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Update on Accessible Web & Electronic Book Litigation

Cynthia D. Waddell, Juris Doctor
Executive Director
Law, Policy and Technology Subject Matter Expert
International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet (ICDRI)

Contact Information
E-mail: Cynthia.Waddell@icdri.org


CSUN 2010 San Diego, CA   USA

March 22- 27, 2010     Copyright 2010


1. Overview Part I: Accessible Web Litigation

  • Active Litigation

  • Section 508 Administrative Complaints

  • USDOJ Project Civic Access Settlement Agreements

  •  Other Settlement Agreement

2. Overview Part II: Electronic Book Litigation

  • Reading Rights Coalition

  • NFB & ACB Kindle Complaint v. Six Colleges & Universities

  • Settlements Joined by USDOJ: Pace University, Reed College, Case Western & Arizona State

3.  Boggs v. LA Co MTA

  • 2006 Complaint that Website Not Accessible; Expert Witness

  • Notice of Class Action & Proposed Settlement Pending; March 29 Hearing

  • Website Bus Schedule, Fare and Route Info, Trip Planner and Online Customer Comment Form to meet W3C Standards

4.  NFB Section 508 Complaints re Federal Agency Websites

  • Department of Education

        October 27, 2009: Website “USA Learns” prevents blind users from navigating content of English vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation lessons

5.  NFB Section 508 Complaints re Federal Agency Websites

  • Social Security Administration

        August 24, 2009: Blind users cannot fill out forms and questionnaires on the website or access information about their benefits

6.  NFB Section 508 Complaints re Federal Agency Websites

  • Small Business Administration

        July 22, 2009: Blind users cannot fill out forms or take online courses; plaintiff business owner providing military dining services could not apply for certification that would give him access to federal & private procurement markets

7. US Department of Justice- Project Civic Access

  • Sample Period: April – June 2009

  • Village of Midlothian, Illinois

  • Gregg County, Texas

  • City of Niagara Falls, New York

  • Port St. Lucie, Florida

  • Fayette County, Pennsylvania

  • Chautauqua, New York

8. US Department of Justice- Project Civic Access

  • Required to Distribute “Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites    to People with Disabilities” at www.ada.gov/websites2.htm

  • To All employees & contractors who design, develop, and maintain content and format of its website(s) or 3rd party websites used by the entity

9.  US Department of Justice- Project Civic Access

  • Establish, implement, & post web accessibility policy online;

  • Ensure that all new and modified web pages and content are accessible;

  • Develop and implement plan for making existing web content more accessible;

10.  US Department of Justice- Project Civic Access

  • Provide a way for online visitors to request accessible information or services by posting a telephone number or e-mail address on its home page; and

  • Periodically (at least annually) enlist people with disabilities to test its pages for ease of use.

11.  Major League Baseball mlb.com

  • Settlement Dated September 2008 Made Public February 2010 between American Council of the Blind, the Bay State Council of the Blind and the CA Council of the Blind

  • Accessibility of mlb.com and every baseball club in the major league

12.  Major League Baseball mlb.com

  • Mlb.com launched an accessible media center for Gameday Audio™ subscribers added volume control, ability to choose the home or away feed & access to archived games 

  • All-Star Game online voting programs made accessible

  • Accessibility Page

13.  NY AG v. HSBC Card Services

  • September 1, 2009 NY Attorney General Announces Nationwide Agreement

  • Company serves millions of customers and is required to enhance policies and systems to accommodate customers with vision and hearing impairments

14.  NY AG v. HSBC Card Services

  • Website to Meet W3C WCAG 2.0 by  May 31, 2010

  • Statements, notices, & forms to be available in alternative accessible formats, including web

  • Provide reader services via toll-free customer assistance line for customers with visual impairments

15.  NY AG v. HSBC Card Services

  • Train customer service staff for responding to TDD/TTY or Relay Service calls; monitor for Quality Assurance

  • Adopt clear, uniform procedures on how to receive, review, track and promptly respond to accommodation requests

  • Designate ADA Coordinator

16.  Staples Accessible Web Settlement

  • April 2009 press release announces previously unreported structured negotiation settlement of Dec. 31, 2008 between American Foundation for the Blind, CCB & Bay State Council

  • Staples.com to conform to WCAG 1.0 or WCAG 2.0 by June 30, 2009

17.  Staples Accessible Web Settlement

  • Staples agreed to post information on website and link to homepage describing efforts to comply with W3C WCAG

  • Staples agreed to provide method for users to notify them about access problems

18.  Staples Accessible Web Settlement

  • Staples agreed to notify website    visitors when they are linking to third-party content

  • Staples will request third parties that supply web content to staples.com to voluntarily bring their content into conformance with WCAG 1.0 Priority levels 1 and 2

19.  Staples Accessible Web Settlement

  • For all Staples requests for proposals or contracts for development or inclusion of third party content, Staples will require the third party to make good faith efforts to comply with W3C WCAG

