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Using Videos to Influence and Change Perceptions

I’ve just come back from speaking to a lady who works in the same company that pays my wages and who has rapidly diminishing eyesight - a rare eye condition has left her with something similar to cataracts, and a feeling of seeing everything through a heavy white curtain. The reason for my visit was to interview her and capture it on video, and ultimately the edited clip will be used in presentations that I’ll be doing within the company. Because it’s all well and good to talk about accessibility affecting people ‘out there’ but for many people these kinds of people are ‘mythical beasts’, so what better way than to show that "these people are here, working under the same roof as you - and they won’t thank you for not making your web pages or web apps accessible".

So it’s fantastic that as I sit here, with freshly videotaped evidence in hand, that I discover this set of videos on the web. Admittedly, these are promotional videos for AssistiveWare’s technology rather than a general collection of videos of people using other assistive tech, but it’s still darned useful for the likes of us who sometimes need to demonstrate to people the various ways that disabled users interact with web pages. I’d be more than happy for the likes of Freedom Scientific or GW Micro to take the same approach. More video resources are very welcome indeed!

[Note - I know that this is not a new resource, just new to me, as it was new to Roger. That's the beauty of using - I found it in the popular page for the accessibility tag]

Comments (3) Posted by Ian on Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Is this the test case we’ve all been waiting for?

Summary: Target case now open for class action and every blind person in the U.S. who has tried to access can become a plaintiff.

Summary of summary: Target, you’re screwed.
[Well, maybe … possibly, but I am not a lawyer, usual disclaimers apply]

Many times in the past when explaining to people why accessibility is important, I’ve rolled out the legal argument – why it’s something that you should do if you want to be on the right side of the law, whether that’s the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the States or the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in UK. But when asked for examples, I’ve always had to pull out the Australian Sydney 2000 Olympics case .. and that’s about it. The legal threat has always felt just that – a threat, not a reality. To that extent, I don’t tend to lead with the legal reason now, instead focusing on the business benefits of getting accessibility right and the moral reasons. But that may be about to change.

Early last year, a California resident brought a legal case against because of their web site’s inaccessibility. It looked for a while like it might ‘quietly go away’ as has often happened in the past, mainly because Target made some changes and also Amazon announced that it would be working with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), a move which seemed out of character to many - and the significance of this is that Amazon, often touted as an example of inaccessible page design, is powering’s e-commerce capabilities. In short, it looked like Amazon might be cozying up with ‘the enemy’ to appear to be doing the right thing. Well, that’s largely irrelevant now, as it doesn’t appear to have helped in the long run.

The Target case has reared its head once more and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has certified the NFB lawsuit against Target as a class action and ruled that websites like are required, under California state law, to be accessible. This means that any blind user in the states who has tried to access can join the class action which must, surely, spell a whole heap of trouble for Target. It’s the test case that the accessibility community knew had to happen one day – and indeed were welcoming it – while the business world tried the old emu avoidance method by sticking their head in the ground and hoping they don’t get caught. Or is that ostriches? Matt May wrote the following on the topic in February last year:

But I’ve also seen cases where it’s a legal game of chicken: some companies refuse to comply with a legal mandate that they feel doesn’t clearly apply to them. They’re gambling that the cost of being found guilty of non-compliance is lower than that of conforming to a standard that may not apply to them. This strategy falls apart like a house of cards as soon as one of them is found liable. And it’s a tactic I find particularly odious when they’re consciously acting to keep users with disabilities out.

So this one looks like it’s going to run and run and not, as Target might have hoped, quietly go away. One question to ask at this stage is how this might spill over to other countries – will UK look at this case and take it as a precedent? Like I said, I’m not a lawyer, so if you are please add your thoughts in the comments.

Comments (11) Posted by Ian on Friday, October 5, 2007