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Since there are disabilities, such as autism, which may make compliance with the CoC difficult, what steps will SE take to make sure they are in compliance with the ADA, and what reasonable accommodations can we expect to see?

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    Would the ADA mandate accommodations to rules of conduct or rules of access? – Makoto Oct 24 at 17:59
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    Maybe I'm missing something here, but doesn't the ADA just mandate the way employers must accommodate their employees? It might help to add why you think the ADA applies here or what you think SE needs to change to be ADA compliant in this case. – scohe001 Oct 24 at 18:00
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    Maybe this would be better suited for Law.SE – Luck Oct 24 at 18:01
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    Strongly related, maybe nearly a duplicate: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/335743/… – Marco13 Oct 24 at 18:03
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    Does SE make reasonable accommodations for blind users? – DaveG Oct 24 at 18:03
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    @JJJ Sounds like a good question for Politics or Law – divibisan Oct 24 at 18:08
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    Nothing that changed in the CoC this go round has anything at all to do with the ADA. – user400654 Oct 24 at 18:10
  • @JJJ More the question of whether US laws like that can compel a company not based in the US. But you're probably right shrug – divibisan Oct 24 at 18:11
  • @KevinB That's not necessarily true. – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 24 at 18:16
  • @scohe001 that was about personal consideration to autistics, but from what I understand, there are other disabilities which could be affected as well – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 18:46
  • @scohe001 The ADA also covers public accommodations, for example wheelchair accessibility for a restaurant or movie theater. – ColleenV parted ways Oct 25 at 18:26
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    @Colleen that sounds like something useful for OP to put in their question so that others like me aren't confused (let alone those that, unlike me, aren't American). Furthermore it's still not clear to me why OP is raising this question. In other words, they don't make a good case for why the new CoC wouldn't be ADA compliant. – scohe001 Oct 25 at 18:33
  • @scohe001 I agree and it is one of the reasons it has not earned my upvote. There is an answer that covers the relevant part of the law a little, but it seems like this should be on Law – ColleenV parted ways Oct 25 at 18:38
  • Related (recent episode of podcast "Function"): "Design Bias is Ruining Accessibility". By none other than Anil Dash (and the guest)! – Peter Mortensen Oct 25 at 19:39
  • Since comments were wiped, I'll ask the question directly: if this is truly a sincere question that does genuinely come from a desire to comply with the CoC to the extent you're able, what kinds of reasonable accommodations would you like to see to help you obtain equal access to the site? – onetothrowaway Oct 25 at 20:49
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I am not a lawyer, but the CoC is likely compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The relevant section that Stack Exchange (SE) needs to be sensitive to is Title III – Public Accommodations. The major complication here is going to be ensuring that,

Entities subject to Title III must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny equal access to individuals with disabilities, unless the modification would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods and services provided. This includes providing auxiliary aids when necessary to ensure effective communication. Goods and services must be provided in an inclusive setting, unless separate or different measures are necessary to ensure equal opportunity.

Given that the CoC allows for gender-neutral language to be used, and moderators and community managers should start by generally warning users of violations, it would be difficult to demonstrate that SE is not making reasonable modifications to their practices.

