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Sony The Courts Games Your Rights Online

Visually Impaired Gamer Sues Sony 550

Posted by Soulskill
from the blind-suing-the-blind dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A visually impaired gamer has sued Sony because game products allegedly violate the Americans With Disabilities Act. 'According to the suit, Sony ignored repeated requests through postal mail and e-mail to come up with reasonable modifications to its games to make them more accessible.' This suit seems to be a combination of National Federation of the Blind v. Target, which complained of inaccessibility to the visually disabled (which settled for $6 million) and Martin v. PGA Tour, Inc., where the US Supreme Court ruled a disabled golfer was entitled to a golf cart where one was not already allowed as a reasonable accommodation. If the plaintiff wins, Sony will have to make 'reasonable accommodations' which are not an 'undue financial burden.' In my humble opinion, providing access for the disabled is not only the right thing to do but it will generate more profit for Sony."
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Visually Impaired Gamer Sues Sony

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  • by OzPeter (195038) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @01:25PM (#30015084)
    I'd hate to to think what this guy would do when he realizes that cameras don't pander to the visually impaired market. On the other hand, I'm blind in one eye so maybe I can take a leaf out of his book and and sue camera companies anyway for products that don't suit my particular physical situation and finally realize that "??? profit" step.
  • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @01:26PM (#30015094)

    I was born with a crippled left hand making it impossible for me to play an immensely popular game, Guitar Hero.

    Should I sue because they didn't accommodate for people with my particular disability? Plenty of people are missing limbs. Why aren't they in an uproar over Guitar Hero?

    and what somebody sued and got 6 million dollars from the PGA? I don't think Lee Travino's putting challenge has anywhere near the popularity of Guitar Hero.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Saturday November 07, 2009 @01:30PM (#30015136)

    In my humble opinion, providing access for the disabled is not only the right thing to do but it will generate more profit for Sony.

    That's a fine-sounding liberal opinion, but when did accessibility to a video game, which presupposes a minimum level of vision, become a privilege mandated by the Federal Government? We are not talking about an essential service here, access to government records, we aren't even talking about a visually-impaired person being unable to order products online. It's a video game. Entertainment, no more.

    Look, sometimes we can't do fun things that we'd like to do, but it doesn't mean we should start hiring lawyers. There was a time in my life when I'd go rock-climbing (only a few times, but it was fun and I was in pretty good physical shape back then.) Almost thirty years later and I wouldn't even bother trying: totally out of my league now, having been at a desk job for almost that long. So, that being the case, should I start complaining that rock faces should be made "accessible" to me in my "impaired" condition?

    Please.

  • by FunPika (1551249) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @01:32PM (#30015160) Journal
    Somehow, I doubt it would be easy to enable people who are BLIND to play video games. :/
  • Doesn't make sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by siride (974284) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @01:33PM (#30015172)
    Why are game companies, or any companies for that matter, required to make every product accessible? I can understand government services, both because of their purpose but also because of the fact that they are paid for by public money (and generally don't actually need to be un-accessible), but products of corporations? If this guy wants to complain to the company and then not buy their products, fine. In fact, that's really the best way to deal with the issue.
  • by Teckla (630646) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @01:48PM (#30015328)

    That's a fine-sounding liberal opinion...

    It's too bad you had to politicize an otherwise reasonable post and opinion.

  • by Lemming Mark (849014) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @02:04PM (#30015460) Homepage

    Many large organizations today seem to use their customer-facing staff solely as a means for getting rid of people who phone up to complain, or to request things or make enquiries. This isn't necessarily the fault of the staff in question, or the intention of the organization. Yet somehow things get structured so that it becomes the function of the support staff. For instance, I suspect that under-staffing the help desk or measuring performance by calls "resolved" as opposed to customers satisfied tends to push things towards a "When customers call, make them go away, otherwise they're stopping us talking to our customers" mode of operation.

    The other problem is that it's pretty easy in a large organization (or even a small, highly bureaucratic one) to get into situations where large swathes of problems are "somebody else's responsibility", or likely "nobody in particular". Much as I dislike the idea of a work environment where inappropriate work is dumped on people, or staff are lumped with resolving things they're not responsible for, at the end of the day the buck ought to stop *somewhere*, even if it's just a customer service supervisor writing back. If a customer has a real and legitimate question to which there is *an* answer but there's *nobody* in the organization whose job description allows or requires them to answer it, you're doing something wrong. It's not possible to satisfy all people all of the time but I think most organizations can do a heck of a lot better than they do!

