Q&A With Lainey Feingold, Disability Rights Lawyer

From Lainey Feingold: For Complete Post, Click Here…

How did you get your start in accessibility?

I got my start by getting lucky and by listening to blind people. In 1992, I was unexpectedly fired from a job and landed a four-month stint at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF). Those four months turned into four years, and it was during that time I began working on accessible technology issues.

My book tells this story in more depth, but bottom line, blind people came to DREDF seeking access to ATMs. Instead of filing lawsuits, we wrote to Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citibank asking if they would negotiate about the need for Talking ATMs. They said yes!

In 1998, toward the end of three very fruitful negotiations with these banks, our blind clients told us about their need for accessible banking websites – something I had never heard of. We asked Bank of America if they’d keep talking to us about their website, and in 2000 the bank and our clients signed the very first web accessibility agreement in the United States. Because our strategy of negotiating instead of suing worked so well, we decided to name it and use it in other cases. Structured Negotiation was born, and it is how I’ve been practicing law ever since.

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