the newer Flash-y sites with the latest doodads.

Yet GMail is faster than SquirrelMail. By your logic, that shouldn't be the case. SquirrelMail is simpler, has less dynamic components, and is more compatible with accessibility standards. Why is it slower?

Re:Probably just as well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738393)

Could it be thousands of Linux servers as a backend vs one 1Ghz mail server?

Re:Probably just as well... (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738445)

SquirrelMail is simpler, has less dynamic components, and is more compatible with accessibility standards. Why is it slower?

Are we running it on comparable servers, first of all? Google has a lot of 'puter power at its fingertips. Also, one may be more efficient with local caching than the other. Who knows?

-b.

Re:Probably just as well... (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738479)

I've seen three implementations of SquirrelMail, all slower than GMail. I administered one which was on a beefy server and, at the time, was only serving up 10 people (it was a test server before we rolled it out in place of the old solution). It was slower than GMail by a noticable amount.

Re:Probably just as well... (2, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738569)

Are we running it on comparable servers, first of all?

You can assume comparible servers, and GMail will still win every time. In fact, any webmail provider using a "classic" webmail design is likely to show up slower than GMail, even if you assume the same hardware and bandwidth.

The difference is that all that AJAXian voodoo is actually doing something more than making everything look pretty. It's responsible for transferring only the information necessary to update the display. Nothing more, nothing less. As a result, the data transmitted by GMail is significantly less than that transferred by SquirrelMail. SquirrelMail must send you the header, the sidebar, the controls, the CSS, the layout, etc. in addition to the text of the message. GMail sends you the text of the message, then the Javascript code generates the layout on the fly. This reduces latency and improves responsiveness.

So GMail is the perfect example of a situation where using dynamic widgets can improve web performance. That's not to say that plenty of sites don't abuse dynamic components (stupid intros; just let me at 'em!), but those components can be used to improve the experience.

BTW, you get Negative Geek Points for not already knowing how GMail works. :P

Re:Probably just as well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738465)

Umm.. because PHP sucks?

Re:Probably just as well... (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738469)

Its the pigeons.
Put gmail and squirrel on the same server accessing the same database and then see which is quicker.
Until then you are comparing a large organisation specially towards sorting and extracting information against something you run on your home computer.

Re:Probably just as well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738227)

Amen, 90% of flash using sites are anti-usable for me and don't look good imho. Horrid use of javascript is another problem but not as bad. Even the ones who don't look like crap break various extensions or things like open in tab.

Re:Probably just as well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738329)

Extensions aren't standards. If your extensions break a site, it's not always because of bad design.

Re:Probably just as well... (1)

k12linux (627320) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738547)

I agree.

Target's site was (is) crappy IMHO. Anyone who has used it via dial-up should agree. I timed it and it took almost 5 minutes to log in and get to your account summar (first screen after logging in.) Watching logs and wireshark showed that the majority of that time was huge javascript downloads followed by image downloads. I often browsed with images turned off when using dial-up but that's not possible on Target's site. If you have images turned off then login fails. (WTF?)

I personally have no problem with a corporation the size of Target being forced to comply with usability standards. If you're building a new building you make sure your architech understands the implications of ADA regulations or works with someone who does. Architechs who want to keep customers from being sued (and therefore get more business) take the time to learn how buildings are supposed to be built with ADA in mind. Web designers can do the same thing.

If you it's too much to learn then when you're charging thousands of $ to some company to design their web site throw another couple hundred onto the qutoe. Use that $ to have the site reviewed by someone for standards and ADA compliance. Having sites based on standards are good for everybody.

Marilyn Hall Patel... (1, Informative)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738135)

...was also the second Judge for US v. Microsoft.

Market (1)

macdaddy (38372) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738153)

Not to sound insensitive to those with disabilities, but why not simply let the market push the matter? If companies want to attract a certain type of customer then they do what's necessary to attract those customers including marketing their products to those customers and making the purchase process as easy as possible for that customer. Wouldn't the market sort this out if it were left alone?

Re:Market (1)

nestedradical (1017088) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738201)

Because this is the way it used to be and *nothing* was an option. There are not enough disabled people to make a big enough impact on large corporations and there are more than enough non-disabled people that don't care at all.