  • If Captcha is to be used, then Staples will provide alternative

20.  CVS Web Accessibility Agreement

  • April 15, 2009-Structured negotiation settlement between the nation’s largest retail pharmacy and the American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, & CCB

  • CVS agreed to upgrade website to conform to W3C WCAG 1.0, Priority Levels 1 and 2

21.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • Kindle Text to Speech and the Reading Rights Coalition (RRC)

        [Photos of Kindle and Kindle DX]]

22.  Electronic Book Litigation

[photos of NY Protest – background of RRC]

23.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • April 2009, Six Colleges and Universities announce pilot projects with Amazon to use the Kindle DX in classes

  • University of Washington, Winthrop University and Concordia College joined

  • Other colleges bought Kindles for their libraries

24.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • Kindle DX features text-to-speech technology that can read textbooks aloud to blind students but the menus  of the device are not accessible

  • Blind students cannot purchase books from Amazon’s Kindle store, select a book to read, activate the text-to-speech feature nor use advanced features

25.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • June 2009- NFB and ACB v. Arizona State University to prevent deployment of Amazon’s Kindle DX electronic reading device as a means of distributing textbooks because the device cannot be used by blind students

26.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • NFB & ACB complaints also filed against 5 institutions: Case Western Reserve University; the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia; Pace University; Princeton University; and Reed College

27.  Electronic Book Litigation

Kindle DX Textbook Discriminatory Issues Based On

  • Timeliness

  • Content

  • Features

  • Cost

  • Web Browser

28.  Electronic Book Litigation


  • Kindle DX textbooks are available for download 60 seconds, 24 hrs a day

  • Alternative format textbooks often take weeks or months to receive and must be ordered specially through Disabled Student Services offices, often far in advance of a class 

29.  Electronic Book Litigation


  • Has structural data- chapter headings, page numbers and footnotes that provide easy navigation

  • Electronic files generated by DSS are generally “text dumps” without  structural data

30.  Electronic Book Litigation


  • Free instant access to dictionary definitions for any word that is highlighted by the reader and the ability to highlight and annotate text

  • Not available for Electronic files, taped texts, and Braille textbooks

31.  Electronic Book Litigation


  • Per Amazon’s promotional materials Kindle books and periodicals are much less expensive than their print versions

  • Blind students are generally required to pay the higher price for a print book as a condition of receiving the content in an electronic file

32.  Electronic Book Litigation

Web Browser:

  • Kindle DX includes a free web browser that is not contingent on the availability of Internet access through cable, broadband, or WiFi
  • Kindle relies on cell phone networks & is available nearly anywhere

33.  Electronic Book Litigation

Web Browser (cont’d):

  • Students with disabilities must obtain separate Internet access, often at substantial expense, & requiring  physical or wireless Internet connection

  • Result in additional costs & limitations on location

34.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • In response to the Reading Rights Coalition advocacy, Syracuse University, the University of Wisconsin at Madison & the University of Illinois at Urbana—Champaign have announced they will not purchase new Kindles or other e-books for libraries or classes unless they are accessible

35.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • Arizona State University Settles Jan 2010

  • December 2009 Case Western, Pace University and Reed College Settle; USDOJ pursues similar agreements with Princeton and Darden School of Business, University of Virginia

  • Concordia College discontinues program

36.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • USDOJ theme: college will not purchase, promote, recommend or require a Kindle DX or any other dedicated electronic book reader for use by students until

  1. Device is fully accessible

  2. Reasonable accommodation or modification

37.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • USDOJ theme: Electronic book reader is fully accessible if all uses of the device that are available to individuals without disabilities are available to individuals with visual impairments and in a manner equally as effective

38.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • USDOJ theme:  Reasonable accommodation or modification for students with visual impairments is determined on case-by-case basis

39.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • USDOJ theme:  Factors for determining the accommodation or modification for students with visual impairments

  • Students should be able to access and acquire the same information

  • Engage in the same interactions

40.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • USDOJ theme:  Factors for determining the accommodation or modification for students with visual impairments (cont’d)

  • Enjoy same services as sighted students

  • Enjoy ease of use substantially equivalent to that provided to sighted students

41.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • USDOJ makes it clear in press release that the settlements were not targeted to Amazon, but at the growing ebook reader industry

42.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • Textbooks may be next big ebook market in California due to new law: Education Code 66410

  • Requires all textbooks in all postsecondary institutions to be  available in ebook formats “to the  extent practicable. . . in whole or in part” by 2020

43.  Electronic Book Litigation

  • Amazon announces on December 9, 2009 that audio menu features would be available on Kindle e-readers by Summer 2010

44.  New Entrants to eReader Field

  • April 3, 2010: Apple iPad released- captioning, Text-to-speech, & magnification
  • Any Day: Kurzweil’s Blio- free eReader software, platform independent, multiple devices, translation capabilities, virtual library shelf, reads pdfs aloud

45. Resources

46. Contact Information

Cynthia D. Waddell, Juris Doctor

Executive Director and Law, Policy and Technology Subject Matter Expert

International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet (ICDRI)


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