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No decision from the Appeals court was Re: [webwatch] Disabilities Act doesn't cover Web, court says


From: Jim Thatcher
Date: Sep 28, 2004 9:44AM

This case, from a Florida District Court alleged that Southwest.com, being
inaccessible, violated the ADA - because they held, Southwest.com was a
place of public accommodation and therefore fell under Title III of the ADA.

This decision of the Appellate Court offers nothing new. On appeal, the case
was made that Southwest.com was a "travel service" and thus subject to ADA.
The appellate brief and oral arguments didn't even allege that Southwest.com
is a place of public accommodation. The Appellate court ruled on neither
issue. They didn't rule on the travel service idea because that was not
raised in the District Court. They didn't rule on the public accommodation
issue because the appeal didn't raise that issue. They dismissed the appeal
on procedural grounds and did not consider the question of "public

The judge did recognize the importance of the issues: "In declining to
evaluate the merits of this case, we are in no way unmindful that the legal
questions raised are significant," wrote Judge Stanley Marcus.

News article (http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-5384087.html)
Opinion (PDF) (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/11th/0216163p.pdf)


Accessibility Consulting: http://jimthatcher.com/

-----Original Message-----
From: Jennifer Sutton [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ]
Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2004 10:00 AM
To: Recipient list suppressed
Subject: [webwatch] Disabilities Act doesn't cover Web, court says

Disabilities Act doesn't cover Web, court says
Declan McCullagh
CNET News.com September 27, 2004, 10:19 AM PT
Web publishers are not required to comply with the Americans with
Disabilities Act,
a federal appeals court has ruled.
Acting largely on procedural grounds
, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a
lower court's decision
from October 2002, which concluded that Web sites cannot be required to
comply with
the 1991 disabilities law. An advocacy group for the blind had sued
Southwest Airlines,
seeking a redesign of its Web site.
Still, the three-judge panel noted that a future case could provide a
vehicle for
exploring the question in greater depth. "In declining to evaluate the
merits of
this case, we are in no way unmindful that the legal questions raised are
wrote Judge
Stanley Marcus
If the case had turned out differently, the outcome could have had
far-reaching effects
by imposing broad new requirements on companies hoping to do business
online in states
in the 11th Circuit, which includes Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
The ADA says that any "place of public accommodation" must be accessible to
with disabilities, and the law lists 12 categories, including hotels,
shopping centers, universities and bowling alleys. It does not name the
This lawsuit was filed by advocacy group
Access Now
and a blind man named Robert Gumson. They admitted that it was possible
for the
blind to buy tickets on Southwest's site but argued that it was "extremely
Gumson, who said he had a screen reader with a voice synthesizer on his
asked the judge to order Southwest to provide text that could serve as an
to the graphics on its site and to redesign the site's navigation bar to
make it
easier for him to understand.
Since the time the lawsuit was filed, Southwest appears to have redesigned
its Web
site to be easier to navigate for the blind. CNET News.com was able to make
using the Lynx text-only browser without encountering any compatibility or
Courts have reached different conclusions about whether the ADA might apply
to the
Web. The 7th Circuit suggested in 1999 that the ADA may apply to a Web site
or other
facilities that exist only electronically. But the Access Now v. Southwest
case was
the first to address the question directly.
At a February 2000 hearing, a board member of the National Federation of
the Blind
asked Congress
to expand the ADA. "I urge this subcommittee to affirm the importance of
to this new world we're entering and to differentiate between the
real-world needs
of blind people and the hypothetical and yet-unproved burden placed on
small businesses
being required to ensure access," board member Gary Wunder said.
Last month, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group released
updated working draft
of its extensive guidelines for online publishers. They suggest, for
instance, text
tags on graphical elements and captions accompanying a video clip in an
online news

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