Government May Require Some Websites To Accommodate Deaf, Blind Users

Feds are considering expansions to the Americans with Disabilities Act that could lead to the online equivalent of sidewalk ramps and wide, arm rail-equipped toilet stalls. Law updates could require certain sites that offer goods and services to make changes that allow those with disabilities to use them.

The AP reports Justice Department hearings that could yield the updates start Thursday in Chicago. Changes could go into effect in 2012.

The story says updates, such as adding features that read information to users, could cost industries hundreds of millions of dollars.

What changes do you think are reasonable accommodations for the disabled, and which sites should be exempt?

Government wants to update ADA for cyberspace [AP]

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  1. Admiral_John says:

    A quick google search for “software to read webpages” yielded ample results for software that will translate webpages into voices… why does the government feel they have to regulate and put into law something that the private sector seems to handle on their own?

    • pittstonjoma says:

      Indeed.

    • pop top says:

      “why does the government feel they have to regulate and put into law something that the private sector seems to handle on their own?”

      Yes because the private sector did such a good job of being accessible to the handicapped population before the ADA went info effect. Although in this case I have to agree since it’s not really a physically accessibility issue and it’s not like they can’t just go to the store. I’m sure using the Web is much more convenient for a lot of handicapped people, just there are free programs out there that fill this niche.

      • jessjj347 says:

        Yes, but the issue this won’t account for is how usable sites are for the handicapped. The feds just provide guidelines for technical accessibility.

        I’ve heard this analogy before: Imagine a building with a handicap ramp outside and an elevator right inside the doors. Theoretically, both the handicapped person and non-handicapped could get to a meeting on the 2nd floor at the same time.

        But let’s say the ramp is in the back of the building and the elevator is in the front. Now, the handicapped person must navigate through the building and can no longer get to the meeting at the same time (or as easily). The building is still handicapped-accessible, but not as easy to “use”.

        Same thing with websites can happen. E.g. Directions for a webpage that appear at the bottom of the page. They won’t be read with a screen reader until after the person tries to figure out what’s on the top of the page.

        • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

          You can’t require a site to be easy to use for visually impaired users any more than you can require it to be easy to use for sighted users. There are plenty of crappy sites out there already, this just means that they might just have to be equally crappy for those who are visually impaired, rather than much more so.

          • Mom says:

            No, you can’t require it to be easy to use. But you can require it to be possible to use. There’s a difference.

    • PunditGuy says:

      The Web pages still have to comply with the requirements of the software. I don’t think any of those software packages are going to read text that whizzes by in Flash.

      It makes good sense to have Web pages that elegantly degrade based on the capabilities of the browser calling it up.

    • DanRydell says:

      Websites wouldn’t have to add features that read the content to visitors, they would just have to make their websites WORK with that software. It’s not that difficult to do. You just have to do things like add ALT text to all images so the reader software can read that text.

      More information: http://www.section508.gov/

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Not all web pages translate well to speech. If you look back at the development of the HTML standard there has always been a focus on accessibility (and working with text browsers, etc.), but the standards are useless if pages don’t implement them correctly.

      I know that most managers aren’t going to want to spend an extra 10% of their teams time to make sure a page is accessible to the visually impaired. Netflix has dragged their feet for years on closed captioning for the deaf. TiVo and DirecTV had to be sued to make sure closed captioning worked on their DVR. These customers just don’t have the numbers to attract the attention of for profit businesses and are more and more marginalized.

      20 years ago no business wanted to put any extra space into their restroom, or expand their foot print to keep isles accessible. It could easy add 50% to their construction costs and such a small portion of their customers would ever care. The ADA fixed this.

      I am generally for smaller government, but the ADA has allowed many people to lead nearly normal lives they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to. Has there been an economic payback? I doubt it, but I still think it makes sense.

    • edman007 says:

      The problem is pictures and flash, the software can’t translate them, does that mean I can get fined thousands of dollars because the submit link on my comment box is a picture of the word submit? The two big problems are many sites operate at a far lower cost than other buisnesses and it can actually effect the functionality when you abide by it, am I going to get sued for $100k because on my blog I said you can buy paintings from me? I put $0 into the site and now I can be sued for not making everything readable? If I do make everything readable well I can’t use just any font too, if I can’t use text on images does that mean that it is a crime to make a website with a font you don’t have as my logo?

