Blind AOL users sue over discrimination

Courts urged to force AOL to update service

AOL is being sued by the National Federation of the Blind for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Nine blind members of the Federation are claiming the ISP is incompatible with software programmes that change text into audio or Braille, despite other ISPs offering the service. Despite the Disabilities Act coming into force nine years ago, the Virginia-based company has still not brought its service up to speed. Daniel Goldstein, one of the solicitors for the plaintiffs, told AP: "Patience has begun to flag." The lawyers are arguing that AOL violates parts of the law that require equal access to public "accommodations." An accommodation can also be classed as a service, according to the federation courts. AOL said the next version of its software, due to be launched next year, would have features to make it more user-friendly for the blind. This would include members being able to get email messages by phone. But the lawyers involved in the case claim the technology already exists to redesign AOL's service to allow blind people to use it, and asked the court to order a redesign. Curtis Chong, the Federation's director of technology, said: "Despite our best efforts, though, AOL has steadfastly refused to modify its software in order to ensure compatibility with screen access technology for the blind." ®

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