In my recent blog I wrote that the people realized the importance of accessibility and vendors are working on resolving the accessibility issues. While the efforts are still in progress, a federal court ruled that a website can be sued if it is inaccessible to the blind people.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled yesterday that a retailer may be sued if its website is inaccessible to the blind. The ruling was issued in a case brought by the National Federation of the Blind against Target Corp. The suit charges that Target’s website is inaccessible to the blind and therefore violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the California Disabled Persons Act.
I also mentioned that accessibility is the major hurdle for federal sector because all federal government web sites/applications has to meet the Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. But as per this ruling, it seems that non federal government websites also need to meet some rules(?).
This is too scary!!! We all know that the sites developed using Ajax tool kits and frameworks are not 100% accessible. Most Ajax applications use Ajax widgets that may or may not support accessibility. For example, a lot of Ajax toolkits don’t have support keyboard navigation (mouse-less operation). So every Ajax based website can be sued according to this ruling. Only exception is if the site provides non-Ajax version. But how many sites provides the non-Ajax versions which can be readable by screen readers? Gmail and Google maps has the non-Ajax versions(yes Google maps has the non-Ajax version which just displays the map as image with out any dragging/zooming features. Turn off Java Script and go to maps.google.com, you will see the non-Ajax version). But Google video, reader and all other Google products doesn’t have non-Ajax version. Similarly all live products from Microsoft except live mail doesn’t have non-Ajax versions. Yahoo has non-Ajax versions for most of their products as they have older versions of the products which they are using as non-Ajax versions.
So do you think all these sites can be sued as per the ruling? Oh! boy this is scarier than I can imagine!
Now enterprises will be careful before adopting Ajax as currently there is no toolkit which promises 100% accessibility. Vendors like Bakbase, Bindows can improve the accessibility features, but cannot meet the requirements as Ajax is kind of desktop functionality inside a web browser. And its a real challenge for Ajax developers as they cannot develop just to say “ooh look at me I’m web 2.0 too!”. They need to develop the applications by keeping accessibility in mind.
With all this will it slow the Ajax momentum? What ever it is, at least it raises people’s attention on accessibility as we all went for Ajax almost “blindly” by ignoring the key issues.