      I’m all behind making the sites accessible, but for many sites that would conflict with their design and function. There is no ADA requirement that grocery stores have voice to read off products for you, why should websites have the same thing?

      • kc2idf says:

        Fonts have nothing to do with it. Fonts can be overridden by the end-user. This is about whether or not you have an alt=”submit” tag on your picture of the word “submit” and whether or not you have put so many flash and javascript toys as to render the site illegible to the “software to read webpages”.

        • spamtasticus says:

          Should every picture also have a voice over describing the graphic in every language spoken by each and every blind person. Then, and only then it would be “fair”.

          • kc2idf says:

            No.

            It should have an “alt” tag that the computer can read, and, if necessary, translate.

          • goodfellow_puck says:

            What the hell, dude. An “alt” tag takes about 2 seconds to put in the code of an image. It’s just good coding to have one anyway.

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        If your design and function conflict with accessibility features, you’re doing it wrong. You can make image maps, flash, and video fully accessible, and it’s not that much more work if you know what you’re doing.I couldn’t just go build a ramp myself right this second without reading up about it, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have to either learn how to do it or to pay someone to do it if I own a business.

    • Don't Be "That Guy" says:

      I agree. It would probably be more cost effective for the government to make software solutions available to the disabled at reduced or no cost, then to try to legislate the internet.

    • OnePumpChump says:

      It won’t handle certain things, though.

      PDFs that are actually just collections of scanned images…there may be OCR, but that won’t always work, either, particularly on things that aren’t scanned well or that are not large blocks of text in a simple font.

      Flash has historically been a problem.

      Navigation buttons with no alt tags. (I was surprised to learn, when I asked a blind person, that screen readers generally do not use image file names in place of alt tags…that is a fault of the screen reader, though…text browsers can do it.)

      HTML 5 might help a little, if it does win out.

      • skapig says:

        Adobe has gone to great lengths in recent years to address the Flash accessibility issues. Speaking as a developer who uses its tools, it’s now very much possible to build applications that work well with screen readers. There is, of course, extra effort that goes into it.

    • Razor512 says:

      I have worked with some large sites in the past and a change like this will be very expensive as it will require a lot of back end work .l not sure how it is with a company like amazon but when I worked with a few schools and small businesses where a large change needed to be made, additional staff would be hired. It is an expensive process that will lead to higher prices for the consumer as we all know that when prices go up, they never come back down (eg increased prices due to the gas price problems)

  2. Daggertrout says:

    Windows has had this built in for, um, a while now.

    • kc2idf says:

      Right. Now, go turn it on, and find a page that is 100% flash and let it read that page aloud.

      • Limewater says:

        This strikes me as the equivalent of complaining that a paperback harlequin romance novel doesn’t have braille embedded in the text pages.

        • kc2idf says:

          No.

          If the text is encoded correctly, then it will work for braille terminals, readers, and other applications, with no effort on the part of the webmaster beyond the adherence (not presently required) to good practices and W3C standards.

          As for the Harlequin novel, no dice. Those texts are available in braille, but the actual content is no different. Same text, completely. This is because publishers learned a long time ago that it makes good sense to streamline the process of getting the text out into various formats.

          • Kitamura says:

            I seriously doubt that every book on the planet is available in braille.

            That being said, it might not be a bad thing to require web sites that sell items and are over a certain size to be required to make these adjustments. The problem is that the internet is an international thing, can the US enforce these rules on foreign web sites? How do you determine who you can enforce against? Is it based on if they operate in the US? Where their web sites are hosted? The web site domain extension?

            It’s easy to enforce such rules for physical locations since there’s a definitive point at which they exist within your territorial boundaries. But the same thing gets much murkier when you start discussing the virtual world.

  3. pot_roast says:

    “You needed to click on something, and it wasn’t identifiable to the screen reader,” said Berg, who provides technical assistance about the ADA.

