ADA Website Compliance Lawsuits: Recent and High-Profile

ADA website compliance lawsuits

Since the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, physically impaired individuals have been taking advantage of this civil law to protect their rights to receive the same quality of services and products as every other individual. Website accessibility standards were set forth, and it was not long before the first lawsuit regarding accessibility of web services was filed.

The standards of website accessibility are yet to be transformed to official government regulation as we have not seen much modernization in ADA civil rights law regarding this aspect in the past years. However, people with disabilities are filing hundreds of complaints each year to vendors that have a strong online presence and provide supplemental services via websites and mobile applications that don’t comply with modern WCAG 2.1 accessibility standards.

According to Law360, over 240 federal ADA website compliance lawsuits were filed in 2016 alone. As stated by Seyfarth Shaw, the trend continued through 2017 with an astonishing 814 ADA website accessibility lawsuits filed. A more recent Seyfarth Shaw Synopsis states that web accessibility cases filed to federal court showed no signs of stopping during the first 6 months of 2018 and there have already been at least 1053 ADA lawsuits filed. Most of them were coming from California, New York and Florida residents with disabilities.

exclamaition

It’s important to note that hundreds of ADA website lawsuits are filed each month, yet only a few of them receive coverage in the media. That’s why the actual number of companies and agencies affected by website accessibility lawsuits is likely to be in tens of thousands each year.

Who is Most Affected?

Quite a few complaints are based on the fact that many online services can be treated as “public accommodations”, and the ADA protects the rights of physically impaired to receive such services at the same level and quality as everyone else. That’s why entities that provide extra services on their websites that are not available through channels other than online resources will most likely be facing legal claims. That is if their website does not conform to WCAG 2.1 (or to Section 508 for state and government agencies) and has issues that limit impaired people’s capabilities to have full access to the site.

ADA Website Lawsuit Filing Factors

Although WCAG 2.1 conformance is what website owners should look out for if they are to avoid litigations, plaintiffs mostly don’t sue organizations based solely on these guidelines. Instead, they tend to file complaints based on one of these three main factors:

  • Lack of basic accessibility features. The majority of cases are caused by this factor. The lack of basic, easy-to-implement web accessibility features may show indifference to needs of users with disabilities and their user experience browsing your site, which in most cases leads to a filed complaint. Basic accessibility features may include providing alt text on graphics, providing labels on form controls (e.g. text boxes, checkboxes, radio buttons), avoiding improper table markup which can lead to accessibility issues, providing alt text on images, etc.
  • Lack of accessibility in crucial website features. For instance, in the case with Netflix, deaf or hard of hearing users couldn’t have the same viewer experience as every other individual due to lack of video captions and subtitles. Another example here is the case with Walt Disney when disabled individuals couldn’t have proper access to website because of video and audio trailers which could not be turned off by physically and visually impaired people. These ADA website accessibility lawsuits demonstrate that litigation is more likely if a key purpose of visiting a website is completely eradicated by inaccessible UI.
  • Inherently inaccessible websites and apps. Such complaints as the cases against NBA and Winn Dixie, and similar cases (read on for details) suggest that websites and apps that use inherently inaccessible technologies are most likely to attract litigation. It’s understandable as such websites oftentimes completely block physically impaired individuals from accessing certain parts or even the whole website.

What are the Consequences?

While an ADA retaliation claim does not warrant compensatory and punitive damages, lawyers are able to pursue compensation for their client’s legal fees, which may range from such amounts as $25,000 to astonishing digits. The court may also issue an injunction for the defendant to make their website accessible to people with disabilities by a specified date. In other cases, the defendant may be forced to pay a civil penalty.

ADA Website Accessibility Settlements

Most cases end with a settlement agreement between two parties. The agreement may or may not have a requirement to pay a certain amount in damages, but in all cases, the defendant has to ensure its website will be accessible to all individuals by a certain date.

Complications may also include serious losses in terms of defendant’s tainted reputation and customer loyalty.

ADA website lawsuit

Most Recent Cases of ADA Website Lawsuits

To this day, many organizations, some of which are well-known corporations with a high reputation and a large, loyal community of customers, suffer from ADA-related lawsuits. Below are the most recent examples.

2018. Bishop v. Amazon.com, Inc.

Defendant: Amazon.com, an American eCommerce and cloud computing company.