Why, sure, the market will fix this one. (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738231)

"Not to sound insensitive to those with disabilities, but why not simply let the market push the matter?"

Just like the market solved Jim Crow. No intervention by the government necessary at all.

Re:Why, sure, the market will fix this one. (1)

Snarfangel (203258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738419)

Just like the market solved Jim Crow. No intervention by the government necessary at all.

Actually, Jim Crow was government intervention. That's why they were called "laws."

I think you missed the sarcasm... (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738523)

***whoooshhh***

Re:I think you missed the sarcasm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738619)

Were you referring to yourself?

Re:Why, sure, the market will fix this one. (1)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738555)

Dear sir, your ability to detect sarcasm seems to be impaired. Please see your local mechanic.

Re:Market (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738247)

Because the disabled are too small a minority to perform a significant market push.

Re:Market (3, Insightful)

DoorFrame (22108) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738281)

Congress decided the market wasn't working with respect to the handicapped. The costs were too high and the benefits accrued to too few individuals to make it worthwhile for most organizations to retrofit for handicapped accessibility. So, of course, nobody did.

If you don't care that people with wheelchairs can't get to the second floor of the Gap sometimes, then this is fine. If you do care, then it's not. Sort of a personal judgment call on how you feel about government intervention to protect the less fortunate.

Regardless of how I might feel about forcing retrofits (not a big fan), setting standards before establishments are built seems somewhat reasonable (and it's usually not all that expensive if you plan on doing it from the beginning). Having rules established ahead of time is basically the same as having building codes, and just as onerous.

With regard to the ADA and websites, it seems that the internet is not at all what was envisioned when the ADA was drafted and it should be looked at anew. If you want to set rules for website design, it has to be clear what those rules are going to be before design begins. Forcing major sites to redesign after they're established seems mean spirited and expensive. If this is something that people feel strongly about, they can go back to Congress and draft an amendment. Courts are probably wise to stay out of the way until then.

Re:Market (1)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738283)

Not to sound insensitive to those with disabilities, but why not simply let the market push the matter?
If left on it's own the market sure would work things out; but it wouldn't benefit the disabled. The disabled are such a small proportion of the customer base I highly doubt it's economicaly feasble to cater to them. If you owned a mom and pop coffee shop would you pay thousands of dollars to add a ramp and then pay thousands more to renovate a bathroom to be wheel chair accessable. How many coffees would wheel chair bound people have to buy just to BREAK EVEN? That's why government has to be involved. However, maybe they should put more effort into the software the blind people use to browse sites with instead of everyone retro-fitting their websites.

Re:Market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738355)

Unfortunately, freedom of association is trumped by "freedom from exclusion" by the courts. A place of business is considered a public accommodation. This results in all businesses doing the minimum necessary to comply with the law, rather than some seeing a market niche to cater to.

Re:Market (1)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738409)

If companies want to attract a certain type of customer then they do what's necessary to attract those customers including marketing their products to those customers and making the purchase process as easy as possible for that customer. Wouldn't the market sort this out if it were left alone?

And this simply does not work for quite a few reasons. The most prominent ones are:

- Too few customers with a specific handicap to make this attractive for virtually any shop (except for a few highly specialized ones).
- People tend to forget about this and as a result do things that make it extremely difficult for visually impaired people, even when they could as easily do it slightly differently and not cause a problem at all.

Bottomline, being visually impaired myself (not blind tho) I can say that the market has shown to not even be able to adapt to this without being told to do so extremely clearly and explicitly, because very few people realize the problem, and it is not a big enough commercial incentive.

That said, I am against forcing companies to make themselves accessable, there are too many things which become impossible that way. I'd however suggest that companies who do put in efford to make themselves accessable for disabled people should get compensation and a small reward for example in the form of tax reduction or some nice subsidies.