    Bet you it was an anti-spam captcha or something. I think that the idea behind this is a noble one, but impractical since the laws in the US don’t cover the whole internet. It will be very difficult to enforce and like we’ve already seen with the ADA, potentially ripe for abuse.

  4. Dont lump me into your 99%! says:

    This is more then likely just the feds wanting to enforce standards that are already there but not required. Its best practices, that many developers (including myself, unless required to in project specs) dont do. It does take extra time, but I dont think it will cost all that much to implement.

    Basically we can develop code to ensure screen readers are capable of easily parsing pages, but its not currently worried about for many sites.

    As long as this is not a regulation saying we need to build in screen reading software, I dont think its really that big of a deal (and no I did not RTFA).

    • suzieq says:

      Exactly, like to make websites more accessible by putting content as text on the page, instead of locked up in images (like The Consumerist does with their headlines in the right column). Sure, you’ll lose some pretty fonts, but you’ll gain in better SEO and accessibility.

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        I’m surprised that no one else mentioned this. You know who the biggest user of accessibility features is? Google. When a site gets crawled, you think the search engine “sees” graphics? If you want to improve your SEO, make your site accessible and follow other standard good practices (like proper page title tags).

      • yasth says:

        You can even keep the pretty fonts, either through the new fonts, or just using alt tags, or css hiding (which is what the consumerist uses )

      • Tim says:

        Usually, sites have alt attributes in those images that say what the words are.

  5. mikeluisortega says:

    What? I don’t think this is reasonable at all, why not while their at it force Apple to put flash on IOS.

  6. pop top says:

    Isn’t the Internet already Deaf-friendly, especially since it is, you know, text-based? How can you get more Deaf-friendly than that?

    • bsh0544 says:

      I would say it’s friendlier, since the deaf don’t have to endure the occasional website/ad that plays sound.

    • Shtetl G says:

      MANDATORY ALL CAPS WEB PAGES SEEMS LIKE THE SOLUTION TO ME.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Mostly, but video sites like Hulu and Netflix tend to lack captions. I believe Netflix is starting to change that.

      I don’t think it makes sense to require every user to caption every video they upload to youtube, but right now i don’t think the option exists.

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        Actually, YouTube makes it easy to caption videos. But it shouldn’t be required for private, non-commercial videos, just ones that are for commercial use, just like houses don’t have to be physically accessible, just places of public accommodation. (Of course, more houses are being designed with accessibility in mind than in the past, as more people start to care for aging parents at home, or think about aging in place themselves, or being cared for in their own home if they become disabled.)

      • Courtney Ostaff says:

        Actually, they have an “auto-caption” option that is surprisingly good. I use it a lot because my current computer doesn’t have speakers.

        • FrugalFreak says:

          That google caption is a joke on youtube, with it the videos are no better understood due to poor translation.. it actually dilutes the correct captioning from being present.

      • MrEvil says:

        YouTube is also adding captioning.

  7. Tim says:

    Socialisms! Obama’s regulatin’ the interwebs! Get yer gubmit hands off my Medicare!

    Seriously, though, if any regulations are implemented, they’ll probably be pretty reasonable, and largely reflect W3C standards.

    I doubt sites would have to have software that would read the site to users; they’d probably just have to be compatible with reading software, for example.

    • George4478 says:

      Why would you ever assume that government regulations will be reasonable? Do you not read the stories here?

      Just from yesterday — TSA’s groping-or-you-get-sued regulations? No-selling-cupcakes-without-licenses regulations?

      Government regulations have a LONG history of being anything but reasonable when actually applied to people.

    • richcreamerybutter says:

      Websites will have to hire people who actually know W3C standards!

  8. lymer says:

    Why isn’t it the disabled’s responsibility for getting software/hardware to do this.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Thanks for caring.

    • johnva says:

      Because not everything can be read by software if the site is not designed in a way that it is reasonably accessible.

    • Roadkill says:

      I’ve worked on 508 accessibility, it’s not always within the disabled’s grasp to handle some issues. For example, if a field is marked as “required” via a color then it’s difficult for a non-sighted individual to figure that out. Or a lot of form fields need to be properly labelled or else you can’t tell what information you’re supposed to enter into each field. Issues of association and logic can’t be solved by current screen-reading software.

