America Online Settles Accessibility Suit, For Now

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AOL has avoided a significant court battle by agreeing to make its next version of its software more accessible. The National Federation of the Blind brought on allegations that the company software was inaccessible. NFB claimed AOL content and software were not accessible using a screen reader or other assistive devices. Screen reader software is used by blind or visually impaired patrons to assist them in “reading” content on a computer screen, converting text to Braille or audio. AOL has agreed to develop new technology that will provide content that is accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Due to the promise of AOL to adhere to necessary alterations for the release of the 6.0 version, the NFB agreed to delay the case for one year. The case had been filed under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), claiming AOL was a service of online “public accommodation.” If the court ruled AOL as a “place of public accommodation,” then the company would have to offer its services in a manner that provided equal access to individuals with disabilities. While currently, the ADA act does not mention online services, there have been several cases that ruled a “place of public accommodation” were not restricted to physical locations but also included telephone and mail. By coming to an agreement, the major corporation will dodge a serious lawsuit.

Sources had confirmed the National Center for Accessible Media has been providing guidance on these issues even before the NFB filed a lawsuit. To prove their commitment to accessibility, AOL has generated a program that specifically outlines an accessibility policy and incorporated a checklist for company workers to use as a guideline for accessibility when generating software or new content.

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