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The Internet Politics

Dept. of Justice Considers Web For ADA 296

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the this-can-only-end-well dept.
beetle496 noted a blog entry saying "The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the Accessibility of Web Information and Services Provided by Entities Covered by the ADA (i.e., State and Local Government Entities and Public Accommodations). You can read the fact sheet, or the entire notice. In short, the Department is seeking comments on their desire to revise regulation to 'establish specific requirements for State and local governments and public accommodations to make their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities.' The Department is seeking specific comment on many things including the standards they should adopt, and if there should be any exemptions for certain entities (e.g., small business) before they publish their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. This is amazing news! The impact that this will have for individuals with disabilities cannot be overemphasized. It is time for our digital society to forever include individuals of all abilities. The period of public comment is open for 180 days."
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Dept. of Justice Considers Web For ADA

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  • by Qzukk (229616) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @11:03AM (#33056608) Journal

    Except without the spinning gifs and animated backgrounds and lame MIDI loops?

    SOLD!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      I agree with it; governments SHOULD be accessible to all. Note this doesn't cover private web sites. Most private web sites (by "private" I mean non-government) are shooting themselves in the foot if their sites aren't readily accessible to everyone.

      Er, I must plead guilty, though. My Quake site (1997-2003) had spinning gifs (but not where they would interfere wiht reading the text), the background animated while loading (a Matrix-like pattern of ones and zeros that moved and disappeared), and no Midi loop,

      • by mea37 (1201159) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @11:21AM (#33056812)

        Yeah, right. Next you'll tell us that Windows 7 was your idea.

      • I agree with it; governments SHOULD be accessible to all. Note this doesn't cover private web sites. Most private web sites (by "private" I mean non-government) are shooting themselves in the foot if their sites aren't readily accessible to everyone.

        The same arguement could be made for handicapped spaces. Public (as you define it) should have such spaces, but I argue that the extreme requirements created a lucrative litigation ecosystem surrounding it that truly doesn't serve the needs of either the handic

        • by blueZ3 (744446) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @11:57AM (#33057210) Homepage

          The real problem with the current system (IMO) is that--as always--regulation and government-created scarcity has lead to efforts to game the system and unintended consequences out the wazoo.

          This results in things like a morbidly obese patient slipping the doctor a $100 and getting a handicapped placard. So the fatty who most needs to walk the extra 100 ft a week now parks as close to the ice cream aisle as possible. Or to people either holding on to their placards after they've expired or making fake ones.

          When I worked in construction in L.A (putting myself through college) with my dad's company I saw two projects canceled because of the cost of complying with the ADA. One was a parking structure where the powers-that-be decided that it wasn't sufficient to have the "correct" number of handicapped spaces on the ground level--there must be an elevator in case some handicapped person parked in a non-handicapped spot on the 2nd floor and couldn't use the stairs.

          Unintended consequences, my friends: it's the gift of government that keeps on giving and giving and giving.

          And you can be sure that any effort to label the Web as a "public accommodation" will be evenhandedly applied by whichever of our two corrupt parties is currently in power. They'd never even think of using the "Justice" Department to harass website owners whose sites are ideologically opposed. Never, ever... pinky-swear, cross their hearts and hope to die.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by jbengt (874751)

            When I worked in construction in L.A. . . .

            There's your problem right there. California, and LA in particular, have some of the strictest, most arbitrary, most "can't fight city hall", building codes in the nation. One time, when we were following a client's standard design of having a thru-the-wall A/C unit to cool the little server room within an unconditioned stock room / warehouse, LA inspector's insisted we build a permanent ladder and a platform around it for servicing, citing a section of the code obviously intended to prevent homeowners fr

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        "I agree with it; governments SHOULD be accessible to all. Note this doesn't cover private web sites. Most private web sites (by "private" I mean non-government) are shooting themselves in the foot if their sites aren't readily accessible to everyone."

        Except they mentioned possible exceptions for small businesses...which to me, means they ARE considering forcing these regulations on NON-govt. websites.

    • by jridley (9305)

      And just imagine - there will at least have to be a way to navigate all sites WITHOUT FLASH.

      WITHOUT FLASH MAN!!!!

    • by mea37 (1201159)

      More likely there will be a wave of tools to facilitate making two versions of a web site and maintaining them in parallel. The marketing drones aren't likely to release their stranglehold on the web and let its original concept breath any time soon.

      • by Zerth (26112)

        More likely there will be a wave of tools to facilitate making two versions of a web site and maintaining them in parallel.

        That's even better. That way, sighted users can use the clean, easy-to-use blind version as well!

    • Good lord, no. I saw lots of websites in the 90s that were the opposite of good disabled-accessible design. Flashing red text on a green background? Try reading that if you are colorblind. Consistent and flagrant misuse of tables to format text? Ugh. Way to mess up a html reader.

