Like Title IX, like Obamacare, like so many well-intentioned laws and regulations designed to assist and protect vulnerable citizens or traditionally oppressed groups, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) opened the door for abuse, absurd taxpayer costs, and unanticipated consequences. The ADA was rammed into law by activists compassion bullies who proclaimed that any attention to proportion and cost-benefit analysis was mean and heartless. Here is an example of what else came in that open door:
From the LA Times::
ADA lawsuits are now as common as sex-discrimination lawsuits, with more than 26,000 new claims filed against employers each year. The latest litigants have their sights on the most innovative segment of our domestic economy: e-commerce.In this trend, people sue businesses because their websites aren’t sufficiently accessible to the disabled — because the websites lack assistive technologies for the blind or hearing-impaired, say. It began in 2000, when Bank of America became the first entity to settle a web-accessibility lawsuit. Safeway and Charles Schwab soon followed suit. In 2008, Target paid $6 million to settle a class-action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind, and nearly $4 million more to cover the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and other costs. More than 240 businesses across the country have been sued in federal court over website accessibility since the beginning of 2015. Similar litigation has been brought against universities on the grounds that the free online courses they offer aren’t captioned for deaf users, and against ride-sharing services because their smartphone apps lack text-to-speech capability for blind users.
…According to the demands of disabled users, in order for a website to be accessible, it must use fewer pictures, present text in a format that is compatible with text-reading software and employ design that allows for easy navigation. But the features that make a website more accessible for one disabled group are bound to be objectionable to another.
They may also conflict with other needs. Consider bank websites, which often employ timers that will shut down an online session for security reasons after a particular time period is exceeded. Such “timeouts” could present problems for some disabled users, but eliminating them in the interest of accessibility could impair security for all.
In the process of making a website accessible, questions invariably proliferate. Do certain color combinations violate the ADA because they confound the colorblind? Are certain layouts inaccessible if they’re confusing to users with a limited field of vision? Do the accessibility requirements apply only to the websites themselves, or do they also apply to Web content, such as advertising on a third party’s website? Will website hosts be responsible for the compliance of third-party sites? Must archived Web content be revised to comply? What about mobile apps? Do temporary technical bugs in an otherwise compliant website constitute a violation? What physical and mental conditions will require accommodation? So far, Web accessibility lawsuits have concerned the vision- and hearing-impaired, but future cases could be brought on behalf of plaintiffs diagnosed with dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, narcolepsy, cognitive impairments, paralysis and many other conditions.
The game is to sue deep pockets website owners and extort settlement pay-offs. That’s fine for the Bank of America, but not for, say, Ethics Alarms. This blog could be put out of business by such a lawsuit, and so could hundreds of thousands of others.
The problem with the ADA was always that the demand that the nation pay billions to minimize the inconveniences and hardship of the relatively few disabled individuals these mandated measures would help made no sense from a utilitarian or practical analysis. For example, it would have been far cheaper for many cities to maintain a limo service that picked up wheelchair bound citizens and delivered them to their desired location than to install wheelchair lifts in all buses, but the disabled lobby insisted on the latter. A separate service “marginalized” the disabled, who wielded the Golden rule like a club in this debate.
I haven’t checked the statistics in many years, but last time I did they indicated that many buses had never had an occasion to use the lifts, which costs many thousands of dollars and were expensive to maintain. I know that the theater my company performed in was required to have sound-boosting earphones for the hard of hearing which 1) were almost never used 2) interfered with the theater’s sound system and 3) didn’t work very well. In my neighborhood, every corner has required curb cuts for wheel chair-users who would be certifiably mad if they dared to use them. (See video above). The cuts are on hilly streets and uneven ground. They are also perilous in the dark, and on one occasion almost disabled me. In the massive Reagan Building in downtown D.C. where I give an ethics program every month, the elevator controls are knee high (to accommodate those in wheel chairs) with the floor numbers in braille for the blind. Unfortunately, since the raised bumps are on metal panels, the actual numbers are the same metal color and virtually unreadable by anyone who isn’t blind, especially since they are located below the average rider’s waist.
The Times writer, Mark Pulliam, calls for this:
“Congress should either exempt websites and their related content from the requirements of the ADA, or enact detailed guidelines for the accommodations required by the law.”
Well, that might mitigate some of the problem. The real problem is that legislators and regulators aren’t nearly as competent as they need to be if they are going to pass sweeping laws that place compassion over common sense and while ignoring rational principles of ethics balancing,
Pointer: Amy Alkon