Just think about it, 200,000 blind people on a population of 225M? That gives room for a few specialized shops catering to that group only, and if you have to travel to another state in order to be able to do your shopping, it is a lot easier and cheaper to get someone to do your shopping for you locally (just keep in mind that a blind person really cannot jump into his car and drive to another state, so they will need another person for this at any rate)

Re:Market (2, Insightful)

l2718 (514756) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738411)

Leaving the "market" to achieve a social goal relies on two assumptions:
  1. There is a market in the first place (i.e. competition).
  2. The economic valuation is similar to the social one.
In this case there certainly is a market, but it leads to results we don't like. The problem is that the extra profits gained from selling to a small minority (the disabled) are probably much less than the expenses in accomodating them. Therefore it is rational for most retailers to simply ignore the disabled. Of course there will be a market solution: the disabled will have to use more expensive approaches (retailers who specifically cater for them, for example).
What's wrong with that? First, on the money side, many of us believe that the disabled shouldn't have to bear all the costs of their disability -- that society should bear some of them. In this case we are forcing Target (and, indirectly, all of Target's customers) to pay for the fact that blind shoppers can't use a website which seeing users can.
More importantly, you have to realize that, both to the disabled person and to society, the value of shopping at Target extends beyond the price advantage.

Re:Market (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738413)

Not to sound insensitive to those with disabilities
Bad luck, 'cos you did. Why should e.g. a blind person not be able to use e.g. Amazon? (picked at random but the regulations must apply to every seller) I mean, would you crow about the market if a shop decided to spend some money installing a wheelchair ramp? Or would you inisist that the physically-disabled open their own shop at ground level?

In the UK, we had a similar Act [wikipedia.org] introduced last year. Everyone just got on with the necessary work ahead of time, without RTFA it seems that in the US everyone waits until somebody is sued. Why only now should developers start thinking about the disabled? I think the line taken by the Act was that web sites selling items are no different to a high street shop, and thus they should be subject to the same regulations. Seems fair.

No (5, Insightful)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738165)

The accessibilities regulation when it comes to web sites have the same issues a LOT of things have when it comes to the web: They imply that the web is nothing more than a variant of a PDF browser. It doesn't consider that HTML/CSS were very poorly designed, that we have to deal with IE6 (even though IE7 came out), that the web already requires 10 bazillion skills, and if you need experts in every categories to do anything, a lot of companies will have to retire from the field, that a lot of the content is beyond the developer's control, etc etc etc.

The only thing one should require is to stick a div tag with CSS to make it invisible at the very very top of the site, that says "If you are a disabled person using a screen reader to navigate this page, and wishes to make a purchase, dial the following number and talk with one of our friendly representative who will be happy to help you, and give you any web-only discounts you deserve".

Otherwise, if you ever thought IE6 was holding the web back, never freagin mind screen readers. If your page is nothing more than documents with information, and maybe 1 form (which I guess a lot of e-commerce stores are), then go ahead and make it accessible. Its not very rough. But depending on your target audience, it very well might be a desktop-like application with all the wiz and buzz that it implies, and there's simply no way to make that accessible without ruinning your normal user's experience. And if you DO manage to make it accessible, it will be in the terms of the law only: it will still be useless a to a blind person. Those laws are out of date, simple as that: they consider the web as being nothing more than a giant e-book. It doesn't work like that anymore.

Incentives (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738169)

200,000 people out of 300 million is too small a population for national retailers to care about, economically. But besides the legal incentives there is an economic incentive to following the WAI guidelines. Better accessibility also means more useful info for search engines and other applications. Alt tags help SEO and scrapers, for example. Target should be able to increase their site's overall effectiveness by working to make their site usable for the blind. When companies realize this they end up helping the blind as a side affect.

Re:Incentives (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738275)

The problem here is that maybe, right now, target doesn't want to allocate their ressources to their web development. Maybe they have limited ressources, and don't have time to hire more in that department, or their IT staff doesn't have time to train a newcomer, or something. So maybe (probably, actualy) they don't even care about -normal- customers visiting their web site. From looking at it, I'd say thats the case.

There is no one forcing them to care about normal customers. So they don't. But because they have the site up at all, they should make it accessible? Thats the problem I have with this: It comes down to, a LOT of businesses would be better off -taking down- their web site entirely, instead of making it accessible. Thats a bit silly.