      Unfortunately, taking a page that was poorly designed and redoing it to be more accessible often means (in my humble experience, anyway) rewriting much of it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Try reading that if you are colorblind

        Actually it's quite simple, grey on darker grey. I feel sorry for the people who aren't colorblind, look at the red/green text, and wish that THEY were colorblind.

        But don't worry, being colorblind isn't considered a disability. Even though you will be disqualified from a growing list of jobs.

        • by mea37 (1201159)

          The most common form of colorblindness is inability to distinguish red from green. Most other forms of colorblindness likewise involve specific pairs of colors being indistinguishable. From your comment it sounds like you see only shades of grey; that would be an extremely rare condition and is far from what is typically meant by the word "colorblind".

          • The most common form of colorblindness is inability to distinguish red from green. Most other forms of colorblindness likewise involve specific pairs of colors being indistinguishable. From your comment it sounds like you see only shades of grey; that would be an extremely rare condition and is far from what is typically meant by the word "colorblind".

            Yeah but if I said all that it would have ruined the joke.

            • by tepples (727027)

              Yeah but if I said all that it would have ruined the joke.

              "Yellow on darker yellow" wouldn't have ruined anything.

      • by mea37 (1201159)

        Yes, but even that blinking red on green text was conveyed to your browser in a format easy for a screen-reader to pick up. Today I've seen companies in the healthcare industry (i.e. who should expect to deal with a lot of older people with deteriorating vision) use white-on-light-blue raster images to display text. (No, they didn't use alt tags. Yes, it would be retarded even if they had.)

    • Sure, it sounds like a no-brainer right? Who doesn't want to help the handicapped? The problem with requirements like this in the real world though is that inevitabley the non-handicapped (i.e., the average user) will pay a price for compliance.

      Got a video on the government website you like? Well, kiss it goodbye, because the odds are that said government agency can't afford to close caption it (close captioning isn't cheap). That means they'll just have to pull it and no one will get to see it.

      Got a sophis

      • Got a video on the government website you like? Well, kiss it goodbye, because the odds are that said government agency can't afford to close caption it (close captioning isn't cheap). That means they'll just have to pull it and no one will get to see it.

        It is also perfectly acceptable to make available a simple transcript, which is significantly cheaper because it doesn't involve setting up timings and such. This is a lot like having ALT tags for images, which should now be considered standard web etiquette.

      • Got a video on the government website you like? Well, kiss it goodbye, because the odds are that said government agency can't afford to close caption it (close captioning isn't cheap). That means they'll just have to pull it and no one will get to see it.

        Except that both 508 and WAI consider a transcript of the audio to be an acceptable means of accessing the content for the deaf. And that same transcript can be screen read by the blind.

        Got a sophisticated, sharp looking, complex website? Well, kiss that goodbye too. The Section 508 best paractices standards don't like complex layout because it confuses the text readers. Only now it won't just be a suggestion. It will be mandatory.

        Sharp looking sites with complex layouts can be achieved by moving elements around in CSS while maintaining a logical (readable) source content order. As long as a screen reader can get to it, so can just about anyone else.

        And don't even THINK about Flash or pretty HTML5 effects! For that matter, don't even think about tables!

        Flash and HTML5, we'll see. But there are specific guidelines for building accessible tables, so I'm no

  • by Paul Rose (771894) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @11:03AM (#33056612)
    read headline as ADA for web -- immediately thought they were going to push an interpreted ADA as a Javascript replacement -- need more sleep
  • by syntap (242090) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @11:05AM (#33056638)

    and yet they are collecting comments on establishing more standards that go beyond 508?

    Most of the pics aren't tagged, the graphical navigation tabs are useless to a screen reader, and the page is full of popup javascript.

    It contains an enbedded alert that may be read off by an interpreter: "Regulations.gov will undergo a scheduled maintenance outage and will be unavailable Saturday September 19, 2009, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. (ET)" Thanks for wasting time with last year's outage info.

    Come on, can't government provide GOOD examples of accessible resources ESPECIALLY when gathering suggestions for how current rules and regs can be improved?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by syntap (242090)

      I should clarify: ALT tags exist for many of the pictures but they aren't useful tags. One is "close". As in close the door? As in close but no cigar? Tagging a pic with "logo" doesn't tell the user what distinguishes it from other logos.

      • by bws111 (1216812) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:15PM (#33059324)

        Part of my job involves compliance testing for internal web sites. The regulations.gov site is pretty good from a compliance point of view. Have you tried 'viewing' it with a screen reader (eg JAWS)? All of your 'insights' are wrong.

          A screen reader does not just read the source of a web page aloud. It renders the page, then helps the user navigate through it.

        I did not find any non-tagged images (ok, if you look at the source you will see some, but those are in comments and thus not rendered).

