IMPORTANT NEWS - Judge suggests USA Web Sites must be ADA
This is a very important announcement for anyone with a web site, and
any company who deploys Oracle databases on the web.
This article notes:
"A new federal ruling issued yesterday raises the bar for online
businesses, requiring them to meet the terms of the Americans with
Disabilities Act just as offline business have been required to do
since the law's passage in 1990."
Oracle professionals may want to
make their management aware of this ruling.
If your company has a retail web site (or any web service for the
public), this may apply to you.
This includes all
web-enabled Oracle databases, including Oracle Application
Server 10g, Oracle Application Express (Apex, formally HTML-DB)
and customized Oracle eBusiness Suite systems.
article says that failure to comply with the ADA could expose your company
to hefty fines, not to mention the risk of expensive
civil litigation and a getting a bad reputation for being
unfriendly to the disabled:
"In addition to getting an order to follow the law, the
Attorney General may ask the court to fine the public
accommodation up to $50,000 for a first violation and $100,000
for a second."
The new Federal ruling on the ADA
This article titled "Federal
Court Rules Online Businesses Must Comply with ADA" we
see that a California Federal judge has allowed a lawsuit to
proceed, ruling that that web sites
are "public places of accommodation", and that they must comply with the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
"The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of
California ruled yesterday that a retailer may be sued if its
website is inaccessible to the blind. . .
What this means is
that any place of business that provides services, such as the
opportunity to buy products on a website, is now, a place of
accommodation and therefore falls under the ADA."
According to CNN, the lawsuit is
National Federation of the Blind vs. Target Stores, where the
NBF claims that the Target online shopping web site that was inaccessible to the blind:
"The suit charges that Target's website is inaccessible to
the blind and therefore violates the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA), the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the
California Disabled Persons Act."
The CNN article also suggests that Amazon technology (a large
Oracle shop) may be involved:
"Target.com is "powered by Amazon.com,"
something defined on the site as utilizing "Amazon.com
technology and patented Web site
capabilities such as 1-Click checkout to
make shopping faster and more convenient for
Of course, the lawsuit is not over, and
Target has not lost the case. However, it
appears that this ruling may open the floodgates
for disabled people to sue anyone with retail
web sites that are not accessible.
Opening the floodgates for lawsuits
This is very bad news for Oracle web portals because disabled people have a strong
history of winning multi-million dollar judgments against business that do not provide
them with equal access. We can expect this ruling to open a
floodgate of new lawsuits against commercial public web sites.
For example, The
manufacturer of Automatic Teller Machines ( ATMs) was
sued by the National Federation of the Blind
because their ATM machines were not usable by the blind. In a
settlement, Diebold agreed to donate $1,000,000.00 to the NFB and agreed
to equip ATM’s with voice-guidance capabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees that disabled
people have a right to access any public "place of accommodation",
and ADA compliant has historically been confined to wheelchair ramps
and special bathroom fixtures. However, disabled people have
been expanding the law to include ATM and voting machines, and this
most recent ruling, public web sites.
This new ruling clearly defines any public web site as a public
"place of accommodation", and your web site must now comply with ADA
guidelines. See the article
Is Your Site ADA-Compliant ... or a Lawsuit-in-Waiting? If
you have a public web site that does not comply with ADA rules, you
risk two actions:
- Criminal Actions -
Disabled people can report illegal web sites to the Department
of Justice. The DOJ can authorize a $50,000 fine for the
- Civil Litigation -
Disabled advocates have a long history is lawsuits against
inaccessible public places, and multi-million dollar judgments
are not uncommon.
While compliance is not yet legally
mandated, many responsible companies want to "do the right thing"
and make their web sites accessible to the blind and deaf.
This article says it best:
"When people with
disabilities received legal protection, it wasn’t given out of
pity. It was given to protect their right to participate equally
Web designers and developers can enable that equal
participation with every site they design, using modern coding
principles. Or they can hide in a castle or a cave, clutching
their legacy code, certain that those evil, litigious disabled
people are out to get them."
