Talk about kicking ’em while they’re down… The administration’s mind-numbing obliviousness in responding to Katrina extends all the way down to its web developers and their managers. Turns out you can’t even apply for FEMA aid online unless running Internet Explorer 6 under Windows.
…people using Macintosh or Linux computers are unable to file a claim online — although they can do so by calling the emergency agency by phone. A statement online says, “If you would like to apply for Federal Disaster Assistance by telephone, you can contact us at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or for the hearing/speech impaired at TTY: 1-800-462-7585. The current hours and days of operation are 24 hours per day 7 days per week. Currently the lines are quite congested and the best time to call is 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. EDT.
I suppose it’s not so bad to ask people to call in the middle of the night, since their lives are in chaos anyway. This is right in step with the copyright office’s recent move to limit applicants’ choice of browsers.
The bonus fallout from this approach is that a lot of people will get the false impression that IE must be a better browser, or that it can do important things that other browsers can’t. The reality is that the developers are simply working with blinders on. It’s not hard to build cross-platform web applications — there are millions of them out there, and nothing technologically makes FEMA or copyright applications easier to program for IE. It’s an arrogant, discriminatory — and in this case potentially dangerous — “one ring to rule them all” mentality.
Imagine the outrage if government offices decided only to help Christians, or caucasians, or cell phone users, or SUV drivers.