        The graphical navigation tabs work correctly (the reader tells the user what the alt tags are for each area of the map, and allows them to 'click' on them).

        Pop-up javascript is no more of a problem to a screen reader than to a sighted user. When a pop-up occurs the screen reader will say 'new window' and read the contents of it.

        The embedded alert has exactly the same effect on a screen reader as it does on a sighted person - none, because it is never rendered.

        The image tagged 'close' is a big red X that is displayed at the top of a pop-up window. If a sighted person can understand that clicking on that X will close the window (as opposed to meaning 'sign here' or 'treasure is buried here'), why would a person using a screen reader have difficulty understanding that a clickable thing tagged 'close' at the top of a page will close the window?

        Lastly, tagging an unclickable image as "logo" tells the user everything they need to know about it - the image contains new usable information.

        You need to remember that having a page read to you is already a much slower process than looking at it. Making non-ambiguous things (like 'close' and 'logo') as terse as possible while still conveying the correct meaning is the right thing to do.

    • by swb (14022)

      Son, the job of the bureaucracy is to CREATE regulations, NOT follow them.

  • This is good news for AIs all over the web. A web site that is ADA compliant is much easier for a program to navigate than one that requires screen scraping and OCR. The bad news is that botnets can also run AIs, and making government information more available will make things easier for scammers.
  • First step (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MadGeek007 (1332293) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @11:20AM (#33056806)
    Before they can even think about making their web sites accessible for those with disabilities, they need to make the sites accessible for the general public. Nearly every time I have needed to find some information at the state level, I've had to sort through pages of outdated info, buried 4 or more links deep. I can only imagine what this process is like through a screen reader or other adaptive technology.
  • I guess Apple was just ahead of the regulatory curve.
  • by noidentity (188756) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @11:47AM (#33057112)

    This is amazing news! The impact that this will have for individuals with disabilities cannot be expressed.

    It'll be great for those it benefits, but what about the further infringement on the right of a person to put what they please on their own website? If they don't cater to a particular audience, that audience doesn't have to visit the site. Not that this is specific to this aspect of the ADA; the same applies to brick-and-mortar stores as well. What gives anyone the right to use legal force against a business owner who doesn't configure his property so that it caters to particular people?

    (Here come the negative mods in 3...2...1...)

  • If they ever try to regulate business and privately owned websites, I predict the following will happen.

    1. Websites will start hosting their services outside of the US.
    2. Sites will detect ADA requests and only serve a plain text page with basic contact info.

    I'm not a fan of the negative side effects (frivolous lawsuits) of the ADA regulations.

  • Welp ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The AtomicPunk (450829) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @12:52PM (#33058066)

    I guess like everything else we over-tax and over-regulate, soon we'll drive all web hosting out of the United States.

    This is going to be a hell of a country to live in 10-20 years from now when absolutely no business takes place here. :)

  • This is what happens in many Federal government shops. Not that they ignore the law, they just avoid any sort of enhancement or technology that can't be cost effectively implemented within the ADA regulations. A prime example is closed captioning for streaming video. It's terribly expensive to hire somebody to do real time transcription for closed captioning. The result is that many an interesting lecture or presentation is simply NOT streamed. Not because they don't want to, because they can't AFFORD to (o

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @01:15PM (#33058376) Homepage

    A federal law compelling websites to be redesigned for defectives raises First Amendment issues. It's "forced speech".

    In general, "forced speech" can be required in commercial contexts only. This has been litigated a few times [bu.edu] with regard to the Internet and the ADA. OKBridge [okbridge.com] won on summary judgement; they don't have to make their online bridge site "accessible". (They did put in a large-type option, but you still have to be able to see the cards to play.) AOL settled with the National Federation for the Blind, and AOL made the next version of their client program more compatible with screen reader programs.

    The Department of Justice recognizes this. In their notice of proposed rulemaking, they write "It is the Department's intention to regulate only governmental entities and public accommodations covered by the ADA that provide goods, services, programs, or activities to the public via Web sites on the Internet. Although some litigants have asserted that ``the Internet'' itself should be considered a place of public accommodation, the Department does not address this issue here. The Department believes that title III reaches the Web sites of entities that provide goods or services that fall within the 12 categories of ``public accommodations,'' as defined by the statute and regulations. Because the Department is focused on the goods and services of public accommodations that operate exclusively or through some type of presence on the Web--whether hosting their own Web site or participating in a host's Web site--the Department wishes to make clear the limited scope of its regulations. For example, the Department is considering proposing explicit regulatory language that makes clear that Web content created or posted by Web site users for personal, noncommercial use is not covered, even if that content is posted on the Web site of a public accommodation or a public entity."

    Incidentally, the site doesn't give you the link to the docket for the proposed rule [regulations.gov].

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