Plaintiff: Cedric Bishop, a legally blind Amazon user.

Location: New York Southern District Court.

Claims:

  • Amazon’s website is inaccessible to the blind and visually impaired as it is not compatible with screen readers and refreshable Braille displays;
  • Amazon.com does not provide a text alternative for non-text content on its website. This blocks screen-reading software from presenting information to visually impaired users;
  • The website has no equivalent text for title frames and scripts, which makes visually impaired visitors incapable of navigating the site;
  • Amazon.com inaccessibility renders the claimant unable of accessing not only Amazon’s website, but also Whole Foods stores, as Whole Foods is a company recently acquired by Amazon.

Resolution: The claimant wanted Amazon to make its website conform to the ADA and WCAG requirements for it to be accessible to the visually impaired. He sought damages on behalf of himself and all similarly affected individuals. The case was dismissed after the parties reached a settlement agreement.

2018. Braulio Thorne v. Rolex Watch

Defendant: Rolex Watch U.S.A., a subsidiary of Rolex SA, a Swiss luxury watchmaker.

Plaintiff: Braulio Thorne, a visually impaired individual.

Location: New York Southern District Court.

Claims:

  • The website lacks alt-text, which prevents visually-impaired Rolex Watch U.S.A. customers from accessing the website, browsing, looking for store locations and hours of operation, checking out Rolex programs and specials, or making any purchases;
  • Empty links are present on the website that contain no text causing the function or purpose of the link to not be presented to the visually impaired user;
  • Redundant Links with nearby links leading to the same URL address which results in navigation issues for screen-reader users;
  • Linked images missing alt-text, which causes problems when a screen reader has no content to present the user, namely the purpose and the link’s destination.

Resolution: Braulio Thorne called for a permanent injunction against Rolex Watch for them to take all steps necessary for making its website fully accessible to visually impaired users. The claimant also sought for compensatory, statutory and punitive damages for violations of New York State Human Rights Law and Civil Rights Law, court costs and attorneys’ fees, all with pre- and post-judgment interest. The parties reached an ADA settlement agreement and the case was voluntarily dismissed. 

2018. Luc Burbon v. Fox News Network

Defendant: Fox News Network, a United States cable and satellite television news channel owned by Fox Entertainment Group, a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox.

Plaintiff: Luc Burbon, a visually impaired individual.

Location: New York Southern District Court.

Claims:

  • The website design of Fox News Network does not conform to WCAG 2.0 requirements;
  • The barriers blocked the claimant from receiving goods and services available at Fox News physical locations in New York (Fox News hosts live broadcasts and tapings of shows that audience members can attend);
  • Fox News website lacks alternative text, contains linked images with no alt-text telling where the link leads. Empty or redundant links are present that hamper keyboard-based navigation and may cause confusion for visually impaired users.

Resolution: Claimant called for a permanent injunction against Fox News, requiring them to take all steps necessary to make its website fully accessible and conform to accessibility standards. Burbon also sought for compensatory, statutory and punitive damages for violations of New York State Human Rights Law and Civil Rights Law, court costs and attorneys’ fees, all with pre- and post-judgment interest. The parties reached a website ADA settlement agreement and the case was dismissed.

2018. Maria Mendizabal, et al. v. Burger King

Defendant: Burger King, one of the largest chains of fast food restaurants.

PlaintiffMaria Mendizabal, a visually impaired individual.

Location: New York Southern District Court.

Claims

  • Website doesn’t provide full and unrestrained access for visually impaired people;
  • Each time the claimant visited the website, she encountered accessibility barriers that prevented from accessing information about goods and services accessible to the general public;
  • Specific accessibility barriers that blocked claimants access to the site were a lack of alt text or a text equivalent embedded into graphical images; empty links that cause confusion for users of screen-reading software; redundant links that cause navigation issues and repetition for users of screen-reading software; linked images without alt text to inform the user about the function of the link.

Resolution: Claimant called for a permanent injunction for Burger King to ensure its website accessibility. Case voluntarily dismissed, parties reached a settlement agreement.

2017 - 2018. Maria Mendizabal v. Nike Inc.

Defendant: Nike, an American multinational corporation focused on design and development of footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories, and providing various related services.

