Show 74 - Department of Justice Possible Revisions to the ADA - Web Accessibility

Listen to Show 74

A lot has changed since the ADA was passed 20 years ago, so the Department of Justice is considering revising regulations of the ADA. At this point, they are asking for comments and answers to a number of specific questions from the general public. It's very important that you read the questions and give your input -- this is your chance to influence regulations that will affect everyone.

This episode specifically focuses on changes to the regulations to Title III that relate to Web accessibility. The Web as we know it didn't exist when the ADA was passed, so these are very important regulations. Listen to this episode for more!

You can find more information and the questions they are asking at http://www.ada.gov/anprm2010/web%20anprm_2010.htm.

You can use any of the following methods to submit your comments. Please include "RIN 1190-AA61" or "Docket No. 110" in your communication so they know which document you are commenting on.

1) Go to www.regulations.gov and follow the directions for submitting comments.
2) Send regular US mail to: Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 2885, Fairfax, VA 22031-0885.
3) Overnight, courier or hand delivery: Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 1425 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 4039, Washington, D.C. 20005.

TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS

You're listening to the Disability411 podcast, show number 74.

Hello, and welcome to the Disability411 podcast. I'm your host, Beth Case.

I actually hoped to get this show out a few weeks ago and to have a disability lawyer friend of mine on with me, but we weren't able to get our schedules to coordinate with each other so you just get to listen to me today.

Today, I'm going to be talking about something that I think it's very important. The Department of Justice is considering revising some regulations to the ADA. You know, the ADA was passed twenty years ago and a lot of things have changed since then, especially a lot of things related to technology. Of course, the ADA doesn't address specific things such as Web accessibility because the Web is we know it didn't exist back then. And in fact, today, I'm going to be specifically talking about the changes they are considering regarding Web accessibility.

Now, this is really important for you all because it's your chance to have a say in what these regulations are. Right now they don't even have proposed regulations out there for you to comment on. They just have questions that they want the public, the average user, people with disabilities this is going to impact, they want you to get your thoughts and your comments and your ideas. Don't worry if you feel like oh well, you know, who ami? I'm not a big technological person, or I'm not a leader or advocate. It doesn't matter. These laws will affect you, so you deserve to have to say in what they become.

I will have all the information in our show notes about how you can make these comments. You can do it by e-mail, by phone, by letter, lots of different ways that they have for you set up to be able to give your thoughts, your comments. All of that will be at Disability411.com so that you can find it easily to maake your comments.

So, today I am going to talk about the revisions they are considering making to Title III of the ADA regarding Web accessibility. As you may already know, Title III is the section that talks about accessibility to public services. So why is this even important? Well, as I said, twenty years ago, the Internet as we know it today did not exist. And I probably don't need to tell you this, because if you're listening to podcasts, you're probably at least somewhat technologically savvy, but the Internet is a very big part of our day to day lives anymore. We do shopping online. When's the last time you bought something online because you couldn't find it locally, or because it was cheaper, or it's just easier to sit at your computer than to get in a car and drive across town and fight traffic and crowds.

Colleges, universities, even high schools are starting to offer a lot of content online. Well, what if you needed to take an online course and that online course wasn't accessible? There's a lot of government Web sites out there where you can find out information about the services available to you about legal rights. And even social networks, OK, you might say, well, you know, who needs to participate in social network, right? Nobody forces you to get on Facebook or whatever. But how much easier do those networks make it, whether it's Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or whatever. How much easier does it make it for you to stay in contact with other people whether it's professional contacts or personal contacts. Now think of someone who, their disability makes it more difficult for them to get out and interact in their community. How much more important does those online social networks become when it's more difficult for you to do it physically. Or to connect to people who have a similar disability as you, just to have someone else who really understands what you
re going through. I don't think we can just say, "Oh, it's not important if people with disabilities don't have access to social networks."

Now most of you are probably already very aware of the barriers that exist for people with disabilities when it comes to Web accessibility, but I'm going to go ovrt just a few of then in case, you know, there might be something here you hadn't thought of before.

Everyone thinks about the difficulties that individuals who are blind have when trying to access a Web site if the website is not optimized for screen readers. But in addition to that, think about how many videos there are online these daya and how few of them are captioned. So that an informational video can be completely worthless to someone who is deaf if it's not captioned. Someone who just has low vision, they can see it, but what if the page doesn't have very high contrast or it doesn't allow you to change the font Size to make it easier to read. For people who had difficulty with fine motor skills, you know, they may have difficulty using amouse but the Web site might not have keyboard alternatives. Or there might be very tiny little check boxes that you have to click on. Well if you don't have a good enough fine motor skill to click in that little tiny checkbox and there's no keyboard alternative, that site is pretty hard for you to use. And of course, that's just some of the problems/ Like I said, you're probably familiar with most of them and I'm not going to go into a lot of detail.