    In this instance, the allegation is that Sony ignored requests made of them. Did they ignore them outright, did they fob off the (potential?) customer, or did they make the effort to respond but the gamer didn't like the answer anyhow? Sony may have done everything as well as they possibly could in this case but they should nonetheless evaluate whether engaging more with the gamer in question could have saved them a court case.

    Some of the claims in the case could seem a bit dubious but as the article points out, various other companies have at least allowed 3rd parties to develop plugins that assist disabled gamers. So it's not like anybody's saying Sony must develop (for instance) a braille interface to WoW on their own budget.

  • by joocemann (1273720) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @02:06PM (#30015482)

    The Americans With Disabilities Act was written so loosely that there are so many of these litigious bullshitteries going on nation wide. It is basically a form of extortion facilitated by poorly written 'laws'.

    We need reform on the ADA as soon as possible! Locally, a predatory woman has sued over 80 local businesses (this is her JOB now), represented by a lawyer who has sued over 250.

    I hope sony lobbies to get reform.

    I say all of this with the great respect for the disabled and the true intent of the ADA. It is the exploit of the act that bothers me so much.

    In this case, Sony makes visual video games and a guy who can't see thinks Sony OWES him a game. That's like being allergic to peanut butter and suing Reeses for not making you a hazelnut cup. THEY DONT OWE YOU A HAZELNUT CUP!

  • Repeal the ADA... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 07, 2009 @02:06PM (#30015484)

    This act has been a complete sham since its adoption and is a permanent backdoor to special treament for anyone who can hire a doctor to say they are disabled.

    Time to end these government-sponsored special privileges. We tried it, its bogus, scrap it.

  • Re:Great (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joocemann (1273720) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @02:08PM (#30015506)

    Next he can sue auto manufacturers for not making cars accessible to the blind.

    That lawsuit is entirely possible and winnable under the current ADA. Reform is necessary NOW! Predatory lawyers and litigious garbage (yes, they can be disabled too) are ruining this country and the ADA facilitates it for being written too loosely!

  • Re:Great (Score:4, Insightful)

    by edumacator (910819) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @02:14PM (#30015546)

    I don't disagree that ADA is written too loosely, but a lot of the abuse depends on the judge. The "reasonable accommodations" part of the act is important.

    If there are modifications that can be made without undue financial strain, I don't see a problem with asking the company to modify the game.

    The red herrings mentioned elsewhere, about making cars work for the blind and the like, would be examples of UNreasonable accommodations.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Saturday November 07, 2009 @02:16PM (#30015560)

    I'm a lawyer, but not yours. I wouldn't represent someone who thinks taking legal advice from Slashdot is a good idea.

    That's the best Slashdot disclaimer I've seen yet.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Saturday November 07, 2009 @02:22PM (#30015610)

    That's a fine-sounding liberal opinion...

    It's too bad you had to politicize an otherwise reasonable post and opinion.

    That's not much politicizing, and if you can't accept a little of that then why, exactly, are you on Slashdot? How we treat disabled and handicapped people is a very politically-active topic in this country today, so a little politicizing is certainly in order. How we, as a society, divert resources to help the less-advantaged is very much a legitimate political issue. Nor, in case any of you are thinking that, am I advocating that we leave the helpless to suffer on their own. I just don't believe that corporations should be required to accommodate everyone's use of their products, especially in areas where it's clear the application is, well, kinda inappropriate anyway.

    Regardless, the point is that a certain class of individuals generally known as "liberals" tend to want to help everyone (for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it makes the liberal feel good about himself) but don't always consider whether that's actually in everyone's best interests.

  • by Xaoswolf (524554) <(Xaoswolf) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday November 07, 2009 @02:23PM (#30015612) Homepage Journal
    play with your feet., overcome your disability yourself
  • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @02:23PM (#30015614) Journal

    Reasonable accommodations are in the eye of the beholder.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @02:47PM (#30015852)

    It is dark. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

    What's "dark"? Why would you need a lantern? Even puzzles aren't as accessible because they're "seen" from a different perspective.

