National Federation of the Blind and Blind Business Owner File Complaint with Small Business Administration
SBA’s Inaccessible Web Site Discriminates Against the Blind
Baltimore, Maryland (July 22, 2009): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people and the leading advocate for equal access by the blind to information technology, and Virgil Stinnett, a blind business owner from Honolulu, Hawaii, filed an administrative complaint today with the Small Business Administration (SBA). The complaint asserts that the SBA’s Web site violates Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act because it is inaccessible to blind people who use text-to-speech screen access technology or Braille displays to access information on the Internet. Because of the inaccessibility of the SBA Web site, blind people cannot fill out forms on the site or take online courses offered by the SBA. Mr. Stinnett was unable to apply for certification under Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act because of the inaccessibility of the Web site. Section 8(a) certification would provide Mr. Stinnett’s business with access to federal and private procurement markets.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Blind Americans have the same dreams, the same goals, and the same entrepreneurial spirit as all other Americans. If we are to have equal access to the tools and techniques needed to be effective business owners and to compete on terms of equality with our sighted peers, we must have equal access to the resources offered on the SBA Web site and other government sites. The National Federation of the Blind demands equality for blind business owners and will tolerate nothing less.”
Virgil Stinnett, owner of Good News HI, a business providing military dining services, said: “As a blind entrepreneur, access to the SBA Web site is critical in order for me to use its programs and services and expand my business. The fact that I could not access the Web site has cost me time and resources that I would not have needed to expend if I had been able to use the site like everyone else. I hope the action we are taking today will prompt the SBA to take immediate steps so that all Americans, blind and sighted, have equal access to the programs, training, and resources that it provides.”
Complainants are represented by attorneys Daniel F. Goldstein and Allison L. Harper of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, 120 E. Baltimore Street, Suite 1700, Baltimore, MD 21202, (410) 962-1030, fax: (410) 385-0869, [email protected], [email protected], www.browngold.com.