Website Accessibility Lawsuits Are On The Rise

Have you heard the name Juan Carlos Gil?
Well, if your website sells a product or offers a service you need to read Mr. Gil’s story.

While his story not directly linked to the credit union or banking industry, it is setting a precedent that accessibility for your website is important and should not be put off any longer.

On June 13, 2017, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola of Florida ruled in favor of Mr. Gil in the case Juan Carlos Gil v. Winn-Dixie, that the Winn-Dixie grocery chain was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This case was not about Winn-Dixie’s physical stores. The concern was with their website, which prevented Mr. Gil from using their services to shop online as other customers do. Mr. Gil is legally blind and also has cerebral palsy, to use the web he relies on screen readers.

The lawsuit argued that Winn-Dixie’s website was not accessible and that the store’s online coupons were unreadable using a screen reader or devices.

After a two-day trial the court ruled against Winn-Dixie. The order is historic because it is the very first trial in an ADA case about website accessibility against a private company.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola of Florida ruled that Winn-Dixie website was covered under the ADA, because the website was “heavily integrated with Winn-Dixie’s physical store locations and operates as a gateway to the physical store locations.” Other courts have already ruled that websites are covered by the ADA even without any connection to a physical place.

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The Verdict.

  • Although Mr. Gil declined any sort of settlement fee outside of attorneys’ fees, Winn-Dixie was ordered to update their website, which could cost upwards of $250,000. Winn-Dixie now faces a three-year injunction. During that time, they need to immediately bring their site up to speed with WCAG 2.0 criteria. 
  • Mandatory updates over this three-year period will also be required in order to keep their site in compliance.
  • Because Winn-Dixie has a number of third parties that manage and use various parts of their site, those entities are now also required to be in compliance with WCAG 2.0.
  • Winn-Dixie must place an accessibility policy on their website, notifying customers of their ability to cater to individuals with disabilities.
  • Finally, all employees responsible for working on the website will have to undergo accessibility training.
  • What this lawsuit and ruling really demonstrates is how large of a role websites actually play in the retail experience. Regardless of your industry, if you have physical store or not, inaccessibility will no longer be accepted.

Other court accessibility case rulings against private companies:

June 15, 2017: a California judge rejected Hobby Lobby‘s arguments that a web accessibility case brought by a blind customer should be thrown out of court.

July 21, 2017 a judge in the Southern District of New York (a federal court) ruled that a web accessibility case against Five Guys restaurant chain could continue in court.

August 1, 2017, in perhaps the strongest support for web accessibility in the past several years, a federal judge in New York issued a blistering and passionate defense of web accessibility in refusing to throw out a web accessibility case against Blick Art Materials.

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