Accessibility laws and rich Internet applications

Accessibility laws and rich Internet applications

Summary: TechCrunch and The Register are both reporting on the court case which pit Target against the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and Bruce Sexton, a blind man who sued the company saying that the website was not in line with national and state laws which mandate accessibility for the disabled.

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Accessibility laws and rich Internet applicationsTechCrunch and The Register are both reporting on the court case which pit Target against the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and Bruce Sexton, a blind man who sued the company saying that the website was not in line with national and state laws which mandate accessibility for the disabled. There are still a number of issues including whether or not national laws are as broad as the laws in the state of California but the general gist is that websites are under more and more scrutiny for accessibility and coming under laws that govern an equal experience for those with disabilities.

I think this is a fascinating topic and one that will have huge implications for RIAs. I'm totally in favor of having the laws apply to websites. Desktop applications have traditionally been very good about accessibility but what's interesting is the blending of the two. Most RIAs would qualify as websites under the law (in this case) and as a result would be required to be accessible. I've talked a bit about this in the past, but it's clear it will become a bigger issue in the future.

Flex and Flash have started to address accessibility issues and Silverlight also has some accessibility support. But one of the huge advantages of web standards has been its high level of support for accessibility and a community focus on being compliant with section 508, an amendment to The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which focused on making technology accessible to the disabled. Obviously not all Web 2.0 sites that use web standards are automatically accessible, but because of the community and the resources, it may make a difference for companies choosing an RIA technology. This is definitely something to track.

Good Resources:
W3C Roadmap for Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA)
Accessibility in Silverlight
Accessibility in Flex and Flash
Accessible Rich Internet Applications at the Mozilla dev center
Niqui Merret's blog on Flash and Accessibility

Topics: Software Development, Browser

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2 comments
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  • Browser wars

    Hopefully this will mean an end to non_standard browser extensions (or 'innovations'). I mean the ones that end up demanding that users just use a particular browser to access a website, rthare than developing for at least Explorer, Firefox and Opera as a minimum requirment.
    limlom
  • RE: Accessibility laws and rich Internet applications

    Ryan, I think it's important to point out a couple of things:

    1) This particular case is about more than a non-accessible web site. Target considers the on-line operation an extension of its physical stores, and the courts consider the laws extended also. Don't expect to see the flood gates open if this case is won by the NLB.

    2) Language/Platform capabilities are only half the job. It is still up to the developer to make a site accessible, and the business owner to fund the resources to do so.

    Look at what the complaint talks about - missing "alt" text on images, etc. This is web 1.0 technology we're talking about.

    The development community, at large, has to make this a priority.

    Cheers,

    Davo
    davidmartinomalley