It reminds me of last time this subject came up on slashdot: some teacher was explaining how they were putting some slides up on their personal web space on the school server. Then a rule/law came up because they were receiving public fund, that ANY page was supposed to be accessible. So anything ajaxy, "web 2.0" (damn I hate that term), or even personal teacher's sites, had to be accessible. Said teacher unfortunately was not a web designer, and didn't have time to learn: it was just something they were doing for students in 10 minutes. They were saying if they were forced to comply, they pretty much had to remove the web site instead. Thats retarded as hell: it would punish everyone (including the blind person!, since a hard to navigate site is better than none at all!).

The law is poorly done, and it lives in fairy land of the days when the web was a big e-book.

Re:Incentives (1)

acoopersmith (87160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738559)

And how about the entire population of baby boomers as they age and start having their eyesight detoriate? Designing for accessibility helps more than just those traditionally thought of as handicapped - it's also helpful for the elderly and people on different browser types than what you design for (say a Linux box without their ActiveX plugins, or a cell phone/PDA without flash).

Absolutely not (1)

joshetc (955226) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738171)

Webmasters should be able to cater to whomever they choose. Should Target be against making their website accessable I have a great solution for the blind, visit the retail outlet, or a competitor. Maybe webmasters should make their sites accessable to people that are unable to read as well....

Re:Absolutely not (1)

nestedradical (1017088) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738361)

visit the retail outlet

Stop and think about this one for a minute.

Transportation is not as easy as you would think if you're blind. Good luck finding someone to drive you there or finding a bus that can even get you there or in a reasonable amount of time. But let's just ignore this major whole in your idea and assume that a blind person does get to the store. Now what? They walk around feeling everything to figure out what it is? They snag one of those not so busy employees that just happens to fully understand the needs of a blind person, complete with accurately and clearly describing the products in the store? Yeah right....

Re:Absolutely not (1)

joshetc (955226) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738575)

Wait so they cannot shop at the retail store either? So whats the big deal with the website? Beside that we call them disabled for a reason. Sure, I feel bad for people that cannot see. That is what family / friends / hired help / etc. are all for though. Obviously there will be a few things they will not be able to do well on their own.

Re:Absolutely not (1)

bedmison (534357) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738365)

"Webmasters should be able to cater to whomever they choose."

Retailers, be they virtual or brick and mortar, are places of public accommodation, and as such have to make themselves available to everyone. By this logic, Target could exclude <insert your minority of choice here>, which would be patently illegal.

And as far as this: "Maybe webmasters should make their sites accessable to people that are unable to read as well....", webmasters can't help if you can't read, but they CAN help you to read if you have difficulty seeing the screen. That's a big difference.

It's Target's Choice (1)

rbf2000 (862211) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738197)

I would think that it would be in Target's best interest to enable their site so that blind people can read it. That is 200,000 people that they are not allowing to shop on their website.

However, if Target is too lazy to make the changes necessary then they shouldn't be made to make the changes. I know if I was blind, I would simply boycott them. If they aren't going to make it accessible, I'm certainly not going out of my way if I'm blind, I'll just shop at a competitor that does have these things enabled.

Vote with your wallet. But I'm a big fan of the free market, so what do I know?

Re:It's Target's Choice (1)

Denyer (717613) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738533)

I'll just shop at a competitor that does have these things enabled.

Such as?

Test your Wesbsite (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738205)

Test your website for ADA compliance here [icdri.org]

Needless to say, /. fails the test (anyone really surprised?).

Unequivocally, yes (1)

KiahZero (610862) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738207)

Online stores are undoubtedly a public accomodation, and the accomodation necessary to allow the blind to use the site is very reasonable, assuming that the original web deisgners weren't completely retarded when the designed the site. Simply create an HTML-only version and use alt-tags. Since you're designing it for the blind, it doesn't even have to look good, it just has to contain all the same relevant information that the standard page does.

C'mon (1)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738221)

Flash-only sites are crap, and a blight on the internet, yes. But how often have problems been really SOLVED by adding new laws?

Let market forces work it out. These companies will lose business because of the accessibility problems, and probably also because of unfriendly interfaces. Money talks to business far better than lawmakers, and it's a language they can speak that doesn't require translators.

The ADA is one of those "nice intentions" laws that, for every wheel-chair ramp added to a school has 20+ abuses designed to generate cash flow.

