Thursday, October 02, 2008

Internet Accessibility for the Disabled: first Target, now iTunes

Web-site accessibility for the disabled has been a rich source of litigation for the last four years, and the bete noire for major on-line retailers. Yesterday's announcement by Massachusetts' Attorney- General that it had reached an agreement with Apple to make all iTunes stores accessible to the blind is the latest development in what appears to bean inevitable slide to making access to web sites mandatory.

Even though the blind can purchase software and keyboards that will convert website content into braille or speech, the technologies won't work unless web sites have been properly coded. Relying on federal civil rights and diabilities legislation, the National Federation of the Blind has been moving to make such coding mandatory. This August, the federation scored its first major victory when Target settled a class action lawsuit, agreeing to pay $6 million in damages to the Federation for failing to make its web store accessible to the blind. By contrast, Apple got off relatively lightly, agreeing to make a $250,000 donation to a Massachhusetts charity as well as agreeing to a timetable to implement accessibility over the next 9 months.

Canada does not have any similar examples, although similar legislation protecting the rights of the disabled exists. But stay tuned.