Dennis Lapcewich wrote:

In any case, I really would like to see a Section 508 (or ADA) case here in
the States brought against a private company.

According to http://www.phillipsnizer.com/internetlib.htm, there has been a Court challenge under the ADA and the private company won:

Access Now, Inc., et al. v. Southwest Airlines, Co.
   Case No. 02-21734-CIV-Seitz/Bandstra (S.D.Fla., October 18, 2002)

"Court holds that defendant Southwest Airlines Co.'s web site is not a "place of public accommodation" under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ("ADA") and accordingly that Southwest has no obligation under Title III to make its web site accessible to the visually impaired. Title III of the ADA prohibits those who operate "places of public accommodation" from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The Court held that under the plain and unambiguous language of the ADA a "public accommodation must be a physical, concrete structure." Because defendant's website was not such a structure, the Court dismissed plaintiffs' claims for relief under Title III of the ADA."
(more detail at http://www.phillipsnizer.com/library/cases/lib_case298.cfm)

(see also http://news.com.com/Judge+Disabilities+Act+doesnt+cover+Web/2100-1023_3-962761.html)


So, beware of the law - it's a double edged sword in the Land of the Fee ;-)

The law itself needs a court
challenge to test its validity and its viability with respect to electronic
accessibility.

508 is better than nothing, but it's still kinda weak and has outs all through it for the government agencies. Some commentators think that most complaints will be settled with agreements rather than lawsuits and I tend to agree. Governments don't like appearing in their own courts. So, if you want some form of action, start making complaints. Do what John Allsopp did in Aus. and start surveying the websites that don't comply. If everybody waits for someone else to do it, it'll never happen.

Only then can we as web developers have any teeth with web
standards, including accessibility.  At the same time, a successful court
case in favor of Section 508 (or ADA) would have repercussions much wider
than many may realize.

You still seem to be confusing the Rehabilitation Act with the ADA - 508 is part of the Rehab Act and the Rehab Act *only* applies to Federal (not even State) agencies. I don't think that's a "subtle distinction", as you suggest above - it's a major piece of the ball of wax. Any court action that will have meaningful effect on the private sector must come under the ADA and, currently, the legal opinion is that the ADA does not cover the Internet because it doesn't mention it specifically. Which is nuts, but there you go - put 3 lawyers in a room, get 7 opinions, all conflicting.

508 does specifically apply to the Internet, and other electronic goods and services, but you generally start there with an administrative complaint (http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/508/report2/complaints.htm) and lots of processes to bog down the complaint long before it gets near a court.

Can you imagine how some big web clients would
react to find out their sites are not accessible after their high profile
web developers assured them they were?   We've already seen on this list a
discussion about such a firm and their code on some big name sites.

With respect, I think you're being a little naive about this. It is far more cost-effective for a big company to sic lawyers on an issue than to actually rectify the problem - vis Microsoft vs. just about everybody. When big companies are spending millions to fight having to clean up toxic waste dumps they created, I can't see accessibility on the Internet being high on their corporate radar. Doesn't mean we stop trying, of course...

Oh, no way!  It's refreshing to read here about the (potential)
ramifications of the code we create.  Any honest discussions of web
standards needs to have regular doses of real-world effects of that code.

I agree completely - we need the discussions on this as much as we need the esoterica of CSS code.

Regards

Mark Harris
Technology Research and Consultancy Services
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