Thursday, October 4, 2007

Rulings and olympics and online media captioning, oh my!

It's been an emotional two days in the world of accessibility.

I've been reading reactions to the judge's ruling that Target should stand trial and I looked at the site this morning - the one that includes "several improvements" that were made in reaction to the suit. I keep expecting someone to say, "Just kidding! We uploaded this site from the wayback machine, circa 1998. Here's our standards-based design over here...."

I keep coming back to these two paragraphs from "Court Rules Against Target in Web Site Accessibility Lawsuits" by Evan Schuman:

As for the Target argument that many of the purchases were ultimately made, albeit with help, the judge offered a different perspective. "Certainly, forced reliance on other people is injurious in many respects. Again, Target responds that none of these (consumers) were absolutely prohibited from entering the Target stores and making purchases as a result of the [Web site]'s inaccessibility. According to Target, these shoppers merely experienced inconvenience," Hall ruled. "Target contends that equal convenience is not required by ADA. Therefore, the fact that (the suing consumers) spent more time to accomplish the same tasks as sighted persons and required assistance from in-store personnel or guides does not render the stores inaccessible."

The judge continued: "Like its argument that deterrence does not constitute inaccessibility, this argument, too, is overbroad. A wheelchair user is not prohibited from entering a store without a ramp: [T]hat person could be carried into the store by the store personnel or hire a guide to do so. Nevertheless, those accessibility barriers, even where they may be accommodated, would generally violate the ADA. Similarly, the increased cost and time to surmount the alleged barriers presented by the inability to pre-shop demonstrate that these (consumers) have met the class definition. Target's reliance upon their ability to accommodate blind shoppers through other means, such as in-store assistance or a 1-800 customer service number is misplaced at this stage. As the court noted at the outset of this litigation, the method of accommodation is an affirmative defense."

I'll let that percolate for a couple days...a post about "accessiblity vs usability" is likely the result.

On the other hand, the Special Olympics Summer World Games opened yesterday and I'm just now watching the rebroadcast. Over 7,000 people from 165 countries? With that many people raising that much accessibility energy in one area of the planet maybe there's hope for us yet. (Do you suppose the golden dragon who delivered the magical ball of light to the woman in the orange boat floating above the blue sea of dancers was audio described for the folks unable to see the performance?)

In other news, "AOL, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! Unite to Advance Online Media Captioning." Yes, please.

More later, I'm off to the university to hear T.V. Raman speak.