Hans Bader of Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) asks, “Can websites be forced to change to accommodate the disabled — by using “simpler language” to appeal to the “intellectually disabled,” or by making them accessible to the blind and deaf at considerable expense?
The answer is, Yes.
The tyrannical Department of Justice is planning to mandate “accessibility” of websites under the tyrannical Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
This is very alarming.
The basis for forcing websites to make their material accommodate every disabled person could one day be stretched to any number of groups. It’s a violation of the First Amendment and it’s more big government control of the once-free Internet.
CEI notes that the Supreme Court once ruled that the poem Jabberwocky is protected by the First Amendment, even though it makes no sense to most people. Suddenly, we’re all responsible for making our material readable by everyone?
The Obama administration appears to be planning to use the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to force many websites to either accommodate the disabled, or shut down, CEI noted in June.
The U.S. Department of Justice — the primary enforcer of the ADA — has taken the position that Title III covers access to websites of public accommodations. They want to make it mandatory for everyone to abide by the voluntary standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (“W3C”).
The DOJ has said:
“Websites that do not accommodate assistive technology can create unnecessary barriers for people with disabilities, just as buildings not designed to accommodate individuals with disabilities can prevent some individuals from entering and accessing services … Although the Department has been clear that the ADA applies to websites of private entities that meet the definition of ‘public accommodations,’ inconsistent court decisions, differing standards for determining web accessibility, and repeated calls for Department action indicate remaining uncertainty regarding the applicability of the ADA to websites of entities covered by title III. For these reasons, the Department plans to propose amendments to its regulation so as to make clear to entities covered by the ADA their obligations to make their websites accessible.”
The rationale is that private entities of all types are providing goods and services to the public through websites that operate as places of public accommodation under title III of the ADA. In other words, websites are places of public accommodation.
Websites will likely be required to include spoken descriptions of photos and text boxes for the blind, and captions and transcriptions of multimedia features for the deaf, among other numerous requirements.
If you want to sell anything from your website, you might have to hire accessibility experts, even if you are a small blogger.
The DOJ is using ADA settlements to impose its views of accessibility on businesses it sues.
The new rule is coming out in April of this year. Congress won’t buck the ADA and once this is entrenched, it will be entrenched forever. Maybe it can be overturned in the courts.
CEI says that the defenders of expansive ADA interpretations insist that the government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination against the disabled overrides any competing First Amendment rights.
It’s a dangerous concept.
Lately, almost anything can override the First Amendment. Once you abandon the rule of law, anything can erode our rights.