Thursday, March 12, 2020

Lawsuit against Beyonce and some others raised questions about website ADA compliance, which is a new and relatively little known concern



Ian Corzine today tweeted a reminder to visitors that some websites have been targeted for lack of ADA compliance, with a link to a blog post about an ADA suit against Beyonce reported early in 2019. 
  
I had not really heard about this, but there was a suit against Beyonce in 2019 because her site could not be effectively read (by screenreaders) in order to order tickets.   The Impact Learning Center has a good summary of the complaint which did focus narrowly on the site's functionality for making purchases by a disabled (in this case blind) person. 
   
Hollywood Reporter and Fortune (paywall), for example, have some details.

There are numerous sites discussing ADA compliance.  Morepro has one of the most complete lists on ADA compliance. 

Hunton Labor has a legal discussion, which focuses on the idea that the ADA was largely legislated for the bricks and mortar world, and courts have slowly come to the view that the Internet is included.  This would be true particularly for websites that sell products or services on credit cards or that are associated with a physical store or a physical expression (for example, a website that broadcasts concerts livestream). 
  
What about personal blogs powered by Blogger or Wordpress? 

Some of the literature suggests that every image (or uploaded video) should have an alt-tag (which is now an expected HTML standard).  The blogger could fill in a short description of the image.  Wordpress seems to always provide this tag, but a brief check showed that Blogger does not (unless I am missing a setting somewhere).

It is possible that free Wordpress or Blogger sites within the service websites are perceived as personal and not normally subject to the ADA.  But Blogger encourages people to get custom domain names, which makes them function somewhat like hosted Wordpress sites (although the hosting from Google is free). 

There are recommendations that YouTube creators use captions.  I find that some of them do, and sometimes they are annoying (often in at least one foreign language).
  
A quick look at the literature suggests that there are newer Wordpress themes purported to be completely ADA compliant. For example, look at Dearblogger and at Completethemes.  But existing sites (like mine) would need to take time to evaluate plugins for security, stability, and reputation, and the like, as this seems to be a new problem. Webhosts and Automattic would need to work with companies offering more sophisticated plugins to certify and support them.  As of now, I don't know whether the standard Wordpress themes offered by Automattic (Twenty--) which would be the safest are viewed as legally compliant by lawyers, but it would sound like keeping them updated when prompted would be a good idea. 

This whole issue has gotten more attention since mid 2019 because of Beyonce’s lawsuit. It is not possible for a set up like mine to be converted reliably when it is spread out across 20 blogs on both Blogger and Wordpress.  It will be much simpler to condense everything to one site and deal with all issues like ADA, CCPA, COPPA, etc. with restructuring that I have anticipated for 2022. 
Most litigation seems to be related to lack of a client to purchase a service or item.  But an ideologically (“intersectional”) motivated suit sounds possible.

This whole issue then links back to my earlier discussions of “commercial viability”.  It would also relate to the way POD publishers encourage authors to purchase large volumes of books and sell to the public directly rather than depend on Amazon (which obviously is in a position to be ADA compliant efficiently because of its large scale). 

I don’t have any direct links on sites that sell anything.  I have embedded Amazon ads and ad-sense on some.  I have the capability to use Payment Sphere from one Wordpress site (to sell books and take credit cards directly) but right now don’t use it, but will have to look very carefully at this “new” issue if I do activate it.
   
This is a problem to watch, like so many others. It looks like mouse keys (another issue) can be enabled in Windows and Mac.  But mobile use might also raise issues. 
  
Art work picture:  A natural brush maze at a park near Frederick, MD on I-270 (mine, 2020/03). 
   
Many of my own images are just redecoration, but some are more directly related to the text.  I do identify them when I review movies to make sure that a visitor doesn't think the image could have come from making an illegal photo from the movie (copyright).  I did have a cousin die of ALS, but in her last months she used a lot of accessibility software, but it never occurred to me to test my sites with her setup.

 Update: April 30, 2020  



If you copy an image (at least of sheet music, my own as handwritten by me and composed by me in my own case) into Microsoft word, the wordprocessor adds alt-text for people with visual disabilities. apparently as a compliance expectation.  I had never seen this before. Look at the example above. 

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