Cor Blimey, Guvners
There's a load of stuff here I can't possibly respond to all of (though I would if I had time), but here's to some of the most promising oratory. Oh, and yes, I'm totally blind. Totally duff, do you hear? From birth, and it's congenital and sex-linked and the outcome isn't guaranteed to be fortunate provided I ever have a boy. It might not be blindness, that is.
I feel for everyone. We may not all have the same capabilities, but as humans we owe each other respect and ought to have the courage to conscientiously do as best we can to help others, rather than make impulsive decisions based on our hasty judgements. No matter how you feel for someone with a disability, it is almost certainly not nearly the pain and frustration they themselves feel in pressing situations. Trust me - I've had it from both sides. In that sense we are all equal, although I personally feel my disability to be quite the most trifling of many other more impairing. And although I agree there are those spoiled and immature enough to take advantage of their minority status (not helped by the way our state calculates its rewards for disabilities), there are many others who won't and don't deserve treatment as though they did.
"Don't get me wrong, I sympathize with disabled people, I really do. But why is it
that everything needs to be created for the lowest common denominator (no offense
First-rate sympathy, that. Go on like this and you'll get the Nightingale award for sure. Rest of your screed discarded off-hand as being basically flawed in light of obvious thinking, the cost of the net, the availability of standards, etc, as nobly pointed out by others. The "It's not my fault if you're duff" argument is not how to make people realise that others out there really do need help - yes, you will too, if you become disabled (to think otherwise is very ignorant of the issues at hand) and I hope for your sake that your chosen supreme being didn't hear you and you don't. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
In response to Fran Taylor: Firefox works with Window-Eyes and JAWS. IE works with JAWS, Window-Eyes and Hal (the "Big three" screen readers). See also NVDA, an Open Source screen reader for Doze: http://www.nvda-project.org/ . Supports some DHTML elements in Mozzy's DOM. Hot stuff, that.
On Linux: in textmode, brltty (my favourite, braille terminal driver) works just fine with practically any current textmode browser/mail/newsreader (I use elinks), with the bonus that most mail/news/browsers have been modified to work in mainstream sources with the AT tools (cursor tracking, etc). Oh, the beauty of Open Source! Also, YASR (external) and Speakup (in-kernel) screen readers. Mozzy is less perfectly supported under Gnome with Orca, as is OpenOffice. But they're getting there. Orca, otherwise, runs superbly with Gnome, and work is underway to get the KDE ATSPI/ATK bridge worked up to allow Gnome AT to run with KDE interface. Includes support for terminal and the speech dispatcher supports software TTS. Ubuntu, furthermore, is live with accessibility - see here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Accessibility
OSX: Tiger is accompanied by Voiceover, which works alright with Safari, though not superbly. Leopard will apparently have a better screen reader in it with some revolutionary features, and has the bonus of having some genuine blind-person's feedback (first release was a bit, y'know, experimental).
And, what the hell, something on a slightly related note: AGRIP, http://www.agrip.org.uk/
(See? We don't all just sit around here on our arses whining! No, we sit around here on our arses playing deathmatches! :-) )
Ole Juul: totally agree with you here; graphical elements are taking precedence when they should not. Give everyone a command-line shell, like in the good old days! Bring back gopher and FTP and Archie! :-) Seriously though, do give thought to the lonely man with the 80x25 terminal, or the poor sod without any net access at all but only a proprietary mail interface in a tight spot, for he is smarter than you are. :-) I think the web was a nice use to put those frail new desktop GUIs to back then, but it's gone way too far. The web isn't just about document retrieval anymore, and the platform-neutrality that was taken for granted back then has gone. Perhaps the "Semantic web" will change this in future, but somehow I don't see it happening - people are obsessed with HTTP and HTML and XHTML and all that stuff and use it for things it just isn't bloody well designed for. But I digress.
Cases and precedent: I hate to say it, but making a fuss does have the useful effect of causing people to take note and draws attention to the issues, even if it is a little bit inglorious. Many successful lobbyings have taken quite significant effort of amassment by blind individuals, and there've been quite a few petitions and such just to make the point, mostly for insensitive corporate monoliths (there were ones recently for Google and Hotmail). Where the money is, the sense isn't. On that footing, a court case is a welcome change. By contrast, the little guys are often quite ready to put the devs on the frontlines to make their portals/whatever accessible. (Elreg, BTW, is great.) Obviously many institutions are legally required (banks/telecoms/etc) by DDA, but even so there's been quite a lot of recommendation for those that cater especially well. Anyway, I think the positive aspects of this case significantly outway any ill-will directed at prosecution for giving any appearance of arrogance.
Right, think that's it.