More than Mickey: Digital Accessibility Law in Anaheim, March 2019

Mickey and Minnie Mouse

Anaheim California is best known as the home of Disneyland, that place of childhood wonder and crass commercialism. In March 2019 Anaheim will be the site of something else: Lots of learning and conversation about the digital accessibility legal space.

On March 12 Lainey will be speaking at the first ever Digital Accessibility Legal Summit. On March 13 she will present the Digital Accessibility Legal Update at the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference. Details on both events below. Move over Minnie and Mickey — the accessibility world — including the lawyers — is coming to Anaheim!

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Digital Accessibility Legal Summit

The first Digital Accessibility Legal Summit will be held on Tuesday March 12 at the Sheraton Park Hotel in Anaheim. Program, speaker, and registration information on the Legal Summit website.

Speakers include Howard Rosenblum of the National Association of the Deaf, Kristina Launey of the Seyfarth Shaw firm, publisher of the useful adatitleiii blog, Karen Pelz Strauss, long time advocate for digital and communications accessibility, and Dan Goldstein, long-time lawyer (now retired) for the National Federation of the Blind. Read the Legal Summit Speaker Bios.

My talk at the Summit is titled “Legal Strategies in the Accessibility Space.” I’m interested in an open discussion about how advocates and lawyers representing all parties can make sure the digital accessibility space is ethical and remains focused on people with disabilities, legitimate needs of technology providers, and true problem-solving. That more money is spent on access, less money is spent on lawyers. And that the fear generated by lawsuits does not become the primary driver of accessibility initiatives.

How can we distinguish a new breed of lawsuit while protecting the rights of disabled people to use all available tools (including lawsuits) to enforce hard-fought civil rights? How can the rights of technology owners to use legitimate legal defenses be protected without overly aggressive strategies that take money away from accessibility and into procedural legal battles? How can we encourage collaboration tools such as mediation and Structured Negotiation?

How can we keep the focus on people with disabilities, the core of accessibility? Do particular legal strategies contribute to backlash that hurts disabled people? How do we distinguish real expertise that helps parties with accessibility in the legal space from claimed “experts” with insufficient skills? These are some of the questions I plan to put on the table at the Digital Accessibility Legal Summit. Read about why I, and other speakers, chose to participate in what should be a ground-breaking event.

Digital Accessibility Legal Update at CSUN

I have been attending the CSUN conference since 2000, missing just one or two times over those 19 years. An international gathering of everything related to digital accessibility, the community that forms every year around the conference includes some of my closest friends and digital accessibility allies.

This year I’ll be offering the 2019 Digital Accessibility Legal Update on Wednesday morning, March 13 at 10:00 a.m. The conference (for reasons I do not understand) will not allow me to repeat this session, so this will be the only time I’ll be presenting the update during the conference. Check the Law and Policy Track on the Sessions page to discover other law-related presentations.

Why is the Update in a Sponsor Room?

This year’s update will be held in Platinum 8, which is the Level Access suite. During the past many years, the conference scheduled the update in a room too small for all conference go-ers who wanted to attend. My offers to repeat the session were never accepted. In 2017 Level Access offered their suite (a large room) for a last- minute repeat legal update session after the update was placed in an even smaller room than the year before. The unscheduled repeat filled the room.

In 2018, to avoid another year of frustration for both attendees and myself, I reached out to three sponsors and offered the update three times, in suites sponsored by Level Access, Deque, and the company now known as Vispero. The conference would put only one of these three sessions in the 2018 program, yet all three rooms were very full.

This year, I had again planned to offer the session three times, in three different sponsor rooms. But after Level Access had generously offered their room I learned that repeated sessions were not allowed.

I explain this because as readers of my book know, as a disability rights lawyer I believe strongly in remaining “vendor neutral” as among qualified accessibility vendors. It is important that organizations needing outside accessibility expertise consider more than one qualified candidate before hiring an accessibility vendor.

In Structured Negotiation, where parties avoid expert affidavits, depositions, and court battles in favor of bringing true expertise to the table, it is important that when I recommend experts to my negotiating partners there is no question about the good faith of those recommendations. Thus my commitment to vendor neutrality among qualified vendors.

I love the phrase “vet before you get” that I learned from accessibility evangelist Kelsey Hall. Organizations must chose an accessibility consultant that meets their needs, fits their budget, and meshes with organizational culture. Working with the blind community in the collaborative process known as Structured Negotiation, I’ve learned that accessibility advice is far more likely to stick when people — no matter how big an organization they work in — do not feel it is shoved down their throats.

Researching accessibility experts is more important than ever, given that the influx of lawsuits has bred a cottage industry of so-called experts that do not understand accessibility, do not put disabled people first, and think that automating testing alone can make digital properties accessible. In a case against GNC, the judge refused to accept testimony of the defendant’s expert because he was, in a word, unqualified. Think of the money spent!

Of course, my belief in vendor neutrality only extends to qualified accessibility vendors!

By presenting the 2019 update in the Level Access suite I am not abandoning my view of the importance of vendor neutrality among qualified vendors. Like most conference-presenters, I’m not being paid to present the legal update, and I pay my own conference fees. I’m simply offering the update in the biggest room available to conference attendees who select the session.

I appreciate Level Access’ opening its doors for the 2019 Update, just as I appreciate the other CSUN sponsors who would have done the same had the conference allowed me to offer the session more than once.

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