A Blind man who can’t see sues Playboy for not having an accessible website. The man, Donald Dixon, claims that the website violates the Americans With Disabilities act because it isn’t accessible to him as a visually impaired person. He’s looking for an unspecified amount of damages and is hoping to get Playboy to update their website to make it more accessible.
Yes, this may sound strange and the lawsuit may sound impossible; the internet is pretty much the most visual medium and Playboy is the most iconic example of a visual medium on or off the internet. It’s about looking at photos, what can Dixon possibly hope to get out of his lawsuit?
Well there are already a whole array of tools that help visually impaired people “see” the internet, or in some cases, hear it. There’s the VoiceOver function which reads out a webpage, including its layout. There is also screen-reading software which goes into the HTML code of the website and determines what’s important, extracts it and reads it out to the user.
It’s not perfect, but it works if websites comply to certain industry standards. Many don’t, though, and it can be a hassle, as Paul Schroeder, VP of Programs and Policy for the American Foundation for the Blind, put it, “When you log onto a website using screen reading software, what you start with is a site that tells you how many lines, and some basic structure—but not very much.
When you’re experiencing a cluttered site, the information you want may be 300-400 lines in, and if you’re going line by line, or section by section, it can take you a very long time to find what you want.”
This is a tough one. Is Playboy going to have to hire someone to write out descriptions of their photos imbedded in the code of the site? Or will they just make their articles more accessible? I guess we’ll see.