      It’s true that they’ve made some big strides on software (I gather there are actually screen readers which read the screen buffer and parses text that way, which means it can handle non-text entities – such as the “preview” and “submit” buttons). But I doubt that’ll ever get you 100% of the way.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Because, you know, they’re disabled and such.

    • jessjj347 says:

      I don’t interpret the article in the same way Phil does.
      “Websites might need to be programmed to speak to blind users. ” could be referring to a type of CSS media where you determine how certain text will be said when using a screen reader. For example, for a certain HTML tag, e.g. , the voice could change inflection for emphasis.

      I don’t think it means that the website will read content on its own without some software on the users’ end.

    • kc2idf says:

      I cannot apprehend the confusion of ideas that would lead to such a lack of humanity.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      I hope that one day, you get to find out personally.

  9. horns says:

    I work on Government Section 508 compliant websites. Let me just tell you it is very expensive to do. Many documents like PDFs need compatible versions made that work with the screen readers. Images files all require descriptive text, certain colors need to be used, tables need tagged information and the design/layout of the site might need tweaking. I can understand the big retailers needing this, but the “mom & pop” Internet shops just won’t have the resources to do this.

    Doesn’t seem right that the government can force anyone to do this. There are many other more important things to be done.

    • FrugalFreak says:

      “There are many other more important things to be done.”

      Not to those that need it. so implementing the next phase in technology is more important than making sure everyone access to the current one? How about designing new stuff WITH accessibility and there is no issue. Like no captions via HDMI, why create new tech when the current tech excludes. When the make the new HDMI standards, it will likely not transfer captions either. Getting people who design or manufacture tech to become aware of needs for equal access needs to be done before they design.

      • horns says:

        I completely understand what you’re saying, but this will bankrupt small companies. My sister has disabilities, but sometimes I think accessibility is taken to ridiculous levels.

        Let me give you an example, I’m 6’4 and have a size 15 shoe. I can’t buy shoes in the store, so I am forced to buy shoes online without being able to try them on or knowing what I am going to get before it arrives (i.e. clown shoes). Should all stores be forced to carry large mens shoes? Do I have a disability because I was born much larger then everyone else? Of course not, I make due with what I have.

        • Anri says:

          Did you just compare having large feet to being Deaf or blind? Wow.

        • Not Given says:

          I went to a store that ordered shoes for me to try on because everything they had in my size was unsuitable, all sandals and heels. Next time I need shoes I’ll drive the 3 hours up there and 3 hours back twice, again.

  10. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Why don’t you make the webpages easier to read for dogs as well? I mean, we already have websites that provide better porn for the cane swingers: http://PornForTheBlind.org/ , so what else do they want?

  11. oloranya says:

    Any decent web developer codes their sites to be accessible to screen readers anyway.

    • kc2idf says:

      Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!

      We have a winner!

    • spanky says:

      Exactly.

      Many years ago, I was developing the website for a medium sized company, and I included accessibility requirements in my initial specs. This, for some reason, raised a great hue and cry and protestations–from HUMAN RESOURCES no less–that blind people couldn’t use computers, and in a nutshell, that they didn’t really consider disabled people to be their target audience anyway.

      Happily, I’d previously worked at a large company that the smaller company often submitted proposals to, and I was able to inform them that one of the primary engineers tasked with evaluating and procuring new equipment was completely blind. And if he couldn’t even access their website, they were effectively removing themselves from consideration. (This wasn’t entirely true–they didn’t summarily reject proposals from inaccessible sites– but I was just tired of arguing with the crazy dumb people, so I took a shortcut.)

      And this is a pretty common argument I’ve seen from other clients as well. They just don’t understand how accessibility technologies work, so they think it must be some ridiculous science fiction stuff that they can’t possibly accomplish on budget. The fact is that it’s barely any extra work at all, particularly if you take it into consideration at the outset. And I don’t have a lot of sympathy for those who don’t. If you’re hiring crap developers for your website, well, then, ha ha. You should have paid more and gotten me.

