A blind woman has filed individual lawsuits against more than 30 businesses, which, she claims, do not have handicap-accessible websites. The lawsuits, filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act, accuse Nike, 24 Hour Fitness, De Beers, Barney’s, Donna Karan, Kleinfeld Bridal and others of failing to install screen-reading software capable of translating their written online content into either audio or Braille.
David Shiner, president of the Shiner Law Group, says that hundreds of other companies including Burger King, Hershey, Lord & Taylor and Pandora are facing similar federal class actions because consumers with physical challenges have difficulty using their company websites to access goods and services.
Under Title III of the ADA, disabled persons must have access to the “full and equal enjoyment of public accommodations.” Shiner said, that because the 1990 ADA predated the Internet as a mass medium, applying that standard to websites is tricky. As a result, website access lawsuits have been filed against companies in almost every industry.
No Industry Immune to ADA
More than 800 lawsuits that targeted ADA litigation were filed in 2017, and at least 300 ADA website-accessibility cases were filed in federal courts since the first of this year, with no sign of a slowdown. Shiner said most of the lawsuits have been filed against retail operations, but entities that house websites in the healthcare, education, hospitality and nonprofit sectors have also been forced to defend their online practices.
The problem for many companies is that they failed to consider the disabled when their websites were first created. And now that these customer service platforms are up and running online, website designers are realizing that fixing the problem – especially in accordance for those who have vision and hearing impairments — is both difficult and costly.
In the meantime, the blind are forced to purchase software that will read website page content aloud to overcome barriers to access. Such services are not always free and can cost upward of $1,000, depending on the sophistication.
The Justice Department, which enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act, has delayed since 2010 releasing technical guidelines that company websites have to meet. Shiner said the handicapped should not have to wait for the legal landscape to clear.
So far, the lawsuits primarily target websites, but Shiner said claims against mobile applications could be on the horizon if the DOJ fails to act swiftly. Until those long-awaited DOJ standards are provided, the civil litigation attorneys at the Shiner Law Group will ensure that the disabled have the same freedoms to access and enjoy the internet as everyone else.
A Winn for Disabled
One Miami resident wasn’t content to wait on a DOJ decision. Juan Carlos Gil, who is legally blind and wheelchair-bound because of cerebral palsy, sued more than 30 businesses alleging that their websites violated the law. One of those companies was Winn-Dixie, which, Gill claimed, was not “inclusive.”
In what is believed to be the first lawsuit that challenged website compliance under the ADA to go to trial, a Florida judge ruled that the Winn Dixie online platform has a strong connection to the company’s physical locations and is, therefore, subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The decision will require Winn Dixie to update the company website.
The disabled deserve to shop online like anyone else. If you are deaf or blind, hard-of hearing, suffer from vision impairments or struggle with dexterity issues that have prevented you from accessing websites or apps and, as a result, the good and services of your favorite companies, you may be entitled to compensation.
Don’t take these assaults on your freedoms lightly. Ask the Shiner Law Group instead about whether or not your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act have been violated. Your actions may not only affect accommodations for you in the future, but for countless others as well. Call the Shiner Law Group at 561-777-7700 to set up a free consultation.