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Web Accessibility ethics

Reply with quote A moral question:

If I were to wait until October 2004 had come and gone, then wheel my Gran outside every shop I could find that didn't have a lift or ramp access, then sue every retail outlet that was in breach of the DDA for discriminating against my Gran (actually my Gran would probably need to do it herself, but I could help!). Would this be considered unethical? or would I be simply raising awareness?

Of course we would need to assume that my Gran likes the outdoors, and being pushed around by me all day long.

I'm not trying to be controversial. I've just been looking at the tactics of some Web companies over the past few months, and trying to decide where I stand on the issue.

We'd also need to consider the sort of light that this might throw on the DDA. It's much better to think of it as a positive piece of legislation.

To me it seems to be a fine line, but I don't know where to start drawing it exactly.

Any thoughts?

Sorry if this has been brought up before, but I'm new to the forum.


Last edited by Grant Broome on 28 Apr 2004 01:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
Reply with quote
Grant Broome wrote:
Would this be considered unethical?


do you consider all the "have you been hurt in an accident and it wasn't your fault / no win, no fee" unethical? do you like a litigation society like the US - and that's where the UK is heading already?

legally, you're probably not doing anything wrong...but all you'll achieve is put the legislation into a bad light...you're effectively going to fulfill EXACTLY what most ignorants who come across the legislation always fear, and proving them right.

imho, anyway.

Patrick H. Lauke / splintered
Reply with quote Please don't stoop to the lawsuit happy society that exists in the US. You can catch a fly with honey. Educate the places. It really does work. A lot of good progress in disability has been made in the past thirty years, but there is more to go. This is both legal and cultural advances. The progress has been made because people speaking out by educating. Changes won't happen overnight, but they will occur.

Yes, seeing the mention prompted my response, but it is a truth.

Another thing to consider is that many places would need to be retrofitted. There are some old buildings. People in wheelchairs weren't out for various reasons, hundreds of years ago. There would be a huge cost to retrofit the buildings, and they might as well go out of business to get up to par.

Relating this to the internet, many people just don't think about accessiblility until someone asks about it.

A good way to address people would be to say to them, "You have a really great web site. I have some ways to make it better and bring more people to it, but this is a really great web site." This way you are being positive. You might actually completing redesign the web site, but you need to tell them that it was good to begin with. (I actually got this idea from one of my computer geek friends. It wasn't my original idea.)

That's my long story.

Stephanie
Reply with quote It's a sad fact of life that we have had to introduce legislation to give the disabled at least some form of equality.

A few years ago the then MP for Kettering, Roger Freeman, was taken around the town in a wheelchair and found a lot of inaccessible places, it has now improved but there are still problems.

I was confined to a wheelchair for some time in 2000 and found problems all over the place, steps in to and out of buildings, steep ramps, high kerbs, narrow doorways, overflowing traffic areas, high shelves, counters above shoulder height. It all adds to the frustration of a wheelchair user. I was lucky in being accompanied all the while but made me think of the person on their own.

As a sweeping generalisation, unless people are made to see things from the position of a disabled user then a majority will forget or ignore the other point of view.

Let me know if you want some pointers to sites with advice on physical accessibility.

Mike Abbott
Accessible to everyone
Reply with quote Bert Massie:
Quote:
"We're using the force of argument. If that fails we won't hesitate to use the argument of force."


I think my illustration was possibly a bit too far off centre to raise proper debate. I imagine that many people would be fairly disgusted at the suggestion of using my poor old gran as a cash machine, and probably justly so.

So let's take the "no win no fee" scenario which could feasibly apply now to websites.

I'll first say that I'm not completely against litigation. If someone drives out of a junction into your car, you'll claim from their insurance. You won't even think about it. The person did something wrong, and caused a lot of damage to your car. You'll need compensation to fix it. In this case you won't think of it as compensation, but that's exactly what it is.

Litigation of this kind, where someone feels discriminated against because they were treated unfairly is much harder to quantify, but I think we'll all agree that damage is done. Can we also agree then that someone can be compensated for damage to feelings as well as damage to property?

Perhaps this is where the contention starts. Because property damage is reasonably easy to put a figure next to, where as emotional damage is not.
Maguire vs. SOCOG. Consider how this case makes you feel. Was the case justified? Is www.athens2004.com a more accessible website because of it?

That's just one side of the argument.

The other is to consider how this litigation would affect company policies on Web accessiblity, and I think that maybe, when we see the first piece of UK case law, companies will begin to get their act together. I think at the moment, many don't know that there is an issue. Others won't care until they think they might be sued.