      It’s really easy for someone who has even half an idea what they’re doing.

  12. icntdrv says:

    Hmm. I wonder if my Jeep forums will be required to accommodate blind users. Not that I’d be opposed to it, just not sure there are many blind Jeep enthusiasts out there.

    • Torchwood says:

      Come on now, you mean that you can’t reasonably expect that a participant on your Jeep forum is a significant other who is a passenger in that Jeep?

      • icntdrv says:

        We don’t normally get passengers to participate in the forums. Once or twice an angry wife has signed on, but she wasn’t really interested in contributing anything positive.

    • kc2idf says:

      I used to know a blind man who somehow knew a very great deal about digital cameras.

    • haggis for the soul says:

      You don’t think a Jeep enthusiast has ever lost his sight later in life?

  13. DanRydell says:

    Websites wouldn’t have to add features that read the content to visitors, they would just have to make their websites WORK with that software. It’s not that difficult to do. You just have to do things like add ALT text to all images so the reader software can read that text.

    More information: http://www.section508.gov/

    • Dont lump me into your 99%! says:

      Many of the needed changes are adhering to standards. Older sites using loose standards will have the hardest time, but newer sites making use of xhtml should be easy to ensure work properly. Some design ideas will need to be changed, as mentioned in a comment earlier, like making more text based design where images are used to just pretty things up.

      Overall, maybe this will be a boost to business, lol

  14. minneapolisite says:

    A well-coded website is accessible by all. A poorly coded website is inaccessible for many. As an accessibility-focused web developer, I support these regulations 100% — they mean job security for ME! ;)

    • daemonaquila says:

      Hey, now. Let’s not put personal financial advantage as a priority, here.

      In all seriousness, I’ve been developing sites since about 1994/1995. It’s not hard to make a site accessible, and it’s a shame that some developers don’t put any effort into it. People don’t realize that making a site accessible benefits everyone, just like building to ADA standards. It’s all about universal design…

  15. Finergystic says:

    I have no problem with this, as long as they establish a simple straight-forward standard for what constitutes accessibility. Something like, “As long as you follow these rules, you are considered accessible.” Then these rules need to be checked for being reasonable. For example could a company do this to their site for $XXX. This amount, should be the dollar cap on what you have to spend to become compliant, and your fine for non-compliance should not exceed this amount. I would also make it so that you could only be able to be fined once a year for non-compliance.

  16. rahntwo says:

    This is great. Next thing you know they’ll be making banks put braille signs on drive throughs…Oh wait..never mind.

    • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

      Let me help make that logical for you.

      You have a friend or relative who is blind, and you’d like to help them go shopping, but they need to pick up some money at their bank first.

      They sit in the seat behind the driver’s seat, and you pull up to the drive through ATM, but pull up a little farther than usual so that the ATM lines up with the back window instead of the front.

      Now your friend can use the ATM just like anyone else.

      There you go. Mystery/illogical thoughts resolved.

      I’m not blind, but I am disabled and I rely on other people to get me where I need to go, and sometimes those people are not who I would want to give my ATM PIN to, so they can just pull up according to where I am sitting so I can use the ATM myself. It’s not hard at all.

      • mischlep says:

        And really, it’s an “economy of scale” thing. I manufacture the ATM. I make one SKU, one set of components with a braille (or at least raised dot on the 5) keypad. I have to spend $X testing and certifying that SKU. Am I going to bother to turn around and spend $X _again_ to have a different set of buttons on the keypad? Simply put: NO.

      • rahntwo says:

        You’re absolutely right. However it’s still hilarious to me! Did you know there is now a braille edition of playboy mag? Now there’s a bunch of guys who can say with a straight face…”Really!, I only read it for the articles!”

  17. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I hope they use Meg or Laura’s voice.

  18. Nidoking says:

    The overriding thought in my mind is the humor potential of Youtube for the Blind. “The man is standing at the top of a ladder, and there’s a cat nearby. The man drops his paintbrush, and the cat jumps in shock and runs into the ladder. The ladder falls over and the man falls off. Now the man is falling again in slow motion.”