Plaintiff: Maria Mendizabal, a visually impaired individual.

Location: New York Southern District Court.

Claims:

  • Nike maintains two corporate websites, Nike.com and Converse.com, that fail to provide equal access for the blind and visually impaired as for normal users;
  • Nike does not conform to WCAG 2.0 requirements: their websites avoid using alt-text to provide text-equivalents for every element on a page. Without alt-text, screen reading software fails to correctly render non-text elements to visually impaired users;
  • Nike websites include empty links without text, redundant links that lead to the same pages as nearby links, images with links that have no alt-text.

Resolution: Claimant was seeking a permanent injunction forcing Nike to update its websites to conform to accessibility standards. Mendizabal was also seeking awards in damages, court costs, attorney fees and pre- & post-judgment interest. The case was dismissed as parties reached a settlement agreement.

Other ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits Filed in 2018

There have also been several other similar cases of web accessibility lawsuits in 2018. As we’ve mentioned before, most cases end in being voluntarily dismissed, with parties reaching ADA website accessibility settlements. Here are some of the high-profile ones:

  • Sullivan v. CNN America, Inc.case pending resolution;
  • Thorne v. Porsche Design of America Inc.;
  • Lopez v. The Hershey Company, Inc.;
  • Lopez v. Nintendo of America, Inc.;
  • Lopez v. Pandora Ecomm, LLC;
  • Duncan v. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc.;
  • Camacho v. Bed Bath Beyond Inc.;
  • Sullivan v. Dow Jones Company, Inc.; (Deaf and hard-of-hearing case)
  • Duncan v. City National Bank;
  • Duncan v. Bank of China;
  • Duncan v. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China USA, National Association;
  • Bishop v. Signature Bank;
  • Marett v. Armel Tax and Accounting Services.

2017. Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc.

Defendant: Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., American supermarket chain headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.

Plaintiff: Gil, a blind individual, who had been a customer of the grocery store and its pharmacy chain.

Location: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Claim: 90% of the tabs on the website were not accessible by screen reading software, and claimant couldn’t receive digital coupons, find stores’ locations using tools presented on the site, refill his prescriptions online for in-store pickup or delivery.

Resolution:

  • Court found that the store’s website and its features had strong ties to its physical locations and operated as a gateway to the services provided at those locations;
  • Court determined that Winn-Dixie Stores violated ADA government law by failing to ensure accessibility of its website and denying the plaintiff of his rights to full and equal access to goods and services provided for regular consumers;
  • Court issued an injunction that required Winn-Dixie Stores to make its website accessible to blind and visually impaired individuals and pay the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees resulting from the litigation.

2017. Kmart, McDonald’s, Grubhub, Empire Today

Defendants:

  • Kmart, American big box department store chain, headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Illinois;
  • McDonald’s, one of the largest chains of fast food restaurants;
  • Grubhub, online and mobile food-ordering company that connects diners with local restaurants, based in Chicago;
  • Empire Today, Illinois-based home improvement and home furnishing company, specializing in installed carpet, flooring, and window treatments.

Plaintiffs: Confidential.

Location: Confidential.

Claims: Companies failed to provide accommodations for the visually impaired on their websites.

Resolution: ADA settlement agreement. 

The exact terms are undisclosed, however, ADA website accessibility settlements required companies to update their online and mobile presence to better accommodate the visually impaired. This includes code fixes and other changes that make websites and apps more compatible with screen reader technology. The cases were filed early 2017 and settled within weeks.

2017. Access Now, Inc. v. Blue Apron, LLC

DefendantBlue Apron, American ingredient-and-recipe meal kit service. 

PlaintiffAccess Now on behalf of four blind individuals, an international non-profit, human rights, public policy, and advocacy group dedicated to an open and free Internet.

Location: U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.

Claim: Blue Apron’s website was not compatible with screen-reader software and, as a result, the blind individuals could not fully use and enjoy Blue Apron’s services. 

Resolution: The company tried to dismiss the case, however, the court denied the motion, finding Blue Apron’s website a place of public accommodation, despite the fact that the company operates only online and has no physical shopping locations. The case is pending judgment.

2017. Reed v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc.

Defendant: CVS Pharmacy, Inc, an online drugstore and pharmacy. Allows to manage prescriptions and shop a wide selection of health, wellness and beauty products.

