Lack of Website Accessibility Continues to Create Legal Problems for Businesses

  • Friday, September 1, 2017

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In our second article on this topic, Update: First NH Lawsuit for ADA Non-Compliant Website published in April of this year, we noted that a “website accessibility” lawsuit had been filed in New Hampshire against Blue Apron, the on-line retailer of prepared meals.

We also noted that recent federal court decisions seemed to indicate a trend towards a clear rule that, at least until clear regulations are in place to delineate the scope of a business’ duty to make its website accessible, businesses do not owe a duty to make their websites available to disabled individuals.

We may have spoken too soon. In July, a federal court in Florida ruled that a visually disabled individual who was unable to use 90% of a grocery store’s website, even with the help of a screen reader, was entitled to injunctive relief against the store. See Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., No. 1:16-cv-23020 (S.D. Fla.) The court ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act required the website to be fully accessible, because the website was “heavily integrated” into the website owner’s grocery store locations and operated as a “gateway” to the stores. Therefore, the disabled individual was deprived of equal access to the store’s offerings to the general public.

Businesses which operate “bricks and mortar” stores plainly have the most reason to be concerned about accessibility, but any business which uses a website to provide information about its goods or services should also be concerned.
Meanwhile, the Blue Apron case continues to make its way through the federal court in New Hampshire. It is not yet clear whether the court will hold that retailers (like Blue Apron) who do not maintain bricks and mortar locations but rather operate solely on the Internet, have a duty to insure that their websites are accessible to visually impaired users.

Devine Millimet, a full service law firm with offices in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, regularly advises business clients regarding compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. For more information about the duty to make your website accessible, please feel free to contact Steve Grill at sgrill@devinemillimet.com or Bill Gramer at wgramer@devinemillimet.com.

READ ALSO: Is Your Website Accessible to Disabled Individuals?

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