  19. Dan T. says:

    While as a libertarian I don’t favor the government mandating stuff like this, I also believe in practicing logical, standards-compliant web development, which if done properly provides most of the desired accessibility without any special contortions. For instance, use ALT attributes for images, use regular text instead of “text-as-graphics” wherever possible, and use clean, logically structured code instead of a horrendous mess designed simply to produce output that looks good if the user happens to have the “right” browser and screen resolution.

  20. goldenargo85 says:

    Well I think that catering a computer site to a blind user is pretty pointless. And someone who is deaf can read the web page and good lucky forcing you tube up loaders to subtitle everything.

  21. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    No need for every webmaster to reinvent the wheel. In the same vein as “Google Translate” – Google will introduce “Google Impaired” that will read websites and/or offer a widget to webmasters.

    • jessjj347 says:

      That’s not possible…the issue is that many HTML tags can be implemented in ways that make them not accessible.

  22. Torchwood says:

    With the right CSS and web design, it can be done, and should be done as part of upgrading the website to current web standards. However, government websites should be the first to make sure they are ADA/section 508 compliant. Then, provide the incentive: if you want to do work with the government, make sure the site is ADA/section 508 compliant.

  23. AI says:

    Accessibility features are already part of the OS. This is the equivalent of saying that every business should provide free wheelchairs, hearing aids, and a seeing eye dog for every disabled customer.

    • daemonaquila says:

      You fail to grasp the point. Depending how sites are developed, the OS accessibility features can’t work with the sites AT ALL. That’s why the web standards for accessibility were developed. For example, a web reader can’t translate titles, text, or buttons that are graphics. They can’t translate flash animations or websites that are almost all flash. There are lots of sites that may look pretty, but are a pain for a lot of users with slower connections to use, and virtually unusable to anyone depending on accessibility software.

  24. fff398 says:

    ugh, I’m not that much of a fan for making everything 508 compliancy. The screen reading software is severely limited with regards to reading heavy ajaxy javascript based web applications.

    though honestly, I can’t fathom how well a screen reader would work for a blind person, I know I did horribly when I turned of my monitor to try a screen reader.

  25. catskyfire says:

    Section 508 of the ADA has been around for 20 years, and has impacted any site that involves federal dollars (so, pretty much all state websites, government ones, etc.) It was pretty much built around the standards that were already suggested by the various internet powers that be.

    Most of what’s required is actually easy. Make sure you use proper tags, headers, etc. Perhaps not have your entire site in flash.

    I had the opportunity to observe a screen reader (one of the popular ones) while a blind individual explained the problems to our group. A properly set up site was no problem. A site that didn’t use good tags, or which differentiated things only by color or font…those were bad. Heck, there was one site that used light grey text on a pale yellow background. For someone with some sight, it was impossible to read. Even a ‘important to the context’ picture without an alt tag was useless.

    The better sites also have ‘browser default’ for fonts/colors. So you can set up a large font/high contrast preference on your screen, and never have problems. The ones that insist you use their font/colors can be a challenge.

    • jessjj347 says:

      Flash has actually improved a lot recently…don’t have time to point you to a source but go search for some info about it if curious.

  26. ClaudeKabobbing says:

    I’m conflicted. The part of me that says the government needs to stay out of peoples business hates this.

    But the other part of me says this is a good thing. Could actually increase sales and revenues and lower costs if a blind person was able to complete an order without having to go to the telephone because some fields on a form cannot be read/or indicated as required by a text reader.

    However if I start up a blog, and I am sued because I post some videos that are not close captioned, I will hate this big time. There has to be some common sense, and we all know there is no commense when the government creates and enforces laws.

  27. daemonaquila says:

    The folks here who are arguing that there are accessibility packages built into operating systems or otherwise available, just don’t know what they’re talking about. The software does not function well with all websites. Depending on the person’s disability(ies) (deafness, vision impairment of many types, physical or neurological impairment making navigation difficult, etc.) these solutions may not work at all, and when they work well, it’s because a website is designed to work well with them. That’s the issue here – it doesn’t take much extra effort to design a website to work well with existing aids. Unfortunately, many designers don’t bother.