Plaintiff: Kyla Reed, a blind individual.

Location: U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Claim: Blind individuals do not have equal access to the pharmacy's website.

Resolution: Case dismissed by court. This is a particularly interesting case, however, as CVS had faced the same litigations in 2009 and, according to a settlement agreement, was supposed to make their website accessible to persons with disabilities.

2017. Gorecki v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

Defendant: Hobby Lobby Stores, a chain of American arts and crafts stores.

Plaintiff: Sean Gorecki, legally blind individual, JAWS software user.

Location: U.S. District Court for the District of California.

Claims: Website inaccessible to individuals with disabilities.

Resolution: Court ruled that the retailer's website is to be considered a "public accommodation" under the ADA. The court’s comments were that the website allows customers to buy products, search store locations, check for special price offers, receive coupons, and purchase gift cards online. This case is pending its resolution.

2017. Robles v. Domino's Pizza

DefendantDomino's Pizza LLC, one of the largest pizza restaurant chains.

Plaintiff: Guillermo Robles, visually impaired individual.

Location: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Claims: Dominos.com, is not equally accessible to blind and visually-impaired consumers in violation of the ADA.

Resolution: Case dismissed due to the fact that the DOJ has not yet provided specific regulations regarding website accessibility. The plaintiff, Robles, has filed an appeal and the case is yet to be resolved in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

2016. National Association of the Deaf v. Hulu

DefendantHulu LLC, American subscription video-on-demand service, a joint venture with The Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, Comcast, Time Warner.

PlaintiffNational Association of the Deaf (NAD), a non-profit organization run by Deaf people to advocate for deaf rights.

Location

Claim: Inaccessibility due to lack of closed captions for video content provided on Hulu’s service.

ResolutionADA lawsuit settlement agreement. 

Hulu was to adhere to the Federal Communications Commission's standards for caption quality, and to closed caption all full-length English and Spanish video content by September, 2017. In addition to captioning its content, Hulu also agreed to make content available with captions in other languages on demand.

2016. Gomez v. J. Lindeberg USA, LLC.

Defendant: Lindeberg USA, LLC, a popular fashion and activewear clothing brand.

Plaintiff: Andres Gomez, a Florida resident legally blind individual, user of JAWS screen reading software, a tester who visits public accommodations to locate access barriers covered under the ADA jurisdiction.

Location: U.S. District Court for the Southern District Of Florida.

Claims: In attempting to visit the website, the plaintiff encountered multiple barriers, including the website's lack of compatibility with his screen reader software.

Resolution: Lindeberg was ordered to undertake immediate remedial measures to make its website accessible to visually impaired people. The clothing brand was also to recover the plaintiff’s attorney fees and other expenses.

2016. Edward Davis v. Bag’n Baggage

Defendant: Bag’n Baggage, a luggage retailer providing luggage and travel bags online from leading brands at discount prices.

Plaintiff: Edward Davis, a blind individual.

Location: Superior Court of the State of California.

Claims: Bag'n Baggage's website presents several barriers for the visually impaired:

  • linked images missing alternative text; 
  • empty links that contain no text;
  • missing form labels;
  • etc.

Due to the inaccessibility of Bag’n Baggage’s website, blind and visually impaired individuals who use screen reading software can’t effectively browse or shop for products online.

Resolution:

  • The court ruled that the company violated the ADA and corollary California law – the Unruh Act, under which they were top pay $4,000 in statutory damages because of the fact that the plaintiff was denied access to the website at the time it was designed;
  • The court also issued an injunction for the defendant to take the necessary steps to make their website “readily accessible to and usable by individuals with visual impairments or to terminate the website”;
  • The plaintiff was entitled to a substantial amount in attorney fees.

2016. Aleeha Dudley v. Miami University

DefendantMiami University, a public research university located in Oxford, Ohio.

Plaintiff: Aleeha Dudley, a blind student of Miami University.

Location: District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

Claims: Miami University violated the ADA by requiring students with disabilities to use inaccessible websites and LMS software, and by providing them with inaccessible courses.

Resolution: Consent decree, according to which Miami University was required to:

  • Ensure that technologies and software across all its campuses are accessible to individuals with disabilities; 
  • Pay $25,000 in compensations; 
  • Reform policies towards providing learning materials and technologies;
  • Ensure that their web content and learning management systems conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards;
  • Meet with every student with disabilities for which he or she requires assistive technologies or special curricular materials, and their instructors, every semester to develop an accessibility plan.

