I Can’t Hear You—A Blind Man’s Victory for Website Accessibility
Some of you may remember the 2008 court case involving Target and it’s website. The company was sued in an class action suit by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), representing blind people in America, who alleged that the website was not accessible to people who are blind. Target eventually settled the suit, paying damages of 6 million dollars. Since then, more and more cases have been filed against companies accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), specifically because their websites are not accessible to the blind.
Most recently, a blind man in California filed suit against Bag’n Baggage, a Colorado based luggage retailer. Edward Davis claimed that he was unable to shop on the site because it lacked features that were necessary to assist him. Davis alleged that this violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as a California anti-discrimination law.
Specifically, Davis pointed out the site’s lack of screen-reading software that would allow him to hear the text on the site. Similarly, the NFB alleged that Target’s site did not feature any alternative text, that making purchases online couldn’t be completed without using a mouse, and headings to help navigate the site were missing. It is understandable how the lack of these features would hinder those who are blind. And the judge in this case agreed before the trial even started.
Judge Bryan Foster ruled for Davis, finding that sufficient evidence was presented that Davis was denied “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, privileges, and accommodations offered by Defendant because of his disability.” This is the first time that a court has entered a judgment for the plaintiff in such a suit, which could start a trend in future cases, with Defendants not only being exposed to monetary damages and attorneys’ fees, but the expense needed to change and maintain a blind-accessible website.
The impact of this case has the potential to be far-reaching. More and more sites are coming under fire for lack of accessibility, and it seems that the courts are siding with the plaintiffs. If you operate a commercial website, now is a good time to check whether the ADA applies, and if you are in compliance.