    There would be some cost to revamp existing sites, but only in rare instances would it be prohibitively expensive as many major web retailers, etc. have already put effort into this because it’s in their economic best interest. With new sites, additional cost is negligible because it’s not difficult to do it right.

  28. dcarrington01 says:

    So when I was going to get my A&P License (Airframe and Powerplant so you can work on planes, helicopters, etc.), the school bookstore had to try to get all the technical manuals and so forth in Braille, in case you know there was a blind student going for their A&P License. Granted there are some blind people working in the aviation industry (or was) performing inspections on turbine/fan blades (they had a more developed sense of touch supposedly), but kinda doubt they’d be able to perform 99% of the tasks. Is amazing what the government will try to push out…. Kinda like Janet Napolitano being quoted “People just need to use common sense here” in reference to the body scans and molestations her TSA agents are pushing…..

  29. spamtasticus says:

    woops. Here it is. All hail the Preview Button:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DT2YET6sg5I

  30. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Oddly, I am attending meetings today about some software we are thinking of implementing to handle document and website generation, dissemination, translation, information gathering, and so forth. It’s easy to forget about accessibility when you’re operating at a high theoretical level. But we have customers, internal and external, who could benefit from such an approach and

    Oh, fuck, shoot me now, I’m speaking Corporatese.

    Anyway, it’s nice to be reminded that there are people who have needs that we need to take into account when we think of who is going to use the documents we produce.

  31. Donathius says:

    Okay – to everyone going on and on about screen reading software and other accessibility routes – have you ever actually used this software? It can be extremely temperamental and, at times, very clunky. If things aren’t “just right” then it won’t work. Then take into account images without alt text, embedded videos, and Flash and you’ve got a website that no one with a visual impairment can access.

    It’s another benefit of the movement to HTML5. Most screen readers work by reading the html and looking for text that isn’t related to the page formatting. Flash completely negates that. There is no way to make Flash accessible without Adobe making some HUGE changes to the way it works.

    It still doesn’t make a lot of sense for certain websites, however. Homestar Runner is all videos. Whether they’re encoded in Flash (which they are) or some other method, the videos are still inaccessible. There’s not really a good way around that.

  32. jbandsma says:

    This has been mentioned every few years since the early 90′s and nothing’s been done about it yet. I sure ain’t going to get into a snit about it this time, even though I’d really love some closed captioning on some things.

  33. balthisar says:

    I guess I’m pragmatic enough that I’ll come off as looking like a douche, but really, if the choice is to have no website, or a websites that’s not accessible, then who cares if it’s accessible (except for the very small percentage of blind people)? If you don’t have a net connection, then it’s not accessible. Go to the library, you say? What’s different about requiring someone to go to the library versus having someone (maybe a librarian) read them the page?

    Look, I have compassion for people with all disabilities, but this comes down to government interference. If Mercedes thinks there’s money to be made by marketing to blind drivers, it will sure as hell ensure that its web site is accessible to them.

  34. carefree dude says:

    So, say I run a website that makes animated shorts. The animated shorts have no spoken words or anything. The website also sells tshirts and other random junk based on the animated shorts.

    So, basically, I could get sued because a blind person couldn’t enjoy my site, one that is clearly ment for people who could see?

    What next, will Street lights and road signs need to be blind accessable?

  35. blanddragon says:

    Re-do. As mentioned here there are a plethora of assistance tools that are built into Windows or are free to the disabled. This is a non-issue as I see it.

  36. Tristan Smith says:

    Is there currently and legislation regarding mail order catalogs?

  37. DovS says:

    I like the idea of making the web more accessible to the blind but I think requiring the web authors to shoulder all of the work is the wrong approach since it will result in hundreds of thousands of different web authors designing their own UI for it. With no set standard, it will be extremely confusing for the blind user going from site to site.

    What we need is an update to the HTML format to add tags specifically designed to support a blind user interface.

    I don’t know what changes would be needed for deaf users. Apart from watching YouTube, the web is already very accessible to the deaf.

  38. Tristan Smith says:

    Is there currently any legislation regarding mail order catalogs?