Compliance with the ADA rules
The ADA requires all companies to make “reasonable
accommodations” for the disabled, including modifications to
- Modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or
to the manner or circumstances under which the position is
customarily performed, that enable a qualified individual
with a disability to perform the essential functions of the
- Modifications or adjustments that enable employees with
a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of
From this standard, we see seven
minimum requirements to ensure accessibility for the disabled:
1. Provide an Access
Instruction Page for Visitors (includes email hyperlink for
visitors to communicate problems with web page
2. Provide support for text browsers
3. Attach "Alt" tags to graphic images so that
screen-readers can identify the graphic
4. Hyperlink photographs with descriptive text "D"
5. Caption all audio and video clips by using "CC"
6. Provide alternative mechanisms for on-line forms (such as
email or voice/TTY phone numbers)
7. Avoid access barriers such as the posting of documents in
PDF, table, newspaper or frame format or requiring visitors
to download software. If posting in PDF, the HTML text or
ASCII file must also be posted.
In sum, it appears that retail
web sites must make every
reasonable effort to make their web site accessible to the
Checking your web site
for ADA compliance
You can check out your
accessibility here, the famous
Just enter the URL, and once it's done scanning you can
click the "Accessibility" link. Here is a sample
output from Bobby, showing specific illegal areas on a public
There are many companies that
offer consulting support to warrant that your web site is ADA
compliant. Burleson Consulting offers a complete service
that includes identification and correction of all illegal web
components for Oracle9iAS, Oracle10gAS, Oracle Applications
eBusiness Suite, Oracle Portal and Oracle Application Express
All publicly accessible systems
within the United States are required to adhere to Federal Law,
and managers risk malfeasance if they do not audit their public
web sites to verify that their
web portals are accessible to the blind and deaf users.
|For complete ADA
auditing, verification and repairs by Oracle certified consultants,
Burleson Consulting offers complete ADA validation
An Oracle JD speaks
Dave Kreines, J.D., an Oracle
DBA expert, law school graduate and author of the popular
DBA Pocket Guide" and "Oracle
in a Nutshell" books, notes the process behind this new ADA
Any person (in this case,
probably a member of the ADA class) can file a lawsuit. The
first step by defendant would be to ask to court to dismiss
the suit, and the ruling you have referenced is the ruling
on that motion. The quote you provide is exactly right: the
court ruled that "a retailer may be sued". It goes no
further than that, and does not offer any opinion on the
merits of that lawsuit.
What could happen next is that the lawsuit moves forward to
a trial, at which time the plaintiff MAY win, which would
then establish a precedent in the Northern District of
California for the specific details of the lawsuit. The
judge might also order specific remedies, which MIGHT
include an order to make the sites more accessible in sme
concrete way. This ruling (if it occurred) could then be
used as a precedent in other Federal districts. For example,
the Eastern District of Pennsylvania might hear a similar
But, the judge they might find differently. In that case,
could appeal to the Federal Court of Appeals. If the ruling
in the Eastern District of PA is upheld by the Court of
Appeals and conflicts with the ruling in California, then
the case COULD be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which
may or may not choose to hear it.
Actually, the scenario I described could also apply to the
initial ruling to hear the case - that too can be appealed
to the Court of Appeals in California, which may or may not
uphold the trial court ruling. As you can see, this all gets
very complex and more importantly, is very time consuming.
Assuming there is no initial appeal, the suit against the
retailer may not be heard for a year or more, and appeals
could take years. So, there is probably no real crisis
In addition, if and when plaintiff wins this suit, the
remedies (if any) ordered by the judge will not really
become "law" in the usual sense, but would become an
expected standard in the Northern District of California.
The Federal regulators who handle ADA (I'm not sure who that
is) would then attempt to make new rules, which would almost
certainly be litigated in another district. And it goes
Here are my notes on making web sites (not just Oracle back-end
sites) compliant with the ADA: