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Thread: LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit

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From: Cynthia Waddell
Date: Sat, Feb 21 2009 2:30PM
Subject: LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit
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Everyone-

On Thursday, February 19th, the National Federation of the Blind filed a
complaint against the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) in California
today for violations of California's Unruh Act and Disabled Persons Act as a
result of LSAC's inaccessible web site and LSAT preparation materials. For
more information see press release below and also www.dralegal.org.

Here is the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:

Chris Danielsen

Director of Public Relations

National Federation of the Blind

(410) 659-9314, extension 2330

(410) 262-1281 (Cell)
= EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =

LSAC Discriminates Against Blind Law School Applicants
National Federation of the Blind Sues Law School Admissions Council for
Inaccessible Web Site and LSAT Preparation Materials

Baltimore, Maryland (February 19, 2009): The National Federation of the
Blind, the nation's oldest and largest organization of blind people; its
California affiliate; and a blind law school applicant, Deepa Goraya, are
filing a lawsuit today against the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC).
The complaint asserts that the LSAC, the body that administers the Law
School Admissions Test (which most aspiring law students must take) and
provides other services to law schools and law school applicants, violates
the California Disabled Persons Act and the Unruh Act because its Web site
(www.lsac.org) and LSAT preparation materials are inaccessible to blind law
school applicants. The plaintiffs have attempted to meet with the LSAC to
resolve the matter, but the LSAC canceled a planned meeting.

Blind people access Web sites on computers equipped with screen access
software that converts what is on the screen into synthesized speech or
Braille. The keyboard is used instead of a mouse to navigate the Web site
and click on selected links or buttons. If a Web site is improperly coded,
however, blind computer users cannot access the site. Blind people can also
use screen readers to access certain kinds of electronic documents,
including those in the popular Portable Document Format (PDF). However, if
PDF files are not properly "tagged," they cannot be used by the blind. The
LSAC Web site contains accessibility barriers including improperly formatted
online forms, tables and charts that cannot be read by screen access
software, and faulty keyboard navigation support. These access barriers
make it difficult or impossible for blind people to use the Web site to
register to take the LSAT, among other things. The Web site is also the
only avenue for people to apply online to any law school accredited by the
American Bar Association. However, blind applicants cannot submit their
applications without sighted assistance because the application forms are
improperly formatted. In addition, none of the LSAT practice materials,
which include previously administered versions of the test that sighted
people can obtain on the LSAC Web site, are available in accessible
electronic formats.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said:
"The Internet is extremely useful to blind people, as well as our sighted
peers, when Web sites are properly formatted according to well-established
guidelines; there is no good reason for any Web site offering goods and
services to the public to be inaccessible to blind people. For too long,
blind people have experienced barriers to entering the legal profession,
despite our long history of demonstrated success in that field. The
National Federation of the Blind will not sit quietly while the LSAC
willfully refuses to provide the same services to blind people seeking
admission to law school that it does to the sighted. The LSAC is engaging
in blatant discrimination against the blind and we will not stand for it."

Deepa Goraya, a law school applicant and named plaintiff in the suit, said:
"Trying to use the LSAC Web site made the experience of applying to law
school a nightmare when it should have been as easy for me as for anyone
else. I had to select and rely upon a reader for over fifty hours to
complete my law school applications. Also, none of the practice tests
available on the Web site were accessible. I want the process of gaining
admission to law school to be easier for all blind people who are interested
in entering this noble profession, and I hope this action will achieve that
goal."
###

About the National Federation of the Blind

With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the
largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the
United States. The NFB improves blind people's lives through advocacy,
education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and
self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and
the voice of the nation's blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the
National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and
training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind.

Best regards,

Cynthia Waddell


--------------------------------------------------
Cynthia D. Waddell, JD
Executive Director and
Law, Policy and Technology Consultant
International Center for Disability Resources
on the Internet (ICDRI) Phone: (408) 691-6921

ICT Accessibility & Government Services Expert
United Nations Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs
www.g3ict.com

ICDRI is based in
Raleigh, North Carolina USA
http://www.icdri.org/CynthiaW/cynthia_d.htm

See My Books!
Web Accessibility: Web Standards and
Regulatory Compliance by Apress 2006
at www.icdri.org/WSR_Book.htm
See also Constructing Accessible Web Sites
www.icdri.org/constructing_accessible_web_site.htm

Is your Web Site Accessible?
Find out now with Cynthia Says! www.cynthiasays.com
Endorsed by the American Council of the Blind,
the CynthiaSaysTM portal is a joint Education
and Outreach project of ICDRI, The Internet
Society Disability and Special Needs Chapter,
and HiSoftware.

From: Zdenek, Sean
Date: Sun, Feb 22 2009 10:25AM
Subject: Re: LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit
Previous message | Next message

Thanks, Cynthia, for the info on NFB v. LSAC.

I went searching yesterday for more information about this complaint – I read everything I could find, including the complaint -- and found that the NFB’s press release has already been reprinted verbatim on a number of general news sites, including Yahoo!, CNBC, AOL, and Forbes. On only two law sites was I able to find any response from the LSAC. I document my search for info and my analysis of what I found in this blog entry: http://seanzdenek.com/?p=52

Not surprisingly, the LSAC has a different story to tell, but to date their story is not being disseminated on general news sites. The NFB’s press release has dominated the rhetorical landscape. What you wouldn’t know from reading the press release or the news sites (where the press release has been disseminated) is that the LSAC claims to have made significant progress on revising its website and seems much more willing than the press release implies to work with the NFB.

As a result, I’m interested in 1) the responsibility of news organizations to present the dispute in a more balanced way, and 2) the extent to which a press release can frame a story, set the terms of discussion, be disseminated as objective news, and offer disputed items as facts.

I'm both sympathetic to the NFB's complaint and, because my background is in rhetoric, interested in the rhetorical dimensions of it all.

Sean

---------------------------
Sean Zdenek, PhD
Assistant Professor
Technical Communication & Rhetoric
Department of English
Texas Tech University
806.742.2500 x284
Office: 472 English Building
= EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =

http://cms.english.ttu.edu/zdenek

From: Cynthia Waddell
Date: Sun, Feb 22 2009 11:35AM
Subject: Re: LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit
Previous message | Next message

Sean,
I read your blog about the LSAC matter and you raise interesting points,
including the question: What is the responsibility of news agencies when
announcements of lawsuits are made? Your blog asks about balanced reporting
and whether or not there is a responsibility for the reporting agency to
present both sides.

Perhaps it would be of value to evaluate press releases made by a plaintiff
or defendant in a lawsuit? Press releases, by their nature in a U.S.
litigation posture, can be one-sided. Sometimes there are privileged facts
that cannot be disclosed precisely because a lawsuit has been filed. I
suspect that sometimes press releases are used as part of the overall
bargaining between parties to launch the dispute into the public sphere for
influence. On the other hand, lawsuits are a serious matter and press
releases should not be used to play games with the reputations of the
parties involved.

You might want to take a look at all NFB press releases to see if the tone
and rhetoric is the same as this one. I doubt you will see balanced
reporting on all of them. Consider comparing NFB press releases announcing
lawsuits with other civil rights press releases - maybe you may or may not
see language style differences. I also wonder if there is something about
social justice issues and civil rights that makes this type of press release
different from a different one about litigation over a non-civil rights
issue?

We will all stay tuned to this case since it is building upon California
case law established under the Target web accessibility case.

Best regards,
Cynthia Waddell



--------------------------------------------------
Cynthia D. Waddell, JD
Executive Director and
Law, Policy and Technology Consultant
International Center for Disability Resources
on the Internet (ICDRI) Phone: (408) 691-6921

ICT Accessibility & Government Services Expert
United Nations Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs
www.g3ict.com

ICDRI is based in
Raleigh, North Carolina USA
http://www.icdri.org/CynthiaW/cynthia_d.htm

See My Books!
Web Accessibility: Web Standards and
Regulatory Compliance by Apress 2006
at www.icdri.org/WSR_Book.htm
See also Constructing Accessible Web Sites
www.icdri.org/constructing_accessible_web_site.htm

Is your Web Site Accessible?
Find out now with Cynthia Says! www.cynthiasays.com
Endorsed by the American Council of the Blind,
the CynthiaSaysTM portal is a joint Education
and Outreach project of ICDRI, The Internet
Society Disability and Special Needs Chapter,
and HiSoftware.

-----Original Message-----
From: Zdenek, Sean [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ]
Sent: Sunday, February 22, 2009 9:22 AM
To: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ; WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: RE: [WebAIM] LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit

Thanks, Cynthia, for the info on NFB v. LSAC.

I went searching yesterday for more information about this complaint - I
read everything I could find, including the complaint -- and found that the
NFB's press release has already been reprinted verbatim on a number of
general news sites, including Yahoo!, CNBC, AOL, and Forbes. On only two law
sites was I able to find any response from the LSAC. I document my search
for info and my analysis of what I found in this blog entry:
http://seanzdenek.com/?p=52

Not surprisingly, the LSAC has a different story to tell, but to date their
story is not being disseminated on general news sites. The NFB's press
release has dominated the rhetorical landscape. What you wouldn't know from
reading the press release or the news sites (where the press release has
been disseminated) is that the LSAC claims to have made significant progress
on revising its website and seems much more willing than the press release
implies to work with the NFB.