  • by GringoChapin (1663533) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @02:50PM (#30015888)
    I am totally blind, and I have played video games, specifically Punch Out, so I can definitively say that it is possible, at least to play some games. Whether or not this lawsuit is justified depends on many facts that haven't been revealed. If this guy is expecting the game to be substantially altered, then I think he's wrong, and the ADA (based on my reading) would not support his position. However, if he is simply asking Sony to add some small features to the game that would make it more accessible, then I think his suit is reasonable and he should win. My understanding of the ADA is that it doesn't allow you to sue to change the laws of the universe. It just allows you to sue when a company does not provide reasonable accommodation when it is within their power to reasonably do so. Unfortunately, the definition of reasonable is quite relative.
  • Re:Great (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RiotingPacifist (1228016) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @03:02PM (#30015986)

    It depends on the website. I'm no expert and you need an account to view the actual site but the lack of alt texts on the images and using images as titles, here [sony.com], does not bode well for screen readers.

  • by Kohath (38547) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @03:24PM (#30016152)

    You don't understand. The reasoning goes like this:

    I'm blind, therefore you have an obligation...

    There's nothing that can't be justified by that reasoning. Any time a blind person isn't experiencing perfect joy, you can be argued to have failed in your obligation. It doesn't cross a line. There's no line.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @03:31PM (#30016212) Journal

    Indeed. That would seem to be the next target if a lawsuit were to actually succeed.

    The whole point of the Act in question was to assure that basic and essential services were available to the disabled, not that every single potential activity must be catered to. Shall we have laws forcing automakers to make cars that can be driven by the tongue for quadriplegics?

    Maybe there's a market out there for video games for the blind, I dunno, but to demand a company do substantial modifications (and for a lot of games, they would be substantial, if possible at all) is ludicrous.

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Saturday November 07, 2009 @03:53PM (#30016336)

    Exactly. The problem is, that the line got lost. The line that should be drawn between treating people equally, and preferring a specific group.

    The whole concept of making people who are different "special" is the exact opposite of equality. (equality is zero, "special" is positive infinity). It's just as bad as treating people badly. (negative infinity)
    Also. As the scale is not absolute but relative, treating someone better, means treating everyone else worse. Depends on your standpoint.

    The only difference? Preferring people with disadvantages, is preferring disadvantages for society. Not a wise move...

    I wish to be treated for *exactly* what I am. (If the person is able to know what I am.) If I am bad at something, don't fuckin' say it is OK! It is NOT! I have to work on that, to be successful in evolution! Period. And if someone is better than me, I don't call him an ass because he says so. If he is right, he has all rights to say so! I can be proud, because he makes humanity as a whole better. Everything else would just be pathetic jealousy of someone with a low self-esteem.

    Hawking is a great example. I am better at moving than he is. And I can say that. He is a total genius in physics. And I don't think he has a urge to have a low self-esteem because of his disadvantages. Just as I don't have low self-esteem because of mine.

    Conclusion: That's the funny thing:
    - You can measure the integration of black people in America by the amount of talk that still is needed to mention equality (as something special).
    - Gays only will become normal parts of society, when the need for a "we are so special" parade goes away.
    - Feminism only will have reached its final goal, when it stops existing.
    - Etc, etc, etc.
    Because not the other extreme is the goal. A loose swinging around the origin between the extremes is. :)

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Saturday November 07, 2009 @03:56PM (#30016358)

    The funny think is, that it's actually not politicizing. Because the difference between "liberal", "conservative", "left", "right" and all that shit is all just a illusion of a theater play anyway. Real politics are looong gone from the US government. Today it's a shop for companies. You buy the world to your way.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @03:57PM (#30016364) Journal

    We need reform on the ADA as soon as possible! Locally, a predatory woman has sued over 80 local businesses (this is her JOB now), represented by a lawyer who has sued over 250.

    This sort of thing sounds horrible when you first hear it, but it's important to remember, most of those business probably were violating the ADA. Maybe they didn't have a ramp going into their store, or whatever. If they had made their business more accessible to begin with, it wouldn't have been a problem.

    I'm totally against frivolous lawsuits, but you can't say her lawsuits were frivolous just because there were a lot of them. You have to show that they were frivolous.

  • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @04:01PM (#30016390)

    To demand the company make any modifications is ludicrous. If it's profitable then Sony will do it on its own, or not. Who cares? Blind people can't do a lot of things. Video games are one of them.

    There's a big difference between meeting standards for government websites and forcing developers to make a different game from what they envisioned.

  • by Eraevous (1651221) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @04:52PM (#30016664)
    A big difference between the case in the article and the counter-examples most people have been coming up with seems to lie in the legal definition of blindness. Notice that the plaintiff requests better "visual cues" for certain tasks. Brandon likely is legally blind [wikipedia.org] and not actually Helen Keller style blind. I have several friends who are legally blind without glasses or contacts, so the threshold is quite a bit higher than you might be thinking. All Brandon seems to be asking for are some easy UI design improvements and options. Hell, I'd wager that the same improvements would make it easier for elderly people to play these games. This is a quick issue that could easily be solved by farming it out to a different company or even mods. Simple UI improvement isn't that hard or expensive. As per the rock climbing analogy, imagine that you could climb fairly well, but had trouble tying many of the knots. A gym that ignored your request for help in tying these knots would be full of asshats. Probably not lawsuit worthy, but still not something very difficult for them to do. If Brandon was completely without sight, this would be a stupid lawsuit setting a bad precedent. However, he's just asking for some user-interface options and improvement, which isn't that unrealistic a thing to want. Hell, installing elevators in certain buildings is a far bigger pain in the ass.
  • by dangitman (862676) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @05:41PM (#30016986)

    - Gays only will become normal parts of society, when the need for a "we are so special" parade goes away.

    Wait, what? Parades are an indication that the paraders aren't a normal part of society?

    They have parades for all kinds of things - returned veterans, marching bands, agricultural fairs. Does that mean that all those are not normal parts of society?

  • by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @08:09PM (#30017894)

    Being disabled myself, I can sympathize with such frustrations... but guess what... even the disabled can be totally unreasonable!

    Sure, it's one thing to expect handicapped accessible ramps and bathrooms at places of business which deal directly with the public, but it's something completely different to expect a business to cater to any and every conceivable disability when the person in question isn't even on their property or being dealt with on a personal basis.

    Why should this person be suing Sony for problems extending beyond the scope of their hardware's intended use when the guy could just as easily find a 3rd party solution for such issues and get government assistance to acquire it? Are they somehow entitled to a first party solution simply because a third party solution might not be as pretty to use or look at? Is there a reason this person should expect every piece of software/hardware he encounters to have a built-in zoom function, when he could just as easily use something like a display magnifying glass like that featured in the film version of "1984"? And how would they prove that using such an external solution would "damage" them to the point that the only logical solution is to sue not the display hardware's manufacturer, but the manufacturer of other hardware using that display?

    After all, is it Sony's fault that this person purchased a TV with pixels too small for them to view the images shown on it adequately?

  • by tonycheese (921278) on Saturday November 07, 2009 @09:15PM (#30018310)

    No, I mean in those cases you're CELEBRATING or HONORING something. We have Thanksgiving Day parades for Thanksgiving and parades for veterans to honor their sacrifice and accomplishments. It's not that he hates gay people (or at least, nothing in his post seems to indicate that), it's just that gay pride parades are celebrating the fact that they're gay. It's not that the parades are what's preventing them from being a normal part of the society, it's the fact that society has driven them to have to even hold these parades over something that shouldn't be a big deal (depending on your viewpoint, of course).

    Of course, he did say "we are so special" when describing the parades and I'm guessing that's probably what ticked you off.

  • by jhol13 (1087781) on Sunday November 08, 2009 @12:04AM (#30019070)

    I care. Visually impaired != blind.

    I think government should force companies to address the needs of disabled as long as it is reasonable. For example there is no point allowing programs to use colours which are impossible for colour blind to distinguish thus making the use of the program unnecessarily difficult.

    Whether in this case the modifications needed are substantial or not is different matter to which I have no opinion.

  • by lena_10326 (1100441) on Sunday November 08, 2009 @01:50AM (#30019498) Homepage

    I wouldn't call them masterpieces...

    Regardless, mastering a piece is involved.

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