So what's the solution?
Reply with quote
Quote:
Maguire vs. SOCOG. Consider how this case makes you feel. Was the case justified? Is www.athens2004.com a more accessible website because of it?


Was that a UK case? I'm not familar with it, but I'm not familar with much. I know that there was another lesser known scandal involving the Salt Lake Olympic Games. Its web site wasn't accessible.

My view still does not change. All the laws and lawsuits won't help. The answer is educate, educate, educate. The good way is to show people what it is like to use the Internet with a disability. This is like Mike's example. Also, designers need to be taught that accessible design is good design. When businesses realize that they could get more customers with an accessible site, they will make adjustments.

That's my not so humble opinion.

Stephanie
Reply with quote Hi Steph. It was an Austrailian case

Mike Abbott
Accessible to everyone
Reply with quote I think half the problem is that people don't believe, or know, that web accessibility is an issue, and the other half don't care.

I agree that showing people the way is the best approach, but how do you get their attention?

I don't pay bills until I get a red one. The black and blue ones might as well not exist, I think it's just part of human nature.

Grant
Reply with quote
Quote:
It was an Austrailian case


The Summer Olympic Games in Sydney? If that is the case, then a lawsuit won't help. The Salt Lake Olympic Games had a lawsuit for the same reason. I only heard about in my reading about accessibility. I'll have to look up the source.

Stephanie
Reply with quote
stephw wrote:
The Summer Olympic Games in Sydney? If that is the case, then a lawsuit won't help.
It was Sydney. I agree to a cetain extent with your thoughts on lawsuits but I feel that by bringing cases like this to the fore then we are chipping away at the bastion of non-believers.

In the Maguire case it came to court after the games were over. The defendants argued that as the games had finished then the case was not vaild. The judge thought otherwise and awarded Mr Maguire A$20k on the premis that the website should have been accessible and by being inaccessible it excluded M from obtaining the information he needed.

I don't know if this applies to the US but in the UK legislation is laid down by parliament, it is then up to the courts to interpret that law when cases are brought needing their interpretation. An interesting example recently was not concerning disability but data protection in the case of Durant v the Financial Services Authority. I shall not go through it here but if you want to read further go to http://www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk/eventual.aspx?id=5152 This case has helped to clarify the position of relevant data in the UK and made my job a little easier.

To quote Francis Albert
Quote:
Whoops there goes a billion kilowatt dam
Very Happy

Mike Abbott
Accessible to everyone
Reply with quote
Mikea wrote:
In the Maguire case it came to court after the games were over.


stephw wrote:
The Summer Olympic Games in Sydney? If that is the case, then a lawsuit won't help.


Mikea - not quite true. SOCOG allegedly tried to delay the case until the Games were over (which didn't go down too well!). SOCOG were ordered to make changes to the website that cost them a lot of money over and above the small fine (small on the scale of the overall cost to them).

It's also worth remebering that Mr Maguire wasn't only suing over the website's inaccessibility e.g. he was having trouble buying tickets by other means too.

stephw - I agree with you. The Olympic Games are high profile but the wrong target. The Maguire case may be well known amongst people like us but is unheard of elsewhere. Salt Lake had accessibility problems and maybe Athens will see the similar problems (though it's more likely that no-one will be able to watch at all because they are still building... Wink ).

The reason that there seems to be nothing learned from one event to the other is that they are run by different organisations with different contractors in different parts of the world with their own regulations. Only the Olympic banner is the same. Sure there are people who spend their lives working at such events but there is no direct continuity.

I don't think lawsuits are the way. As a threat it doesn't work. There's more proof of that than them having any success.

Cheers
Kevin
Reply with quote Thanks for the correction Kevin.

Mike Abbott
Accessible to everyone
Reply with quote
Mikea wrote:
Thanks for the correction Kevin.


No worries. A few years ago I was working under the shadow of this case with people who had been affected by it. In this instance it did have a positive persuasive effect on the organisation we were working for. At the time we thought the whole issue was about to become very big and very soon every one would be making accessible sites. In reality the situation has changed little. There's more people talking about it now and more doing something about it but the same old subjects are still being discussed - like this one! It makes me a little pessimistic about it all at times.

Cheers
Kevin
Reply with quote
Quote:
To quote Francis Albert
Quote:
Whoops there goes a billion kilowatt dam


I love that song! My friends and I sang it at the top of our lungs when we were camping.

Stephanie

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