July 1, 2017

The moral of the story is this; Fix Your Websites Now!

The following is a true story.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

This is the story of Carlos “Pepe” Rodriguez, who has resided in San Ysidro California for 25 years. He is visually impaired, is legally blind and has cerebral palsy. He lives in the area of 7th Avenue and U-know-the Way. He wears glasses because he has optic nerve hypoplasia. The glasses help protect his eyes from foreign objects.  He is able to use a computer but cannot see the screen. He uses access technology software such as JAWS or other screen reader software. The screen reader automatically tells Pepe what is going on the website. Every time he hits the tab or shift tab the program will tell him what he needs to type. He cannot use a mouse but uses a keyboard pretty well.  He uses JAWS 95% of the time. If JAWS crashes, he needs to have alternate screen access programs. He has used these screen access programs for over 25 years. He uses JAWS most often because it is the industry standard.

The fact of the matter is that no federal organization mandates particulars of website accessibility. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are produced by a consortium of private organizations whose goal is to make websites accessible for all.  Pepe also uses the Google search engine to locate businesses but it is faster to go directly to the business’ website.  Pepe used internet browsers Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari on his different computers to access the Pookie-Wookies website.

Pepe has been a good customer of Pookie-Wookies from his youth. Since his only income at the time of graduation was from Social Security, Pepe continued to use Pookie-Wookie due to its low prices. The majority of Pookie-Wookies have pharmacies and Pepe sometimes uses the pharmacies to fill his prescriptions.  Over the years, he shopped at Pookie-Wookie 30 – 40 times. It is his main grocery store because of its low prices.  The last time he filled a prescription at Pookie-Wookie was 2.5 to 3 years ago.  To refill the prescription, he would go into the store and ask someone to assist him. A store employee would walk him to the area of the pharmacy and he would tell the pharmacist what he needed. But he felt uncomfortable because he did not know who else was nearby listening.

He has used Walgreens and Publix to fill prescriptions. Sometimes he goes to the store to pick up the prescription and sometimes they would deliver the prescription to his home by carrier.  Without an accessible website, his only way of getting coupons was to have a friend read the coupons from a newspaper. He would also ask employees to find coupons for him but sometimes the employees seemed annoyed by his request for help.

In 2015-2016, he learned Pookie-Wookie had a website and people in numerous organizations, including the Center for Independent Living, American Council of the Blind and National Federation of the Blind, told him the website was accessible. Pepe was already familiar with using the screen reader software.  Pepe heard ads on TV for the Pookie-Wookie website and heard one could access coupons and refill prescriptions online. He was so happy and excited that he could finally do something independently without asking somebody for help.

Unfortunately, when he accessed the Pookie-Wookie website, some of the tabs worked but 90% did not work. Once you enter the website, you usually hit tab until you find a combo box like a box announcing “store hours” or “pharmacy.” When the website is interfacing properly with the JAWS, you would then press enter and that would take you into the specific sub-category. But, when he tabbed through the website he could not access any of the sub-categories. He spent about a half an hour on the website but was not able to access any information including store locator. On other websites, he has been able to access store locations. By pressing “control S” most websites take you to a search box in which you can type the specific information you are looking for. But this was not available on the Pookie-Wookie website.

Pepe has been on 500-600 other websites that actually work with the screen reader software.  Usually an accessibility statement is put on a website by the creator to announce that the website is working diligently to create a better experience for the low-vision or blind users, but no accessibility statement was found on the Pookie-Wookie website. Nothing on the Pookie-Wookie website announced any proposed changes to be made in 2017.

To make a long story short, Pepe complained to Pookie-Wookie about their inaccessible website, but Mr. Pookie-Wookie refused to do anything about it.  So, Pepe complained to the Department of Justices’ ADA division.  Pookie-Wookie’s response to the DOJ was basically this; “We’re not going to fix it any time soon, and it’s not covered by your stinking ADA law, so go pound sand.”

Who in the world at Pookie-Wookie made such a decision?  Anyway, Pookie and them LOST the verdict in federal court.  Now they have to spend $250,000 to fix their website and suffer the shame that goes along with losing an ADA case.

Nevertheless, when the website is accessible, Pepe says he is 100% certain he will return to using Pookie-Wookie stores. The inaccessibility of the website has deterred Pepe from enjoying Pookie-Wookie’s goods and services.  Pepe wants to be able to refill prescriptions online so he does not have to orally announce to the person at the store what medications he is filling to protect his privacy under HIPPA.

For now, Pepe has to use other grocery stores because from their websites he can create a shopping list and just hand it to the employee and he could use coupons he obtains from the website and he can pick up prescriptions in privacy. Both Publix and Walgreens have websites which he can use with his screen reader software.

The moral of the story is this; Fix your website. Make it accessible to persons with disabilities. If you can’t afford to fix everything right now, then fix one thing, post an accessibility statement to show the world that you are aware of the problem and are taking steps to correct it.

Here’s our suggestion:

Subscribe the 508 Help Desk (just contact us) to instantly eliminate the risk of having an inaccessible website.  We’ll install a special feature on your website that provides 24/7 live help to any disabled person needing to use your website to conduct business with your firm. The service is designed to be an effective, yet temporary solution until such time as the website is fully accessible.