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Cyber Discrimination: A New Frontier of Liability for Healthcare Providers Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Segal, MD, JD, FACS and Michael Sacopulos, JD   
Sunday, 01 May 2011 12:56

Pause for a second, stop reading this article and close your eyes. Imagine living life as one of the 1.3 million blind people in the United States. Think about how you would access information exchanged over the Internet. For 60-year old New York resident Mindy Jacobsen, this is her reality. She has been blind since birth.

Thanks to the American for Disabilities Act (“ADA”) it is easier for Mindy to navigate around New York City. She can walk sidewalk to sidewalk, hop on a train and live a fully functional life, except when it comes to navigating through the internet.

“You go to a hospital’s website and want to get the pre-op information there, but it isn’t available and if it is, it is in a format we can’t read. Then we have to ask people to read it to us and it becomes such a big deal,” Jacobsen said.

Mindy uses a screen reader to read web pages to herself. It is a helpful tool that allows her to navigate the World Wide Web.

“We have computers that take advantage of the speech kit that is built into all computers. Instead of using that speech kit to show a movie, which it certainly can do, we have a program that uses that speech kit to read the screen. So every time the screen refreshes, the software sends the information to the speech kit and it is read aloud to us,“ Jacobsen said.

Section 508, added to the Rehabilitation Act in 1986 and amended in 1992 and 1998, requires Federal agencies to make their website accessible to people with disabilities.  Outside of Federal agency websites, the U.S. government policy is to encourage self-regulation of the Internet wherever possible.  Only if self-regulation is insufficient does government involvement become necessary.

Self-regulation hasn’t fared well for a handful of public companies nationwide. The most famous and commonly cited case was litigated several years ago, when the National Federation of the Blind filed a suit against the retail giant, TargetThe plaintiffs alleged Target's website was not compliant within the outlines of the ADA.   National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corp., 452 F. Supp. 2d 946 (N.D. Cal. 2006) asserted the requirements that Title III of the ADA imposes on places of public accommodation also applies to e-commerce websites.  The plaintiffs were blind individuals who claimed the Target website discriminated against them since the website did not work well with screen reading software.  The case was the first lawsuit applying the ADA to a website that survived a motion to dismiss.  The Target case was recently settled out of court for reportedly six million dollars. Quite a sum. 

To Finish the Article, CLICK HERE.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 May 2011 16:48
 


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