UK sight-loss charity sues BMI
Excuses over inaccessible website don't fly with us
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has taken the unusual step of suing BMI after the airline failed to make changes to its website to make it accessible to blind and partially sighted people.
The RNIB was first alerted to a problem back in 2010 when one of its members complained that they could not use the site to make bookings.
An RNIB spokeswoman told The Register that the organisation subsequently give the airline specific expert guidance and even provided a full audit report to help it in its compliance efforts.
“They have engaged with us but have not made enough progress, so we feel this is the best way to get a positive outcome for our clients,” she said.
“We work with a lot of organisations to help them and usually when contacted they say ‘sorry’ and just fix the problem.”
Ironically, a message still up on bmibaby.com at the time of writing explained that the airline is currently working with the RNIB to sort out its web woes:
Unfortunately our website is not fully accessible by people with sight problems, hearing, mobility and cognitive impairments. We are fully aware of this issue and are working alongside the RNIB to ensure our website is brought up to standard.
We have received the RNIB recommendations and we are working to rectify the proposals. Whilst we are going through this process users can call 08451238951 (A local rate number) to access our fares at the original web price. We will aim to update this page on a regular basis to keep users informed of our progress and are working to rectify the issues as soon as possible.
Website accessibility is specifically governed by the Equality Act 2010, which swallowed the old Disability and Discrimination Act 1995. However, the law is far from prescriptive, stating that web owners need only take “reasonable steps” to make their sites accessible.
It’s likely therefore that a court would look at the WSC’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and consult industry experts to decide whether BMI has actually broken the law, according to Trenton Moss, director of user experience consultancy Webcredible.
BMI could yet escape punishment if it can prove it had an action plan in place to address any issues and that it would have been unreasonable to move any quicker than it has due to factors such as cost, he told The Reg.
“Web development is typically slow and while firms know it’s important to do, it probably isn’t a business priority unless someone sues them,” he added.
“From the RNIB’s point of view suing is probably the right thing to do as it pushes it back up the to-do list. I’m incredibly surprised it’s come to this. I was always of the opinion no one would ever get sued over this because of the threat of bad publicity.”
The Register contacted BMI, which responded that it was continuing to work on the recommendations and reiterated that it had provided a local rate number where affected customers could obtain the discounted rate web airfares. ®
Sure you'd feel the same way if you had an accident?
It's about making things accessible for all, not quite sure how adjusting a site so accessibility software can use it properly is to everyone elses detriment?
Some of the stuff should be basic common sense. I have issues with stairs (and to some extent long or steep ramps). All I want is a handrail so I can pull myself up, don't need a stairlift, don't need a proper lift (would be nice though) is that really too fucking much to ask?
Just because you've been lucky, born healthy and not been disabled in an accident, not everyone else has. There are (in my mind) levels of reasonableness, but I don't think this crosses it.
Many who are disabled are just as capable as you are mentally, and excluding them from the world because you can't be arsed doesn't quite cut it.
4) The entire site becomes a massive Flash application and becomes practically impossible to use with Flash, and completely impossible to use without flash.
I vote for a cripling win, to bring this to the minds of all the web designers who think that every site needs to be a flash video game.
The problem is...
...all the marketing people want whizzo graphics, flashing lights etc to "deliver the message on our cores values" or some such crap. This has a few side-effects:
1) Pages get bigger and bigger;
2) It gets harder and harder to make them cross-platform;
3) Accessibility goes out the window.
I say good on the RNIB. I wonder if they will promote Trisquel to their members too?