2015. Jose Del-Orden v. Reebok

Defendant: Reebok, a global athletic footwear and apparel company, operating as a subsidiary of Adidas.

Plaintiff: Jose Del-Orden, a visually impaired individual.

Location: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Claims: While other major retailers have utilized such accommodations for the visually impaired as alt text, accessible forms, descriptive links, resizable texts, tables, etc., Reebok has neglected to incorporate these tools for the blind on their website, Reebok.com, thus violating the ADA act.

Resolution: Case voluntarily dismissed.

2015. Robert Jahoda v. NBA

DefendantNational Basketball Association (NBA).

Plaintiff: Robert Jahoda, a blind individual.

Location: District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Claims: NBA’s website does not comply with ADA accessibility standards and is not accommodating to the blind and visually impaired. Jahoda was not the only one who claimed that the website has serious barriers for people accessing the site via screen reader technology.

Resolution: Pending resolution.

2015. US Department of Justice v. the National Museum of Crime and Punishment

DefendantNational Museum of Crime and Punishment (NMCP), an educational resource on law enforcement, crime, and forensic history.

Plaintiff: US Department of Justice (DOJ).

ClaimsThe Department of Justice launched an investigation into the NMCP’s compliance with title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and found that it failed to make all of its exhibits, public programs and other offerings accessible to individuals with disabilities; failed to provide necessary auxiliary aids and services to ensure efficient interaction with people with disabilities.

Resolution: Settlement agreement.

NMCP had to ensure that its website conformed to the Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).

2015 US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights v. Higley Unified School District

Defendant: Higley Unified School District

Plaintiffs


Claims: Higley Unified School District violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 

The violations were that the District’s website contained barriers that prevent people with disabilities from equally accessing content, especially for people who use assistive technology such as screen readers.

Resolution: Prior to the completion of the investigation, the District voluntarily agreed to resolve this case. ADA settlement agreement.

  • The school district was to propose and implement a plan to create new accessible web content and functionality in conformance with level AA WCAG 2.0 criteria;
  • The content and functionality would then undergo audit by the district and a report would be submitted to OCR including documentation of the steps taken during the audit, a description of the outreach it undertook and the input it received, and a detailed accounting of the results of the audit;
  • A proposed corrective action plan was to be submitted to the OCR to address the issues identified during audit;
  • The district also had to provide website accessibility training for all appropriate personnel, including: content developers, teachers, staff, volunteers, PTA members, webmasters, procurement officials and others responsible for developing, loading, maintaining, or auditing web content and functionality.

2015. National Association of the Deaf v. Harvard, MIT

Defendants


Plaintiff: National Association of the Deaf on behalf of four hard-of-hearing individuals, a non-profit organization run by Deaf people to advocate for deaf rights.

Location: Massachusetts District Court.

Claims: The schools discriminated hard of hearing people as they’ve failed to provide captions for the vast and varied array of online content they make available to the general public, including massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Resolution: On November 4, 2016, Judge Mark G. Mastroianni denied Harvard’s and MIT’s motion to dismiss the closed captioning ADA lawsuit. The case will likely go to court soon.

2015 Mary West v. eHarmony

Defendant: eHarmony, an online dating website.

PlaintiffMary West, a blind individual.

LocationU.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Claims: eHarmony violated state and federal law by failing to build a website that is compatible with accessibility technology: the site used pop-up forms and images without alternative text. Blind users of the site could not have proper access to it without someone’s help.

Resolution: Pending resolution.

2015. Ashley Cwikla v. Bank of America

Defendant: Bank of America, a multinational banking and financial services corporation headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Plaintiff: Ashley Cwikla, a visually impaired individual.

Location: Massachusetts District Court.

Claims: Lack of accessibility of Bank of America Credit Card Rewards Redemption Solutions available to Bank of America customers on their website.

Resolution: Settlement agreement.

  • Bank of America was obliged to launch the New Bank of America Credit Card Rewards Redemptions Solutions that substantially satisfied Level A and AA Success Criteria set forth by the WCAG 2.0 standard;
  • Bank of America was to conduct training for appropriate Bank of America and/or third party customer service telephone staff to enable persons being trained to assist the visually impaired clients of Bank of America.