As a result, I'm interested in 1) the responsibility of news organizations
to present the dispute in a more balanced way, and 2) the extent to which a
press release can frame a story, set the terms of discussion, be
disseminated as objective news, and offer disputed items as facts.

I'm both sympathetic to the NFB's complaint and, because my background is in
rhetoric, interested in the rhetorical dimensions of it all.

Sean

---------------------------
Sean Zdenek, PhD
Assistant Professor
Technical Communication & Rhetoric
Department of English
Texas Tech University
806.742.2500 x284
Office: 472 English Building
= EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =

http://cms.english.ttu.edu/zdenek

From: Cynthia Waddell
Date: Sun, Feb 22 2009 11:40AM
Subject: Re: LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit
Previous message | Next message

Sean,
I read your blog about the LSAC matter and you raise interesting points,
including the question: What is the responsibility of news agencies when
announcements of lawsuits are made? Your blog asks about balanced reporting
and whether or not there is a responsibility for the reporting agency to
present both sides.

Perhaps it would be of value to evaluate press releases made by a plaintiff
or defendant in a lawsuit? Press releases, by their nature in a U.S.
litigation posture, can be one-sided. Sometimes there are privileged facts
that cannot be disclosed precisely because a lawsuit has been filed. I
suspect that sometimes press releases are used as part of the overall
bargaining between parties to launch the dispute into the public sphere for
influence. On the other hand, lawsuits are a serious matter and press
releases should not be used to play games with the reputations of the
parties involved.

You might want to take a look at all NFB press releases to see if the tone
and rhetoric is the same as this one. I doubt you will see balanced
reporting on all of them. Consider comparing NFB press releases announcing
lawsuits with other civil rights press releases - maybe you may or may not
see language style differences. I also wonder if there is something about
social justice issues and civil rights that makes this type of press release
different from a different one about litigation over a non-civil rights
issue?

We will all stay tuned to this case since it is building upon California
case law established under the Target web accessibility case.

Best regards,
Cynthia Waddell



--------------------------------------------------
Cynthia D. Waddell, JD
Executive Director and
Law, Policy and Technology Consultant
International Center for Disability Resources
on the Internet (ICDRI) Phone: (408) 691-6921

ICT Accessibility & Government Services Expert
United Nations Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs
www.g3ict.com

ICDRI is based in
Raleigh, North Carolina USA
http://www.icdri.org/CynthiaW/cynthia_d.htm

See My Books!
Web Accessibility: Web Standards and
Regulatory Compliance by Apress 2006
at www.icdri.org/WSR_Book.htm
See also Constructing Accessible Web Sites
www.icdri.org/constructing_accessible_web_site.htm

Is your Web Site Accessible?
Find out now with Cynthia Says! www.cynthiasays.com
Endorsed by the American Council of the Blind,
the CynthiaSaysTM portal is a joint Education
and Outreach project of ICDRI, The Internet
Society Disability and Special Needs Chapter,
and HiSoftware.

-----Original Message-----
From: Zdenek, Sean [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ]
Sent: Sunday, February 22, 2009 9:22 AM
To: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ; WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: RE: [WebAIM] LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit

Thanks, Cynthia, for the info on NFB v. LSAC.

I went searching yesterday for more information about this complaint - I
read everything I could find, including the complaint -- and found that the
NFB's press release has already been reprinted verbatim on a number of
general news sites, including Yahoo!, CNBC, AOL, and Forbes. On only two law
sites was I able to find any response from the LSAC. I document my search
for info and my analysis of what I found in this blog entry:
http://seanzdenek.com/?p=52

Not surprisingly, the LSAC has a different story to tell, but to date their
story is not being disseminated on general news sites. The NFB's press
release has dominated the rhetorical landscape. What you wouldn't know from
reading the press release or the news sites (where the press release has
been disseminated) is that the LSAC claims to have made significant progress
on revising its website and seems much more willing than the press release
implies to work with the NFB.

As a result, I'm interested in 1) the responsibility of news organizations
to present the dispute in a more balanced way, and 2) the extent to which a
press release can frame a story, set the terms of discussion, be
disseminated as objective news, and offer disputed items as facts.

I'm both sympathetic to the NFB's complaint and, because my background is in
rhetoric, interested in the rhetorical dimensions of it all.

Sean

---------------------------
Sean Zdenek, PhD
Assistant Professor
Technical Communication & Rhetoric
Department of English
Texas Tech University
806.742.2500 x284
Office: 472 English Building
= EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =

http://cms.english.ttu.edu/zdenek

From: Zdenek, Sean
Date: Sun, Feb 22 2009 5:00PM
Subject: Re: LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit
Previous message | Next message

Thanks, Cynthia. Excellent suggestions.

