Keeping Our Eyes on Disability Litigation Trends

A Florida federal district court recently ruled that grocery chain Winn-Dixie violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by maintaining a website that was inaccessible to a vision-impaired customer.  In that case, the plaintiff customer was unable to access coupons or order prescriptions online using special computer software designed to assist him in navigating websites.  Accordingly, he alleged that Winn-Dixie denied him goods and services based on his disability.

The judge agreed, issuing an injunction to require Winn-Dixie to modify its website, and awarding attorney fees and costs to the plaintiff’s attorneys.  The court ruled that the website was a “gateway” to the physical stores, qualifying it as a public accommodation covered by the ADA; and that the plaintiff was denied full enjoyment of this public accommodation based on his disability. In issuing this ruling, the judge relied upon Web Content Accessibility Guidelines that were adopted (in large part) by the federal government earlier this year.  (The WCAG mandates that websites be made accessible to everyone.)

If your company offers goods or services to the public at a brick and mortar location and also maintains an online presence, it would be prudent to review your website’s accessibility for people with visual or auditory impairments.  Contact Wright Beamer with any questions about how your business might be affected with this potential wave of new disability rights litigation.

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