2015. Access Now Inc. v. Ace Hardware

DefendantAce Hardware, American hardware retailers' cooperative based in Oak Brook, Illinois

PlaintiffAccess Now Inc. on behalf of three visually impaired individuals, an international non-profit, human rights, public policy, and advocacy group dedicated to an open and free Internet.

Location: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Claims: Ace Hardware's website was not designed with the accommodations necessary for visually impaired individuals.

Resolution: The plaintiffs seek compensation for all legal fees and damages suffered. Case is pending resolution.

Other High-Profile Website ADA Compliance Lawsuits

The following are the most significant website accessibility cases from the past. Companies, from small to large-scale corporations, have suffered from ADA website compliance lawsuits and litigations for over a decade now. 

2014. National Federation of the Blind v. US Department of Education

Defendant: U.S. Department of Education

Plaintiff: National Federation of the Blind

Claims: Lack of accessibility of student loan information presented on the website.

Resolution: Settlement Agreement.

  • US Department of Education and its contracted student loan servicers were obliged to make their websites, documents and forms equally accessible to disabled applicants and borrowers;
  • US Dept of Education had to provide documents in alternative formats such as Braille and large print. They were also required to allow visually-impaired people to fill out, sign and submit accessible versions of student loan forms and applications.

2013. Bazyn, Brown, et al. v. Safeway

DefendantSafeway, American supermarket grocery chain.

Plaintiffs:

  • Ardis Bazyn
  • Don Brown
  • Cindy Flerman
  • Tom Foley
  • Marlaina Lieberg
  • Lillian Scaife
  • Rebecca Welz
  • Judy Wilkinson
  • Perry Lou Wolfe


All visually impaired individuals.

Claims: Safeway failed to ensure that their eCommerce Webpages and Safeway Mobile Optimized Webpages are fully accessible to the visually impaired.

Resolution: Settlement agreement.

  • Safeway was to use reasonable efforts to provide accessibility features for Safeway eCommerce Webpages and Safeway mobile optimized Webpages and make sure these resources substantially comply with Level AA of WCAG 2.0 guidelines by April 15, 2014;
  • Safeway was also to provide training and technical support for all personnel involved in providing customers with Safeway eCommerce services and mobile optimized webpages.

2013. National Federation of the Blind v. HRB Digital LLC

Defendant: HRB Digital LLC, one of the largest tax return preparers in the United States that offers a wide range of services online via website and mobile apps. Services include professional and do-it-yourself tax preparation, instructional videos, office location information, interactive live video conference and chat with tax pros, online and in-store services and electronic tax-return filing.

Plaintiff: National Federation of the Blind

Location: U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Claims:

  • H&R Block’s website was incompatible with assistive technologies used by people with disabilities to browse the site;
  • The website had issues with keyboard navigation and captioning which are serious impediments for people with disabilities.

Resolution: Consent decree.

  • HRB Digital were tom make their website accessible for the start of the next tax filing term on Jan. 1, 2015. More accessibility deadlines were to follow in the next couple of years after the  decree;
  • HRB Digital and HRB Tax Group have agreed to: appoint a skilled web accessibility coordinator who will report to H&R Block’s enterprise Chief Information Officer; adopt a web accessibility policy; initiate training on accessible design for its web content personnel; evaluate employee and contractor performance based on successful web access programming; conduct regular automated and user group testing; hire an approved outside consultant to prepare annual independent evaluations of Block’s online accessibility;
  • H&R Block was to pay $45,000 to the two individual plaintiffs, and a $55,000 civil penalty.

2012. National Association for the Deaf v. Netflix

DefendantNetflix, video-on-demand and online streaming provider.

PlaintiffNational Association for the Deaf

Location: U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Claims: Netflix violated title III of the ADA by failing to provide adequate closed captioning on “Watch Instantly” streaming video programming.

Resolution: Settlement agreement. Netflix agreed to:

  • Speedily caption new content - Netflix will put captions on new content within 30 days by 2014; within 14 days by 2015 and within 7 days by 2016;
  • At the time, Netflix provided service on more than 1 000 devices and its captioning service worked on most, but not all of them.  The agreement required Netflix to make "good faith, diligent efforts" ensure compatibility on most devices but is not obligated to get it 100% device compatible;
  • Pay $755 000 to plaintiffs' lawyers involved in the accessibility lawsuit, as well as $40 000 for the decree to be executed in the next four years.