Sean
---------------------------
Sean Zdenek, PhD
Assistant Professor
Technical Communication & Rhetoric
Department of English
Texas Tech University
806.742.2500 x284
Office: 472 English Building
= EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =

http://cms.english.ttu.edu/zdenek

From: Kroon.Kurtis
Date: Thu, Feb 26 2009 6:25PM
Subject: Re: LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit
Previous message | Next message

Question below ...

-----Original Message-----
From: Cynthia Waddell [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ]
Sent: Sunday, February 22, 2009 10:29 AM
To: 'Zdenek, Sean'; 'WebAIM Discussion List'
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit


<snip>

We will all stay tuned to this case since it is building upon California
case law established under the Target web accessibility case.

<snip>

[Kurtis] I'm definitely not a lawyer, but:

* The case was certified as a class-action suit.
* Target settled without admitting any wrong-doing -- i.e., that their website was inaccessible at any time prior to, during, or after the lawsuit.
* Part of the settlement included the creation of a set of guidelines to ensure that their site worked with screen readers (interesting document, by the way) ... "not that it didn't before, mind you" (see bullet above)

So ... don't these details prevent it from being cited as case law?

Kurtis Kroon
California Franchise Tax Board
916-845-5603

From: Cynthia Waddell
Date: Thu, Feb 26 2009 10:25PM
Subject: Re: LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit
Previous message | No next message

Mr. Kroon:
You are correct in that the Target case was settled and that Target admitted
to no wrong. However, it settled after the class actions were certified.

I should have been more precise by saying that the reasoning by the judge in
this case regarding the class certification can be used and can be cited as
persuasive authority.

In this respect, in this jurisdiction we now have important persuasive
authority regarding the Certification of Class Actions under both the ADA
and the California State Statutes of the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the
Disabled Persons Act.

The fact that the court certified an ADA class action was significant
because it was based on the legal theory of nexus. This jurisdiction has
held that the Internet is not a place of public accommodation and for that
reason the ADA does not apply to websites of entities covered under the ADA.
Instead, what happened in the Target case is that the judge accepted the
nexus argument that the ADA applies to brick and mortar business websites to
the extent that their website also sells the same products and services.
The judge's reasoning in the Target case provides persuasive authority
regarding nexus.

Secondly, the court certified a class under the Unruh Civil Rights Act and
Disabled Persons Act for residents of the State of California. The judge's
reasoning for the class certification under the State Statutes was not based
on a nexus theory. Instead, the judge interpreted the State statutes to be
broader than the ADA in their protection against non-discrimination.

Thank you for asking. I hope my response is helpful and that it clarifies
my thinking.

Best regards,
Cynthia Waddell



--------------------------------------------------
Cynthia D. Waddell, JD
Executive Director and
Law, Policy and Technology Consultant
International Center for Disability Resources
on the Internet (ICDRI) Phone: (408) 691-6921

ICT Accessibility & Government Services Expert
United Nations Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs
www.g3ict.com

ICDRI is based in
Raleigh, North Carolina USA
http://www.icdri.org/CynthiaW/cynthia_d.htm

See My Books!
Web Accessibility: Web Standards and
Regulatory Compliance by Apress 2006
at www.icdri.org/WSR_Book.htm
See also Constructing Accessible Web Sites
www.icdri.org/constructing_accessible_web_site.htm

Is your Web Site Accessible?
Find out now with Cynthia Says! www.cynthiasays.com
Endorsed by the American Council of the Blind,
the CynthiaSaysTM portal is a joint Education
and Outreach project of ICDRI, The Internet
Society Disability and Special Needs Chapter,
and HiSoftware.
-----Original Message-----
From: Kroon.Kurtis [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ]
Sent: Thursday, February 26, 2009 8:23 PM
To: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ; Zdenek, Sean
Cc: WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: RE: [WebAIM] LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit

Question below ...

-----Original Message-----
From: Cynthia Waddell [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ]
Sent: Sunday, February 22, 2009 10:29 AM
To: 'Zdenek, Sean'; 'WebAIM Discussion List'
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] LSAC Inaccessible Web Lawsuit


<snip>

We will all stay tuned to this case since it is building upon California
case law established under the Target web accessibility case.

<snip>

[Kurtis] I'm definitely not a lawyer, but:

* The case was certified as a class-action suit.
* Target settled without admitting any wrong-doing -- i.e., that their
website was inaccessible at any time prior to, during, or after the lawsuit.
* Part of the settlement included the creation of a set of guidelines to
ensure that their site worked with screen readers (interesting document, by
the way) ... "not that it didn't before, mind you" (see bullet above)

So ... don't these details prevent it from being cited as case law?

Kurtis Kroon
California Franchise Tax Board
916-845-5603