Section 508 lawsuits spur action in government and business

Recent law suits regarding compliance with Section 508 have the attention government agencies and businesses that contract with the federal government.  Two factors converge:

  1.  An exponential growth in electronic documents: More and more  information goes online and becomes immediately available to virtually every US citizen.
  2. More complaints: Electronic documents and web sites, formatted to “read” with assistive technology,  can be made accessible to disabled users, and the law is clear.

Most Section 508 lawsuits are brought by an individual in conjunction with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), part of NFB’s mission to support the complaints of it’s members. Adding the weight of NFB to these suits sends a message to thousands of agencies and affected businesses: If there is a legitimate complaint, your website and documents must be made accessible.

Lawsuits against government agencies:

The Small Business Administration (SBA) received an administrative complaint in July 2009 regarding its web site. This complaint was filed by the National Federation of the Blind and Virgil Stinnett, a blind business owner from Honolulu, Hawaii. According to NFB and Stinnett, SBA’s site violates Section 508 as it is inaccessible to blind people who use assistive devices and software.

On October 2009, NFB and Carlos Mora, a blind resident of Baltimore, filed an administrative complaint with the US Department of Education. The plaintiffs assert that one of the department’s websites, U.S.A. Learns, violates Section 508 because it is inaccessible to blind Internet users.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) received a lawsuit in August, 2009 regarding its web site. Again,  the National Federation of the Blind, this case in conjunction with Margot Downey, a blind Social Security beneficiary from Buffalo, New York.

And business:

The Target lawsuit is arguably one of the most well known cases centered on web accessibility. On February 7, 2006, Target Corporation received a lawsuit concerning the inaccessibility of its web site. This lawsuit was filed by the National Federation of the Blind and Bruce Sexton, a blind college student.

NFB and Sexton claimed that violated the ADA because blind users cannot browse among products and purchase the item they want. Blind users also can’t access information such as employment opportunities, investor news, and company policies. NFB and Target settled the lawsuit on August 27, 2008 for $6,000,000 plus additional damages and a stringent ongoing monitoring to ensure continued accessibility. Since then, Target has made efforts to make its site accessible to people who use assistive technologies.