2012. National Federation of the Blind v. Walt Disney

Defendant: Walt Disney, American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate, which also has theme parks, resorts and destinations across the globe, represented on its websites.

Plaintiff: National Federation of the Blind

Location: U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Claims: The Disney sites  were overloaded with video and audio content which could not be turned off by physically impaired people and drowned out screen-reading technology. Websites contained Flash content that is also inaccessible to blind persons. The claimants stated that Disney simply hadn’t addressed the needs of people who are visually impaired and failed to provide accommodations for those individuals on their web resources.

ResolutionWebsite ADA settlement agreement.

  • Disney was to make substantial changes to their website to accommodate individuals with disabilities;
  • The company was also to award the plaintiffs a sum of up to $15 000, which Disney had to pay directly to them;
  • Disney was also to pay up to $1 550 000 in attorney fees and costs.

2012. Kit Lau v. Charles Schwab

Defendant: Charles Schwab, a bank and brokerage firm, based in San Francisco, California.

Plaintiff: Kit Lau, a visually impaired individual.

Location: U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Claims: Charles Schwab website had accessibility issues that prevented visually impaired people from accessing content.

Resolution: Settlement agreement.

  • Charles Schwab had to make sure that its website is inclusive to all customers;
  • The company adopted Level AA WCAG 2.0 web accessibility standards.

2010 US Department of Justice v. Hilton Worldwide Inc.

DefendantHilton Hotels & Resorts, global brand of full-service hotels and resorts and the flagship brand of Hilton. 

PlaintiffUS Department of Justice

Location: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Claims: While conducting an investigation the Department of Justice found that individuals with disabilities were facing serious barriers while accessing the hilton.com website and trying to reserve an accessible room using the internet reservations system.

Resolution: Settlement agreement.

According to the agreement, no later than August 30, 2011, Hilton was required to reconstruct the www.hilton.com website and ensure the websites for the brands that are constructed on the www.hilton.com domain would comply with the Worldwide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0, Level A success criteria.

2009. American Council of the Blind, et al. v. Staples

Defendant: Staples, an American multinational office supply retailing corporation.

Plaintiff: American Council of the Blind

Claims: The www.Staples.com website was inaccessible to visually impaired people.

Resolution: ADA lawsuit settlement agreement.

Staples were to use good faith efforts to ensure that all pages of www.Staples.com would substantially comply with the priority one and two checkpoints of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0) by no later than June 30, 2009. This was before the introduction of WCAG 2.0, therefore Staples had the opportunity to choose either version 1.0 or 2.0 of WCAG after supersession. If WCAG 2.0 would be selected, according to the agreement, Staples would have to meet conformance level AA.

2009 American Council of the Blind, et al. v. CVS

DefendantCVS Pharmacy, a subsidiary of the American retail and healthcare company CVS Health.

PlaintiffAmerican Council of the Blind

Claims: Certain inaccessible features and content on CVS.com violated Public Accommodation Laws.

Resolution: Settlement agreement.

  •  CVS were to use best efforts to ensure that all of CVS.com pages substantially comply with WCAG Guidelines (WCAG 1.0 was the contemporary standard at the time);
  •  CVS had to appoint an outside consultant that had already been approved by the claimants to audit CVS.com for WCAG compliance. The consultant was to provide a written report regarding the findings from the audit.

2008 National Federation of the Blind v. Target

Defendant: Target Corporation, the second-largest discount store retailer in the United States, behind Walmart.

Plaintiff: National Federation of the Blind

Location: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

Claims: Target’s website suffered from a lack of “alt” tags throughout the site, which are used by screen readers to assist disabled users in navigating the website.

Resolution: Settlement agreement. Target was to:

  • Make its website accessible to individuals with disabilities;
  • Pay $6 million to a "Damages Fund" which were directed to members of the class action suit;
  • Pay up to $15,000 of the costs of  NFB's costs per session for Target personnel accessibility design training.

2008. American Council of the Blind, et al. v. Rite Aid

DefendantRite Aid, a drugstore chain in the United States and a Fortune 500 company.

