Weblogs: Web Accessibility

Southwest Airlines ADA Ruling

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

The U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz has dismissed the suit against Southwest Airlines for discrimination against a blind visitor to their website by disagreeing or misinterpreting the ADA and its associated legislation. She ruled that websites are not covered by ADA even though there is a US Department of Justice.

I posted on Usenet a summary of what I understood when comparing the conclusions of Government based MARTA case with the South West Airlines -- both based around ADA:

ADA itself

ADA covers government agencies, businesses working with governmental agencies and "Public Accommodations". The latter is businesses offering what is accepted as a service to the general public. ADA, and its many commentaries cover the definition of public accommodation, and although the wording hasn't been formally tested in a court of law, the Department of Justice has released a communication whereby it recognises businesses running a website offering a service to the general public are Public Accommodation.

South West airlines case

The South West airlines case referred to above wasn't thrown out because it was a private business, but because the judge believed it wasn't the intention of ADA to apply to websites (regardless of whether they are business or government).

Marta case

The Marta case the judge ruled that ADA does apply to websites - the matter of whether the defendant was a government agency or not does not seem to be a factor in the ruling. If the point that the defendant needs to be a government agency is needed to be tested, then proceedings under Section 508 of the Telecommunications Act is sufficient - _that_ legislation is scoped to include websites of government agencies and companies doing business with governmental agencies.

In short, the ADA test above weren't about whether defendants were government or private businesses, but whether websites actually fall under the provisions of ADA. I wouldn't recommend reading that ADA only applies to government agencies on the Marta ruling unless the ruling specifies that particular point explicitly.

I await a Supreme Court ruling with interest, but nevertheless website accessibility should be something we should already be doing, regardless of any legal statute.

Updated 21 May 2003 - Joe Clark, as well as covering the legal aspects of accessibility himself, kindly pointed out the following articles covering this interesting court case:

Whilst searching for online material about this case, I came across the following resource:

Some excellent posts and resource references from Slashdot:

[ Weblog | Categories and feeds | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 ]