Are you prepared to pay $100,000.00 in attorneys’ fees for your business’
discriminatory website? That’s exactly what happened to Florida-based
supermarket chain Winn-Dixie when a legally blind customer filed suit
because he was unable to fully utilize the company’s website, which
was incompatible with the customer’s screen reader software. As
a result of the decision in
Gil v. Winn-Dixie, No. 1:16-cv-23020, (S.D. Fla., slip op. June 12, 2017) numerous other
states, including California, have seen a steady increase in the filings
of these types of cases.
The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. §12101
et seq), was signed into law in 1990 and in 2008 underwent significant modifications
through the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 expanding the definition of “disability.”
Title III of the ADA prohibits businesses from discriminating against
customers “on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment
of the goods, services, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any
place of public accommodation.” 42 U.S.C. §12182(a). A “place
of public accommodation” is defined as private entity whose operation
affects commerce and meets other enumerated categories. 42 U.S.C. §12181(7).
Importantly, where a website is integrated with store locations (eg: customers
can purchase items online, search for store locations, etc.), courts have
found the website to be a service of a public accommodation and therefore
covered by the ADA.
Nat’l Fed’n of the Blind v. Target Corp., (N.D. Cal. 2006) 452 F.Supp.2d 946, 953-55.
Gil v. Winn-Dixie, the court ultimately held that Winn-Dixie’s website was inaccessible
to visually impaired individuals who must use screen reader software.
Therefore, Winn-Dixie was found to have violated the ADA because its website
denied the plaintiff from the “full and equal enjoyment of the goods,
services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations that Winn-Dixie
offers its sighted customers.”
Gil, No. 1:16-cv-23020, (S.D. Fla., slip op. June 12, 2017). The court ordered
Winn-Dixie to modify its website to be congruent with current guidelines
set forth under the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 published
by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium,
and later awarded Gil’s attorneys over $100,000.00 in fees and costs
for bringing the suit.
Businesses must take practical steps to ensure compliance. The attorneys
at Poole & Shaffery are prepared to assist in complying with WCAG
2.0 and ADA requirements.