Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Web sites cannot be required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that web sites do not have to comply with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which required that any "place of public accommodation" must be accessible to people with disabilities. Earlier court decisions had suggested that web sites would need to comply with ADA, but this decision is more definitive.

It takes more planning and a little bit more effort to create a site that is useable by people with disabilities (e.g., people who use technology to read a web site for them). However, the extra work ensures that the site can be used by anyone and often will lead to a better designed site. Organizations and businesses that do want everyone to access them through the Internet should be reading and learning about this...then implementing what they learn.

Some organizations, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group, are working on standards in this area. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0: W3C Working Draft dated July 30, 2004 are now available online. The document details four principles:
  • Content must be perceivable.
  • Interface elements in the content must be operable.
  • Content and controls must be understandable.
  • Content must be robust enough to work with current and future technologies.
Organizations who are creating web sites that display images (e.g., digitization projects) should consider how people with disabilities will be able to "see" the images or do any special commands that might be needed to manipulate content on the site (e.g., zooming in on images). Using text to explain graphical elements, for example, is very helpful.

If you are interested in reading the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals judgment, it can be read here.

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