[Accessibleweb] Web sites agree to be accessible to blind

Rick Ells rells at u.washington.edu
Fri Aug 20 12:23:47 PDT 2004

Interesting article in the PI


In case you can't get the URL to work, here is the text:


Thursday, August 19, 2004 Last updated 4:53 p.m. PT

Web sites agree to be accessible to blind


ALBANY, N.Y. -- In one of the first enforcement actions of the Americans
with Disabilities Act on the Internet, two major travel services have
agreed to make sites more accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

Priceline.com and Ramada.com have agreed to changes that will allow users
with "screen reader software" and other technology to navigate and listen
to the text throughout their Web sites, according to New York Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer.

Although the software and other devices, including a vibrating mouse that
lets the blind "feel" boxes and images on the computer screen, have been
available for years, Web sites must have specific coding that allows the
equipment to operate, Spitzer said.

"This is a precedent-setting decision," said Carl Augusto, president and
CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind. "We hope it's going to be
influencing other companies throughout the United States so that the 10
million blind and visually impaired people can fully participate in our
society at all levels."

"It's the right thing to do, and it's good business," said Augusto, who is
visually impaired.

Spitzer's settlement follows investigations over the last two years to
determine if Web sites conform to the federal act and state law that
require all "places of public accommodation" and all "goods, services,
facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations" be accessible to
the disabled.

Priceline.com has already made the Web site accessible for the visually
disabled to get airline tickets, said the firm's spokesman, Brian Ek. By
the end of the year, the entire travel site will be accessible, he said.

Ek said the firm encourages other firms to do the same. He said the firm
isn't releasing the cost of making the entire site accessible for the
visually disabled, but said it won't be enough to reduce earnings.

A spokesman for Ramada.com didn't immediately respond to a request for

"Accessible Web sites are the wave of the future and the right thing to
do." Spitzer said. "We applaud these companies for taking responsible and
proper steps to make their Web sites accessible to the blind and visually
impaired. We urge all companies who have not done so to follow their

Ramada.com and Priceline.com, which face no charges and make no admissions
of guilt, will pay the state $40,000 and $37,500 to cover the
investigation's cost. Spitzer said both firms were cooperative.


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