October 01, 2014

The Legal Liability for Buying or Developing Inaccessible Technology

William D. Goren

Let’s say your company develops or buys a piece of software that is really nifty, easy to use, effective, and full of all kinds of bells and whistles. The only problem is that the product is not accessible to persons with disabilities, such as those who use voice dictation and/or screen readers. This article explores what liabilities your company faces in this situation. Before going further, it is important to note a couple of things. First, software that is accessible to screen readers used by the blind (software, such as JAWS, that allow the screen to be read to the user) will not necessarily be accessible to a person using voice dictation software. (The leading one is Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which I have used for years. I also have used for years a supplemental program from a company called Knowbrainer that allows me to enhance Dragon NaturallySpeaking by giving me the ability to have all kinds of commands that promote efficiency of use across a range of software and also allows me to drastically cut down on my mouse use). Second, it is possible that the software, Internet site, or product may be designed in a way that is accessible for users with disabilities, but there may be problems if the user has multiple disabilities. For example, a user might need to use both voice dictation and captioning at the same time and the product, Internet site, or software may be such that both functions cannot operate simultaneously.

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