Feeds

Act on accessibility now, before it hurts

You could be next in the firing line

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Comment There are two cases, that I am aware of, moving through the courts in the US relating to accessibility of IT solutions.

The first is being brought by a customer of target.com. Target.com is the ecommerce arm of Target that has a US-wide chain of department stores. The design of the website makes it inaccessible to the blind, and thereby violates federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination against the disabled. The first stage of the case revolved around whether the law applies to the website, as compared to the physical stores. The basic answer is yes, with some legal niceties. Target does not deny that the site has accessibility problems.

In fact, it is difficult to understand why Target decided to contest the case. I am sure that a reasonably modest out-of-court settlement and an agreement to resolve the technical issues over a reasonable period of time would have been acceptable to both sides. There is now no doubt that Target is going to have to improve the website to make it more accessible both from a social responsibility and commercial point of view. It also now seems highly likely that the claimant will receive damages and costs. If Target does nothing, other claimants will learn lessons from this initial case and be able to sue more effectively.

I am convinced that over the coming year we will see announcements from Target to say it has improved the website and I would hope it will be able to share a massive business case for accessibility.

The second case is where the National Federation of the Blind and three state employees have filed a lawsuit against Oracle Corp and the state of Texas, seeking to ensure that all applications used by the state government are accessible to blind state workers.

The state of Texas installed a new human resources package from Oracle PeopleSoft. The selection process did not check that the package would be accessible to blind employees. The system that was being replaced had been used successful by a number of employees and managers with vision impairments. With the new system a blind employee cannot update or even view their own records without help from a sighted colleague. Even more seriously a manager cannot view the records of his direct reports without help from a third party. This obviously causes serious privacy and confidentiality issues.

Undoubtedly, these cases are not good publicity for any of the defendants and will require executive time and effort to resolve. Oracle and Target happen to be in the spotlight, but it could easily have been another enterprise or supplier of IT solutions.

Every enterprise and supplier must recognise they could be next. They should also recognise that retrofitting accessibility is difficult and expensive, and is likely to end up with a sub-optimal solution.

Vendors, in particular, should not wait for a court case before acting. Software vendors, consultants, system integrators and developers should act now before they are:

  • Summarily taken off a short list because the tender requires accessibility as an absolute given.
  • Sued for providing a solution that is not fit for purpose, which might well be much more costly than a breach of the accessibility legislation.
  • Castigated by investors for a lack of corporate social responsibility.

Vendors, if you have a good story to tell, now is the time to make it public so you can steal a march on the competition. If you do not have a good story, now is the time to put a plan in place to resolve the issues. Bloor Research will be happy to help you in either situation. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.