I Can’t Pay my Water Bill

Earlier, I wrote about civil rights laws being designed to limit civil rights. Today, I’m going to use a current example from my own life to illustrate the point.

The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990. The Department of Justice first provided local governments guidance on web accessibility in 2003.

I get my water from Rockwood Water. Their previous payment portal had accessibility issues that made paying my bill difficult. Usually, I would call to pay my bill, because it was much easier than dealing with the website.

I complained about the inaccessibility of the site a couple of years ago. I didn’t file an official complaint, because I was told they were going to get a new payment portal.

On their main website, they were convinced to add one of the stupid toolbars that reports to make web content more accessible but doesn’t actually do that. It was just easier for them to install a toolbar they know nothing about than it was to actually make their website accessible.

Two days ago, I spent more than an hour using the new payment portal. After being unable to pay my bill, I told Rockwood Water I was going to file a complaint with the Department of Justice. Sadly, I will spend time this week seeing if I can get the Department of Justice to go after Rockwood Water. I know I should be successful because I ran their payment portal through an automated web testing tool and found several errors.

Public entities, like Rockwood Water, have been required to make their services accessible to people with disabilities for more than 30 years. They have been required to make their web services accessible for at least 18 years. Yet, neither version of their payment portal has been accessible. Even worse, their new payment portal is even less accessible than their previous payment portal.

This is a sad example of how little of a difference civil rights laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act, really make. These governmental agencies have had decades to comply with the law and serve people with disabilities and they rarely make even a basic effort. So, they force people, like me, who have the ability and knowledge to legally complain to do so. If I don’t file my complaint, there is no chance I will ever be able to pay my water bill online. I say that because notifying them of the inaccessibility of their previous payment portal and dealing with its inaccessibility for two years while they got a new portal resulted in a portal that is less accessible.

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