NFB and AOL (fwd)

From: David Andrews (
Date: Fri Jul 28 2000 - 14:02:04 PDT

A Lawyer's take on this!


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2000 18:02:24 -0600
From: Scott C. LaBarre <>
Reply-To: Multiple recipients of NFBnet BlindLaw Mailing List
To: Multiple recipients of NFBnet BlindLaw Mailing List <>
Subject: NFB and AOL

    Hello Lisa, Noel, and everyone else:

Lisa, I think your comments and disappointment are premature. If it comes
to be that we never advance a step farther in this process and we do not
continue to bring AOL and others into compliance, then we will have failed.
If in a year AOL has not made steps forward and provided an accessible
product and we do not continue the litigation, many of your comments will be

I have practiced law now for seven years, and I have come to learn that most
legal business gets done through negotiated settlements. In fact, over
ninety percent of civil cases are settled in some fashion. My biggest
victories as a lawyer have not come through a judge's order or a jury's
verdict, they have come through settlements which have put my clients in
outstanding positions.

I have the benefit of knowing all the players in this lawsuit personally.
None of them would have ever agreed to or considered this agreement unless
they believed deep in their heart that it was the right step at this time.

Curtis Chong has been a good friend for almost fifteen years now. He does
not settle for second best.. He tells me that AOL has finally opened the
door and is working seriously to provide meaningful access to their product.
He believes that their technical finally get it and understand how to make
their product compatible with the type of assistive technology that the
blind use. He thinks that version 6.0 will probably still have some
problems, but AOL is going to work directly with us at every step to fix
those problems. They are doing it right now.

As I see it, the lawsuit has been successful to this point. It has opened a
door which had been clearly slammed shut previously. If AOL doesn't lived
up to their promise, I am confident that we will not "back down." We
haven't backed down to this point, and it is not in our history or custom to
do so.

As far as establishing the legal precedence that AOL and similarly situated
providers are public accommodations under Title III of the ADA, I am also
confident that this will occur either by legal order or by real life
consequence. I believe that it has already begun to happen. AOL would not
have agreed to start working on access as seriously as they have unless they
believed that they had some legal liability if they didn't address the
issue. Curtis has also told me that dozens of companies have contacted him
as a result of the lawsuit to find out how they can provide an accessible
product etc.

Who knows what will happen in the upcoming year? I sincerely hope that AOL
will continue to address access for the blind as seriously as they are
currently doing, but if they don't, we will not go away. Dr. Jernigan was
very fond of saying that the war isn't over until we say it is, and we won't
say that it is until we've won. It's going to take us a while to achieve
the kind of access that we deserve, but as long as we take the long view
and keep our resolve, I believe that we will win the war. For those who
feel disappointed with the current state of affairs, I hope that you will
take the long view of this situation. We change what it means to be blind
piece by piece and small action by small action. This agreement is not the
dramatic legal decision that some had hoped we would receive, but it is
definitely a step, a big step, in the right direction. As long as we stay
on this road and keep AOL squarely within our cross hairs, victory is and
will be ours.

Scott LaBarre

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