Remediation, not litigation

When Section 508 went into effect last year, agencies were repeatedly warned that failure to make Web sites and office technology accessible to people with disabilities could lead to lawsuits. Litigation was the enforcement mechanism for the accessibility law.

A year later, accessibility remains elusive, yet no lawsuits have been filed.

"I think everyone has been surprised by that," said Tracy Leonard, a technology specialist for the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind. "But in cases where there were issues, they have addressed informally and agencies have cleared them up."

"There have been some minor complaints," confirmed Joe Tozzi, director of the Education Department's Assistive Technology Team. They have typically been handled with a phone call and fixed within a few days, he said.

Tozzi's boss, Craig Luigart, attributes the lack of litigation to "an aggressive and wonderful partnership between government and industry" to tackle accessibility problems.

Luigart is chairman of a federal Section 508 Steering Committee and chief information officer for Education.

It may be that those affected by non- accessible technology believe "suing won't get them much," said Curtis Chong, director of technology at the National Federation of the Blind. "Will a lawsuit speed up the process" by which agencies achieve accessibility? "I don't know."

"I was surprised — pleasantly surprised — that people haven't jumped to that remedy right away," said Greg Pisocky, an accessibility specialist for Adobe Systems Inc. But the fact is, "there's no money in it," he said. "The remedy is remediation." If they are sued and the plaintiff wins, agencies would be forced to fix whatever is inaccessible.

"If there were millions of dollars in it, the first suit would have been filed at 12:01" the day Section 508 took effect, Pisocky said.

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