Oracle being sued for inaccessible software package

February 6, 2007

Topics: Accessibility, Law.

Hat tip to Kim Krause Berg, who is in turn tipping her own hat to Rosie Sherry. Article at The Register.

Although it’s interesting to see another lawsuit on the inaccessibility of a software product, this suit is fundamentally different from the Target lawsuit currently in process. That lawsuit, dealing with a commercial website’s accessibility level to the general public, has the potential to set a landmark precedent for website accessibility. No United States law currently explicitly states that a commercial website must provide any level of accessibility. This lawsuit could potentially provide a precedent which would interpret existing law as having this requirement.

This Oracle lawsuit, however, involves software which is a) not a website and b) was purchased by the state of Texas for use in their state human resources department. The fact that the lawsuit is associated with a government entity makes this a very different case. Texas state law as well as Federal law clearly address the issue of accessibility of government technology: the state of Texas has extensive guidelines concerning accessibility which should be referred to when constructing web sites or other electronic or information resources:

House Bill 2819, 79th Regular Legislative Session

State agencies must ensure that state employees and members of the public with disabilities have the same access to electronic and information resources as state employees and members of the public without disabilities, unless providing that access would impose a significant difficulty or expense on the agency.

The provision of a necessary piece of work software which does not meet these standards is a direct contradiction of Texas state law. This lawsuit will not have the same impact, legally, that the Target case has.

That’s not to say that it’s insignificant, however. It will help bring issues of accessibility to a greater awareness, as well as encouraging a large software company to make accessibility a greater consideration for their own products. It may not result in a major new interpretation of law, but should certainly result in better software for the human resources department of the state of Texas.

3 Comments on “Oracle being sued for inaccessible software package”

  1. It’s disappointing that two years later, there hasn’t been a peep from this lawsuit. As much as I hated that Texas was being sued, I rejoiced at what I thought would be a wake up call for developers and purchasers. Not so far.

  2. Well, I can see two very key reasons I didn’t pick that information up: first, it occurred a year after I published this article. Second, it’s entirely irrelevant to the article. The fact that it was Oracle being sued had no informational value to the article, so there was no reason to follow up — the entire point of the article was to demonstrate that this lawsuit die not have any impact on web accessibility, despite some people’s assumptions that it would.

    Thanks for bringing the Oracle Open World conference to my attention, Peter.

  3. What most blogs have failed to pick up on is that Oracle was dismissed from the Texas lawsuit in February of this year. Subsequent to that, Oracle and the NFB announced a collaboration at the NFB national convention in Dallas, to develop a Center of Excellence for Enterprise Accessibility at the Jernigan Institute. We invite all to attend the Oracle Open World session on Thursday September 25th in San Francisco, ‘Enterprise Accessibility: Meeting Legal, Business, and Ethical Needs with the Help of the National Federation of the Blind’, co-presented by Oracle and the NFB. Information about attending Oracle Open World is available at Registration includes special options for bloggers.