  39. Sarcastico says:

    I would rather the government require all truck dealerships to include an AK-47 with my purchase.

  40. Megalomania says:

    This is ridiculous. Unless this regulation only covers websites run by corporations with government sanctioned monopolies, the government has no business doing this.

  41. Kconafly says:

    I have found that anything we do for people with disabilities benefits us all. Look down… that keyboard you are using…the very concept of a keyboard was developed so that blind people could write letters. What would we do without it?! Scanners were originally developed so that blind people could scan and have books read to them. That curb cut for wheelchair users… loved by FedEx and UPS delivery drivers… I’m just sayin’!

  42. FrugalFreak says:

    Hurrah for accessibility.

  43. packy says:

    I’m skeptical that it will cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars. I was doing website design about a decade ago for the government, and it wasn’t difficult at all to keep my site handicapped accessible as long as I thought about how to design it right from the start.

  44. stormbird says:

    It seems to me that a site that accomodates blind or deaf users will have a large share of that (albeit small) market and make more money. Once people are aware of the need for it, sites will adjust. Web designers and advocates for the affected populations could hash out what is needed and how to do it in an afternoon. My concern is that federal guidelines will be both overdone and there will have to be a monitoring and enforcement agency for what isn’t really a problem. You’ll end up with a few hundred bureaucrats making six figures a year issuing fines to bad web designers or companies that haven’t had the money to hire a designer to redesign the site for the fifth time this year in order to comply with regulations.

  45. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    OK seriously people…I’m all for making reasonable accommodations for disabled people. Should there be wheelchair access to public places? Yes. Should there be handicap-accessible bathroom stalls in public places? Yes. Should streetlights/crosswalks cater to blind pedestrians so they can safely cross the street? Yes.

    But there are certain things that, unfortunately, either nature or fate has precluded people with certain disabilities from participating in. Yes that sucks, but it’s the way it is. Quadruplegics can’t swim. Blind people can’t watch a ballet. Deaf people can’t hear a concert. Wheelchair-bound people can’t, um, go skateboarding. You get the point.

    The internet and other highly visual services (like the ballet) just isn’t conducive to accommodating certain disabilities. Maybe a lot of it can be made to work with, say, the blind by using voice commands and automated text-to-speech applications – and this stuff is all on the market already. Has been for a while. But there’s a lot of stuff on the web that isn’t going to work that way. Videos, for example – Flash or otherwise. Games, other than maybe some rather Zork-like that you probably could just listen to and give voice commands. Porn…well seriously, if there was a voice-over saying “and now Bob’s weewee is entering Sally’s hoohah and they’re all sweaty in this photo…” – uh, does that help?

    Anyway, we need to be realistic about this stuff. Whether you prefer the term “disabled” or “differently abled” or whatever, the point is that there’s some stuff that just isn’t going to work out for you…and that’s the way it is…as much as that sucks for the disabled person.

  46. km9v says:

    What?

  47. Lucky225 says:

    I coulmnt reesd yhis srticle brcsude ut’s nit cimpstible wuth jaws

  48. somegraphx says:

    It isn’t difficult at all for web sites to comply with ADA requirements. Most development programs do it almost automatically. In reality, a compliant web site is a stronger, more robust web page that is easier to maintain.

    Using style sheets, tags, alt tags and some other little tweaks make a web site compliant. And most elements increase usability for abled bodied people as well. Think about the curb cuts for wheelchairs. They benefit mothers with strollers and kids on trikes. Closed captioning on the tv is great for people at night and people learning a second language.

    This has actually been in the works for years. Back in 2000, I wrote my graduate thesis on accessible web sites.

    They aren’t asking people to make talking web sites, their asking them to be set up in such a way that that those with disabilities can use their own equipment.

  49. FenrirIII says:

    This is absolutely retarded. What’s next, cars designed for the blind?

  50. DragonThermo says:

    Thank you, Uncle Sugar, for protecting us from annoying Flash menus and animations and bringing us back to the good ol days of 1995. Who needs IE, Firefox, and Chrome when we can go back to the ADA compatible web browsers like Lynx.