NFB alleges Oracle Human Resources software is not blind-friendly
Because you have the right to my opinion
this article, National Federation for the Blind (NFB) members in
Texas are suing again, claiming that the Oracle
Human Resources software does not meet the Texas State accessibility requirements
for the blind. The NFB is a blind organization that represents
less than 10% of the USA blind population.
BC has published our notes about
ADA compliance for
Oracle systems, and we have noted that
Oracle has been a leader
in blind compliance, publishing useful standards for Oracle system
The press release does not provide details, but it appears that this site is
using "Jaws", a popular tool to speak-out written text from screens, and that
the software deliberately disabled Jaws for privacy reasons, for their payroll
and job performance review functions.
It looks like a no-win to me. If they enable Jaws, bystanders might
hear private information, and it they don't use Jaws, the blind folks cannot use
the screens . . . .
Oracle becomes a target
With the announcement of this lawsuit, Oracle Corporation joins the ranks of
other successful companies that have become a deep-pockets target for the NFB
The remedies for blind people include the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (For Federal Government
computer systems), and in this case, a Texas State law mandating accessibility
for Texas government computer systems.
The announcement of the
NFB lawsuit against Oracle suggests that it is possible that a complex
computer system can be made accessible to people who cannot see. They also
cite this alleged complaint about Oracle HR software by a blind person:
""I am unable to review and enter information such as my hours worked and
leave taken unless a sighted person helps me to do so. Even worse, I can't
access critical information about the employees that I supervise without the
assistance of a sighted person.
Because I must have sighted assistance for all of these personnel
functions, both my privacy and the privacy of my employees are routinely
violated. I've complained about the problems with the software, but nothing
has been done to fix them.
I hope this lawsuit will spur Oracle to move quickly to correct this
problem; otherwise the state will have to purchase human resources software
from someone else."
Computer system compliance and the ADA
There is a great debate about whether a corporate computer system is covered
under the ADA, and further disagreement about whether web sites are a "place of
public accommodation", as defined in the ADA.
However, other Federal regulations for government employees mandate
accessibility to government computer systems by the blind. The
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 contains an important sub-section commonly referred
to as Section 508.
The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) is a task group charged
with interpreting the ramifications of ADA and Section 508. The ITAA includes a
representative from Oracle Corporation, and they published a prediction of the
increasing scope of Section 508:
?At first blush, the Section 508 issue may appear to be limited to the
federal procurement process. ITAA and its Task Group believe that changes in
Federal procurement standards will ultimately affect the broader consumer
software and technology market as well.
The ultimate regulations promulgated under Section 508 will be adopted by
many states in their procurement processes as well as most educational
institutions receiving funds from the U.S. Department of Education.?
Oracle's commitment to blind Accessibility
Oracle appears to be very serious about accessibility for the blind and Oracle
has published a highly-detailed whitepaper titled
Oracle Forms Applications? in 2002 that states guidelines for Oracle
development using Oracle tools.
Federal Law and Oracle Internet Systems
With the requirement to make in-house Oracle systems accessible, many blind
advocacy groups such as the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) are
stretch the ADA laws to cover internet web pages and corporate computer