[Nfbnet-members-list] President Riccobono's op-ed urging the release of Internet regulations

Danielsen, Chris CDanielsen at nfb.org
Wed Feb 3 19:38:15 UTC 2016

Dear fellow Federationists:

The following op-ed by President Riccobono appeared last week on the 
Congress Blog of the influential Washington newspaper The Hill. The 
text is pasted below. You can also access the article by browsing to 

Please consider sharing the above link with your contacts. Also, 
please sign and share our petition to President Obama to release the 
regulations referenced in President Riccobono's piece. The petition 
is located here:


Thanks for your continued advocacy and tireless work to build the Federation.


Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind

January 26, 2016, 11:00 a.m.
Inequality and Indifference
By Mark A. Riccobono

The recent decision by the Obama administration to delay issuing new 
regulations under the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 
is outrageous. The regulations would have provided guidance on how 
businesses can meet their legal obligation to make their websites 
accessible to people with disabilities. These regulations have been 
in the works for over five years, but the Obama administration now 
proposes further delaying them until 2018, effectively washing its 
hands of the matter. This move is particularly shocking in light of 
the president's correct observation, made when he first announced his 
intention to issue the regulations in 2010, that such rules are "the 
most important updates to the ADA since its original enactment." The 
urgent need for these regulations has only increased, so why has the 
administration's position inexplicably changed?

Thanks to today's technology, people with all kinds of disabilities 
can access computer information, including websites, with tools such 
as text-to-speech screen readers that verbalize what the computer is 
displaying, connected devices that can display the content in 
Braille, and alternative input devices for people who can't 
physically use a mouse or keyboard. Despite this advanced technology, 
however, most of us, especially blind people like me, struggle every 
day to perform routine internet-based tasks, including paying our 
bills, examining electronic health records, and making hotel 
reservations. That's
because improperly designed websites can block our ability to 
effectively access all of the information. For example, if a website 
uses images to convey important information without also providing 
"alt tags" that a screen reader can read, then the screen reader will 
spit out gibberish because it can't "read" a picture in the way it 
can read text. And the inability to access websites is not merely an 
inconvenience; it is a barrier to education and employment. For 
example, the college graduation rate for people with disabilities is 
just thirty-four percent; inaccessible online technology used by 
today's colleges and universities undoubtedly contributes to this 
dismal statistic.

All of this is not due to hostility towards Americans with 
disabilities. While a few businesses simply refuse to provide equal 
access to their websites until a legal settlement or court order 
forces them to do so, many others simply don't know where to turn for 
guidance on how to make their websites accessible. Organizations like 
the National Federation of the Blind are doing all we can to educate 
business leaders and programmers, but by issuing clear and legally 
binding guidelines, the Obama administration could quickly bring 
reluctant businesses to the table and show other well-intentioned but 
uninformed players a clear path to providing equal service to their 
clients and customers with disabilities. The administration's 
continued refusal to do this is irresponsible. Its failure to act not 
only leaves disabled computer users on the wrong side of a real 
digital divide, but ensures that litigation, which is costly both for 
disability advocates and businesses, will continue for the foreseeable future.

Recently, the National Federation of the Blind and several other 
organizations representing Americans with all types of disabilities 
urged the immediate issuance of the proposed regulations in a letter 
sent directly to President Obama. From the business perspective, 
Microsoft and other business leaders have also written to the 
president calling for the release of the regulations. If the 
president ignores these requests, the inescapable conclusion will be 
that he is indifferent to the inequality that is part of everyday 
life for me and millions of other Americans. This indifference has an 
intolerably high cost: we are denied equal access to services that 
are readily available to everyone else, denied educational and 
employment opportunities, and denied first-class citizenship in 
twenty-first-century America. If the president is serious about the 
civil rights of all Americans, a recurring theme in his rhetoric, 
then he must not renege on the commitment to equal Internet access 
for Americans with disabilities that he made in 2010. Fortunately, he 
still has time to honor that commitment. I, along with millions of 
other people with disabilities, fervently hope that the president 
will do so immediately.

Mark A. Riccobono is president of the National Federation of the 
Blind.  He lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife and three children.

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