Re:C'mon (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738271)

"Flash-only sites are crap, and a blight on the internet, yes. But how often have problems been really SOLVED by adding new laws?"

Yeah, we all know how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made discrimination problems worse. And who needed that Emancipation Proclamation anyway? Unnecessary government intervention in private market matters.

Re:C'mon (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738585)

Let market forces work it out.

      Nope. Here I have to disagree. Disabled people are a miniscule portion of the market and if we leave it to market forces alone, their interests will never, ever be served. Handicapped parking, bathrooms, ramps, elevators, braille plaques, etc are simply not economically feasible in any business. The only reason businesses do it is because they are obliged to via building codes, etc.

      However believe you me these relatively small but unprofitable steps go a LONG way to enabling disabled people to live with a reasonable quality of life.

Re:C'mon (1)

Lars Arvestad (5049) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738661)

I live in Sweden and we have laws about making services accessible too, but not as sharp as ADA. Guess what, disabled over here have lots of examples of companies and government agencies not complying with the law. The US is often pointed out as a good example when it comes to working legislation for the disabled.

Sounds Reasonable (1)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738251)

This sounds reasonable especially since Target is such a big retailer. It doesn't require too much effort either since Target could just provide an alternate "face" for the text readers.

Welcome to ADA! (1)

SRain315 (322069) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738273)

As an architect, I would like to extend a warm greeting to a whole new class of designers who are just learning the joys of ADA. You may be unfamiliar with the liabilities associated with this wonderful law, so here's a short primer.
ADA is Civil Rights legislation. If a person feels that his/her rights have been violated they can bring a lawsuit against ANYONE who may have had a role in said violation. That includes you, Designer! Here are some examples which are similar to my experience in a different field:
  • If you design it, and it is not accessible, you can be sued.
  • If you design it, and it is accessible, but the client changes it to be non-accessible later, you can be sued.
  • If you design it, and it is supposed to be accessible, but gets screwed up by a non-compatible browser, you can be sued.
  • If you design the logo but have nothing to do with the design of the site, you can probably be sued.
The bottom line is that it better be accessible, period. Nobody is going to double-check you, and there are no protections (even for honest mistakes!) outside of defending yourself in a lawsuit.
Now don't get me wrong, I think the goals of ADA are laudable and commendable. But the implementation under Civil Rights law leaves much to be desired. People who have trouble gaining access have no legal recourse short of a lawsuit, and owners/designers have no defense. I expect this issue to get much bigger before it goes away. My advice? Watch Wal*mart and match the accessibility they provide.

Re:Welcome to ADA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738443)

Just one more reason to offshore the whole thing, including the hosting.


Is creating an html-only site all that hard to do? No. So why don't they? Because management likes shiney thingees.

Fund the Mandates (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738277)

It's unreasonable for all the people of the US, through our government, to install disabled-accessible architecture at physical stores. But it's perfectly reasonable for our government to offer free architectural diagrams and plans for stores to build their own.

Likewise, if our government is going to require websites to comply with ADA, our government should offer free software and validation testing for easy compliance. That's a lot more cost-effective (and just effective) than spending time and money forcing websites to do it without assistance.

Re:Fund the Mandates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738515)

It's unreasonable for all the people of the US, through our government, to install disabled-accessible architecture at physical stores. But it's perfectly reasonable for our government to offer free architectural diagrams and plans for stores to build their own.

Likewise, if our government is going to require websites to comply with ADA, our government should offer free software and validation testing for easy compliance. That's a lot more cost-effective (and just effective) than spending time and money forcing websites to do it without assistance.


I disagree. Running a business is not an inherent right in America, there's rules and regulations you have to abide by. If you don't, the government can revoke your license, zoning, or whatever area you have violated until that problem is cleared up. How is this any different? If you choose to open a business, you have to follow the rules set in place. I'm not gonna comment on the validity of this particular issue because honestly I can see both sides of it, but nevertheless complying with these regulations is just another expense and responsibility of a business owner.