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    So, according to that logic, if someone who was mute, was allowed into a starbucks, but was told that they had to speak their order, it would not be a violation, as they were permitted entry? – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 18:11
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    So, if an autistic person cannot break the rigid thinking to comply with the CoC, they can legally be discriminated against? Wow, that's awful. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 18:22
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    Analogy: someone who uses a wheelchair comes into Starbucks, which has a policy against knocking stuff over. They say "it's a bit of a tight fit in here for me and I don't want to get in trouble if I make a mistake" and the employees say "of course, we understand, do your best, we understand if some things get knocked over as long as you're trying, if it happens we'll clean it up, and we'll let you know first if it starts to be an issue." Compare that to coming into the store booming "how dare you omnipotent moral busybodies try to tell me I can't knock stuff over. This is tyranny." – onetothrowaway Oct 24 at 18:35
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    @onetothrowaway except this demonstrably NOT the case with the CoC, as autistic individuals are already being attacked over it Good analogy though – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 18:42
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    Warning people of violations is not defined as reasonable accommodation. Accommodation is meant to protect the disabled. Reasonable is meant to protect the other side. If an employer or organization told me that there's a policy that's at odds with my disability, and they "warn me" if I cannot meet their policy, then that is not accommodation. The warning does not aid me. It does not relax the constraints or efforts or undue hardship. Yes, warning me ahead of time that you will punch me in the face is preferable. I still would rather that you find a more neutral approach to accommodate. – The Anathema Oct 25 at 0:34
  • Title III of the ADA does not apply to exclusively-virtual spaces. It apples to physical locations, and is currently being debated in the courts whether it applies to physical locations with a mirrored online presence. So SO would not be 'an entity subject to Title III'. – TylerH Oct 25 at 19:42
  • @TylerH: That is partially incorrect. The First and Seventh Circuits have both ruled that there need be no physical place, so as a matter of law it does apply to exclusively-virtual spaces in those circuits. It sounds like you're thinking about the Eleventh Circuit case, but that ruling is specific to the Eleventh Circuit. – rockwalrus-stop harming Monica Oct 25 at 20:14
  • The fact that the same words in the same Federal law can authoritatively and definitively mean different things in different parts of the country is one of the odder features of the American legal system. – rockwalrus-stop harming Monica Oct 25 at 20:15
  • @rockwalrus Different circuits have ruled differently, hence my comment about "currently being debated in the courts". I'm referring to the fact that we don't have a reliable nation-wide ruling on it until the Supreme Court rules on it. Either way, the current rules on the books are a moot point for Stack Overflow the company, which would only need to follow the decisions of the 2nd circuit and/or the 10th circuit (or, of course, the Supreme Court). – TylerH Oct 25 at 21:09
  • @TylerH: The rule isn't that the company gets to choose the most lenient circuit. If a user residing in the First Circuit sues SE in the First Circuit, the case procedes under First Circuit law, and there isn't any debate in the First Circuit about whether the ADA applies to websites. – rockwalrus-stop harming Monica Oct 25 at 22:08
  • @rockwalrus-stopharmingMonica At no point did I say the company gets to choose the circuit it wants. – TylerH Oct 29 at 13:31
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I'm not a lawyer, but I usually guess the outcome of lawsuits correctly. There is a circuit split on the issue of whether the ADA covers websites, so certainly in the circuits that hold that the ADA does not cover websites1 SE is in compliance.

For people with disabilities in circuits that have held that the ADA applies to websites3, that hurdle is passed. Title III only applies to certain private entities. A judge would have to be convinced that SE is one of them, most plausibly a place of public gathering or place of public display or collection. In addition, the judge would need to be convinced that "the operations of [Stack Exchange] affect commerce", which shouldn't be too hard, since they show ads.

rjzii's answer deals with the practicalities of showing a violation is taking place, should it get past all the hurdles I've mentioned. It would probably take an actual instance of someone getting suspended or banned to show convincingly that SE is not making reasonable accommodations.


1: The Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh2 Circuits
2: With some caveats that might not be applicable here.
3: The First and Seventh Circuits

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    SE doesn't ban people, it bans accounts. You can just create a new account and use the main service, asking a question & answering questions. If you consider reading up on already posed questions and answers to be the actual service, you'll never get banned from that. Proving that a ban actually considers denying equal access would be another hurdle. You also forgot that the initial assumption has to be proven as well. (There have been comments by people with autism that have said "no pronouns is okay, that's simple, makes it even easier than today". – Helmar Oct 25 at 18:31
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    @Helmar saying that suspensions target accounts, not people, is a strawman. You aren't allowed to just create a fresh account each time your previous one gets suspended for rule violations, and the inability to ask questions certainly does qualify as denying equal access. – John Dvorak Oct 25 at 18:35
  • @JohnDvorak I'm just saying that you have to prove that as well. I'm not saying that it qualifies or that it doesn't. (I'd actually tend to agree with you.) – Helmar Oct 25 at 18:37
  • Agreed that you'd need to prove it in court. I'd love to watch that proceeding, too – John Dvorak Oct 25 at 18:55
  • The second paragraph is a bit misleading as currently phrased; the 11th circuit, for example, specifically found that the website in question ran afoul of the ADA because it was simply a nexus with a physical location and that a website alone doesn't fall under ADA jurisdiction. – TylerH Oct 25 at 19:55

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