Usability, Accessibility, and Lawsuits
Meryl.net poses a question about accessibility and lawsuits regarding the Southwest Airlines website, too. Meryl is deaf and runs into roadblocks with ordering airline tickets via Southwest’s phone TTY system; however, she can successfully use their website. On the other hand, the blind user suing Southwest can’t use their website but can successfully order airline tickets by phone. Should Meryl sue Southwest because of the TTY accessibility barriers just as the blind user is currently suing Southwest for website accessibility barriers? Interesting issue.
Lawsuits may be the result of an inability to resolve an issue without taking it to court, and in my opinion should only be a last resort when all other avenues have been explored and failed. I feel blind users ought to be able to order airline tickets via the Web and deaf users ought to be able to order airline tickets via the phone. Accessibility roadblocks may be more easily eliminated with some forethought during the planning and implementation stages. All too often, however, there hasn’t been the forethought or consideration at all, resulting in considerable expense to add later with potentially marginal results, an expense that may only be spent after being forced to from a lawsuit.
It’s also a shame that so many countries disregard the disabled to a great extent, whether it’s a sidewalk ramp, slightly wider aisles for wheelchair access, accessibility for the blind or deaf, learning disabilities, or other challenges. There was a recent fuss here in a local community where merchants were being court ordered to add wheelchair access, complaining about the money involved to implement it. If accessibility issues had been discussed and implemented initially, implementation would not have been the major cost that it will be to adapt to their existing structures and entries now. Many of the merchants feel resentful, and the disabled have been frustrated for years not having access to so many stores and other places of business. The whole situation is troublesome and unfortunate. I feel for the merchants, and I feel for the disabled. I’m also sad at seeing the need for a lawsuit to force people to allow for disabled access.
I suspect that every single one of the people reading this column today knows at least a handful or more of people with some kind of disability (whether or not you’re even aware of the disability), and many of the readers themselves have one or more disabilities. The disabled really aren’t invisible, but too many people have chosen not to see them.