Interesting Ruling (1)

slusich (684826) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738319)

Making an online store a public place isn't really that far of a leap. It will be interesting to see how retailers react to this. Perhaps we'll see seperate pages now for the regular surfer vs. the blind surfers.
It would seem to me that the disabled, blind or otherwise would be more prone to use internet services to begin with. The fact that retailers haven't seen this and adapted already is interesting into itself.

Re:Interesting Ruling (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738489)

Perhaps we'll see seperate pages now for the regular surfer vs. the blind surfers.

      That would be nice. I mean, I don't really expect a lot of flash animation on pages for the blind - do you? I think I'll choose the "blind" pages on purpose...

One of the worse lawsuits in recent times (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738339)

Suing a website for their design of their website...not even the content, the design. I thought handicapped people wanted to be treated equally? I'm all for accessibility, one never knows when one may be come handicapped themselves. But this is really going overboard.

Re:One of the worse lawsuits in recent times (1)

nestedradical (1017088) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738631)

Yes, it is the design they are suing over, much like companies have been sued because someone in a wheelchair can't get in the door. It has nothing to do with content.

And can you explain to me how a blind person wanting to have access to a business / for-profit website that non-disabled people can access is somehow unequal?

And no, I don't think this is one of the worst lawsuits in recent times, I think it's *really* smart. For years the disabled population has struggled to gain equal access to things that non-disabled people don't have to deal with. The ADA helped greatly by requiring businesses to accommodate people with disabilities so that they could get in the stores. Now suppose several years down the road, major book sellers close their physical locations and do all their business online. What happens then? Without some sort of standards or protections in place, they will be right back where they started.

Interesting parallel to the Quebec Language Police (1)

jmagar.com (67146) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738341)

I wonder if there is a parallel to be drawn between accessibility concerns and perhaps multi-language sites? If your country of origin (and of hosting?) has bilingualism laws are they a template to establish the same/similar laws for accessibility?

To my knowledge the PQ in Quebec have not started chasing websites with their language laws, but I would not be surprised to hear that they are thinking about it. How long before the US goes bi-lingual with Spanish as a second language? If you think adding alt tags is a pain, wait until you have to translate your whole site, and maintain two languages.

But then again, it may be just good business. It does expand your market reach if you are able to sell to a more diverse audience.

More work. (1)

Honest Olaf (1011253) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738347)

If this goes well, web developers with grounding in standards and accessibility may have a lot of jobs opening up soon.

We don't care about people, just standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738353)

I love how some people think it's disgraceful that web page designers didn't take the time to use CSS or follow the latest edict of the WC3, but think it's a waste of time to help enable people with disabilities to use the web.

Bullshit (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738427)

Society should take care of disabled people, but such charity should be limited to some small percentage of our resources. It would be reasonable to require Target to spend, say, 3% of their profit making its facilities accessible. Granted, this would probably accomplish much more than adding ALT tags to target.com. BUT, as a small or unprofitable website developer, I would be able to focus on staying afloat rather than adding an alternative interface. If my website (or say, a family restaurant) goes under, who will serve those disabled people now, or pay taxes for their medical benefits? Alternatively, government can decide that target.com is a key site for disabled people, and issue a grant to make and keep it accessible.

Otherwise I am going to sue owners of answering systems with voice recognition and operators of offshore call centers for not understanding my accent.

It's the rule of the lowest common denominator (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738439)

Harrison Bergeron was prophecy

Ever been to Target's site? (2, Informative)

Jeremy.DeGroot (878927) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738471)

I've bought quite a few things at Target's website, and I'm stunned that it's unusable with screen readers. There's little or no dynamic content, and none that couldn't be easily done by showing/hiding DIVs with CSS. Granted it's graphics-intensive, but there are still descriptions of products and other stuff that should make it usable for VI people using screen readers.

So I went to target.com in Lynx, which is our quick and dirty check for SEO and screen reader usability (we do other checks before we finalize designs). And I was stunned I had to hit PGDN 6(!) times before I got through the navigational garbage and got to any of the content on the main page. Target's site is apparently not designed to provide an optimal exprience to anyone outside of someone running IE6/7 on Windows XP and a modern PC. Screen readers, scrapers, search engines, text-only browsers, and mobile users do not appear to be welcome. To boot, in FireFox 1.5 on Linux I was unable to use some of the nav elements because they were hidden behind the Flash content.