But the point is, you know, we've been trying for years to make Web sites more accessible. I can't even tell you how many workshops and conferences I've been to that talked about it and yet there are still so many problems. And that's why the Department of Justice is looking to get involved.

Up til now, for the most part, we've relied on voluntary compliance to making sites accessible. But now they're looking to see whether there needs to be regulations. And before you get too concerned about your own personal website, these regulations would only apply to what they call "places of public accommodation", such as specifically mentioned in Title tIII of the ADA. They're not talking about your own personal Web sites, the posts that you make to a forum, things like that. It's not going to affect the individual. They're talking about making sure that these larger public places, that their websites are accessible.

Now, there are several specific questions that they are soliciting feedback and comments on and I'm not going to go through all of the questions. You can read all of this specifics at www.ada.gov, But I do want to talk about a few of them just to get you thinking and to show you some of the types of questions that they're looking for feedback on.

For example, you know that asking about what regulations, what guidelines for accessibility should they adopt. So, for example, you may have heard of the World Wide Web Consortium, usually referred to as W3C. Well, W3C has a group called the Web Accessibility Initiative, or WAI. And WAI created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, WCAG. I know that's a lot of initials. These are really good guidelines about what Web accessibility means and what you should have in order to make sure that your site is accessible. So one of the questions they are asking is, should they adopt the W3C guidelines or should they look at something else? For example, there's Section 508 of the Rehab Act which right now only applies to Federal agencies and programs receiving Federal funding. Maybe they should just make that broader and adopt those same guidelines for Title III of the ADA. And then also, how are they going to make sure that these guidelines areT dynamic? As the Web is changing, how do they make sure that the guidelines change with it. So maybe instead of technical guidelines, they have performance guidelines, which should be a little less specific and focused more on the ability of the Web site as opposed to specific technical standards. But these are the kind of questions they want your input on. What do you think? Should they adopt the W3C guidelines? Should they adopt 508? Should they do something else entirely? And how do you think that they should allow for the flexibility as the Web changes? HTML5 is all the talk right now. So what happens when HTML5 becomes commonplace? Is that going to change what the guidelines say? How can we make it flexible so that they don't have to be rewritten every time we have a new type of technology?

They also want to get some input on what will be the effects of implementing these guidelines, these new regulations. They want to know, what's going to be the cost? How much is it going to cost to retrofit all of these Web sites. If you own a company and you have to completely redesign your Web site, they want some idea about what's that going to cost? Also, looking at the benefits. How many more people with disabilities who perhaps could not access your information before, would be able to access it. So they're kind of wanting a cost benefit analysis. And how should they figure that out?

What are some of the other possible consequences? Do you think that people would just take down information or decide not to put something on the Web because making it accessible is either too expensive or too too much work. How should they roll it out? You're not going to have changes just overnight. So what sort of steps need to be taken in order to implement this over time. Over how much time? What kind of training is going to be provided for people who don't know how to make their Web sites accessible?

So these are just some of the questions that they are wanting to get input from the general public, from the people that are going to be impacted by this before they come up with the regulations. So what happened next is they'll take all of this input, then they'll come up with some proposed regulations, and then those will go out for comment. But now is really the time to have your thoughts be heard. I like I said, there's like sixteen, seventeen, nineteen questions that they have specifically listed that they would like comment on. So I'm not going to go into all of them. I just gave you a few of the ideas, the types of things they're asking, to get you thinking.

There is a deadline. Comments are due January 24, 2011. It may seem like a long way away but I would suggest to you go ahead and go to www.ada.gov and look at this. I will have a direct link on our show notes at disability411.com. And give this some serious thought. These regulations are going to impact you if you have a disability, if you work in the disability community,if you have a Web site, work for a company that has a Web site. Even though the regulations aren't going to affect personal Web sites, I think that it can't help but have a larger impact if these regulations go through. It's going to change the Web. And now's the time for you to have some input on what those changes might be. So I strongly encourage you to read this carefully give it some thought, talk to your friends, and submit your comments prior to the cutoff date of January 24, 2011.

In our next show, I'm going to talking about the regulations they're considering making that will affect captioning and video descriptions for movies shown in movie theatres. So stay tuned til next time. Visit our website at disability411.com in order to see the show notes, to listen to our past shows, read the transcripts of this and all of our past shows. Be sure to e-mail me at disability411@jinkle.com to give me your thoughts and your feedback and your show ideas or just to say hi. So until next time, this is Beth Case with the Disability411 podcast.

The Disability411 podcast is protected by the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike 3.0 United States License which means you can share our podcast, you just can't make any money off it. Visit our website at disability411.com to find show notes, past shows and transcripts of all the episodes as well as useful links, blogs and much more. Email us at disability411@jinkle.com. Music brought to you by the Brobdingnagian Bards and used with permission.