US-based disability rights group Access Now and a blind internet
user have filed lawsuits against Southwest and American Airlines,
claiming that the carriers’ web sites do not comply with the
Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Law.com.07 Oct 2002
It appears that Robert Gumson sued the airlines after he discovered that their web sites were not compatible with his screen-reading program which converts web site content to speech, enabling visually impaired individuals to use the internet.
According to Law.com, Gumson and Access One claim that, under a broad interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the internet is a “public accommodation”. Therefore, businesses should be required to make their web sites accessible to the disabled, just as they do with their brick-and-mortar facilities.
Law.com reports that the airlines have responded by filing a motion to dismiss the claim. They suggest that the Act only applies to facilities that exist physically, and that it was never meant to apply to web sites.
In the UK, the Disability Discrimination Act applies to web sites and requires them to be accessible to the visually impaired. More information is available in OUT-LAW’s article, Disabled access to web sites under UK law.