Target ought to flog whoever designed their website. If it only works properly in modern IE browsers, then it's alienating maybe 20% of their consumers. More if you consider mobile users and screen readers that can't make use of that terribly designed site.

Target has a terrible approach to user-friendly. (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738579)

Ever glance at their job application terminals? The mouse device is built into the right side, basically rendering it unusable to anyone who is left handed. They don't even care about a simple and cheap standard like "built-in mouse devices go in the center in the front.".

Reasonable alternative (1)

JBHarris (890771) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738475)

I thought the fact that they offer both the Online Store and the Brick-&-Mortar would satisfy the 'reasonable alternative' clause in the ADA.

Judge for Yourself (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738507)

The judge? How about the law? The ADA was Bush Sr's favorite "social justice" law, which required many expensive (and probably worthwhile) changes to how American business places were operated. It hasn't been amended by the Republican Congress in the 12 years both Republicans and the ADA have both been in power.

ADA importance (1)

Mr.Ziggy (536666) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738535)

200,000 people, who statistically make less than the american mean, is not enough people for a large corporation to care about. Without the ADA, market forces would actually encourage all companies to exclude this population, and gain back valuable floor space in their brick and mortar stores.

I've been cruising with my ill, wheelchair bound grandmother the past year, and I can tell you how much some of the ADA laws have made it possible just to go shopping with her. And less tiring and frustrating for me.

The internet is not just about making money and the next hot web 2.0 property. In the same spirit of open source products creating a more egalitarian reality, the internet can also increase the range of disabled people.

ADA law has problems, and probably needs some adjustment through congress or judiciary intervention, but it is important. Some of the largest stores and government sites should be accessible. It makes a big difference in someone's life to buy personal products or send a gift online, especially when it can take 3 hours of prep and travel to travel round trip.

Those who poo poo this idea on ideological grounds: I've got some friends making decent freelance money working for smaller websites for ADA compliance. As more websites move this direction, the tools will get easier, as everything else has become over time.

I vote HUH? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16738545)

Having visited Target today, let me state what I do not find. I don't find brail on prices, I don't find directions in brail to where they moved the various departments after last nights work, I don't find the description of the items of purchase in brail. So what's different in the B&M than here on the web? Oh yes, I can ASK someone to help me read the dang labels just like my blind friends would need at home.

Aren't these readers proprietary software? (1)

The Atog Lord (230965) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738551)

Can the website not be read by a certain website reader? Then perhaps the fault lies not with Target, but rather with the webreader. I can imagine, at least, a reader capable of looking at the page's output and translating even graphics on the page into plaintext, and then into sound. While this may not exist, I am positive that such a technology could be designed. Therefore, the requirement that Target construct its website to match the needs of a particular reader seems absurd. Maybe all that's needed is a better reader.

the site IS poorly designed. (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738629)

The site IS poorly designed. I just went to it. I'm not blind, but it is less than the easiest to read the "light gray on white" characters found on the top, and further down, the moronic dark blue on medium blue section. Nice area at the bottom with the dark gray on medium gray too. All that's needed is a better website.

Why not? (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738593)

>> Should Online Stores Be Subject To ADA?

Why not? They all appear to be subject to ADD.

The problem isn't WAI (1)

hairypalmer (1020801) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738597)

Any individual or company sufficiently skilled in web development to be offering their services on a commercial basis should be aware of WCAG. If a commercial site doesn't achieve WCAG1 prority 1, it's a liability and the liability needs moving from the trading company to the developers/design agency. We've all known about this for years, the reality is that it's just too much like hard work when web developers can get away with delivering garbage.

Cue more: "Waaaahhhhh waaaaaaaaahhhhhhh" and pathetic exuses for discrimination.

OT: Where have the modpoints gone? (1)

root_42 (103434) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738635)

I don't know where else to ask, since I don't know a public discussion forum for discussing slashdot. :) But honestly: why are there so little modded comments at the moment? I also haven't had modpoints in some time. Has this something to do with the new comment system or tagging beta?

My biggest question that comes to mind.... (1)

Dak_Peoples (591544) | more than 7 years ago | (#16738647)

What would a 'popup' feel like?
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