PlaintiffAmerican Council of the Blind

Claims: In or about June 2005, several organizations contacted Rite Aid raising concerns about its website, riteaid.com in terms of accessibility.

Resolution: As a result of a series of discussions, the parties reached an ADA lawsuit settlement agreement.

Rite Aid to ensure that all pages of their riteaid.com website substantially complied with Level AA of WCAG 1.0 accessibility standards by December 31, 2007, and that all pages of riteaidhealthsolutions.com, which can be accessed via a link on riteaid.com, also comply with Conformance Level AA of WCAG 1.0 by February 29, 2008. This was before WCAG 1.0 was superseded by version 2.0, therefore in the case when W3C introduces WCAG 2.0 Rite Aid had the opportunity to choose between version 1.0 and 2.0 compliance.

Other Website ADA Compliance Lawsuits

Below are some of additional brands that have faced ADA lawsuits over the years:

  • JetBlue Airways in 2010;
  • Quizno’s;
  • Arby’s;
  • T.G.I Friday’s;
  • Red Lobster;
  • Sizzler;
  • Supercuts;
  • Bath & Body Works;
  • J.C. Penney and many others.

County and City Websites Investigated for ADA Website Accessibility

Private organizations aren’t the only ones affected by the website accessibility trends, below is a list of state, county and city websites that underwent ADA investigations by the Department of Justice over the years. 

All of these cases ended with parties entering ADA website accessibility settlements in order to avoid serious litigation.

  • Van Buren County, AR;
  • Merced County, CA;
  • City of Fort Morgan, CO;
  • City of Port St. Lucie, FL;
  • Fort Meyers, FL;
  • Jacksonville, FL;
  • City of Vero Beach, FL;
  • Atlanta, GA;
  • Glynn County, GA;
  • Randolph County, GA;
  • Stewart County, GA;
  • Lumpkin County, GA;
  • City of Cedar Rapids, IA;
  • Village of Midlothian, IL;
  • St. Clair County, IL;
  • Champaign County, IL;
  • City of Dekalb, IL;
  • LaPorte County, IN;
  • City of Independence, KS;
  • The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, KS;
  • Humboldt, KS;
  • Daviess County, KY;
  • Norfolk County, MA;
  • Town of Swansea, MA;
  • City of North Adams, MA;
  • City of Muskegon, MI;
  • City of Kansas City, MO;
  • City of Poplarville, MS;
  • Robeson County, NC;
  • Wilmington, NC;
  • County of Wilson, NC;
  • Fargo, ND;
  • San Juan County, NM;
  • City of Ruidoso, NM;
  • City of Fallon, NV;
  • Chautauqua County, NY;
  • City of Niagara Falls, NY;
  • Town of Poestenkill, NY;
  • Madison County, NY;
  • Town of Vian, OK;
  • Fayette County, PA;
  • Lancaster County, PA;
  • Schuylkill County, PA;
  • City of Newport, RI;
  • Providence, RI;
  • City of West Columbia, SC;
  • City of the Isle of Palms, SC;
  • Pennington County, SD;
  • Gregg County, TX;
  • Upshur County, TX;
  • City of Wills Point, TX;
  • City of Galveston, TX;
  • McClennan County, TX;
  • Nueces County, TX;
  • City of Parowan, UT;
  • Smyth County, VA;
  • Fairfax County, VA;
  • Warrenton, VA;
  • Yakima County, WA;
  • City of Madison, WI.

Conclusion

We can see that disregarding website accessibility usually leads to serious consequences, including:

  • Harmful and lengthy litigations;
  • Court injunctions, penalties and fees;
  • ADA website accessibility settlements that require compensation of claimant’s legal fees;
  • Serious expenses associated with website redesign and development, hiring consultants and accessibility specialists, undergoing training, etc.;
  • Blemished company reputation and corporate identity, that may lead to losing customers.

All of the above mentioned cases show that ADA website accessibility and compliance with WCAG 2.1 standards is an issue that must not be taken lightly. Developing an ADA compliant website can prove to be a smart investment in the future to avoid all the nuisance.


To learn more about website accessibility and the WCAG 2.1 standard, please visit our other articles on the topic:


You can also contact us if you require accessibility web development or ADA web accessibility audit services.

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