Keep up with the latest developments and legal issues in the telecommunications and emerging technology sectors, with exclusive access to a comprehensive collection of telecommunications law news,...
Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. violated the civil rights of a visually-impaired customer by failing to make its website compatible with screen-reading software, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida has ruled ( Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. , 2017 BL 199998, S.D. Fla., No. 16-23020-Civ-Scola, entered on docket 6/13/17 ).The decision is the first post-trial ruling that an inaccessible website integrated with a bricks-and-mortar store violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, disabilities law attorneys told Bloomberg BNA June 15.
Businesses covered under the ADA, including grocery stores, hotels and libraries, generally have a significant web presence, Daniel Goldstein, a partner at Brown Goldstein Levy in Baltimore, said. The ruling makes clear that for those entities, accessibility has to cover all of their services—including websites, he said.
Judge Robert N. Scola ruled, in an opinion signed June 12 and filed June 13, that the grocery chain violated Title III of the ADA because plaintiff Juan Carlos Gil couldn’t access digital coupons or refill prescriptions online.
Winn-Dixie will appeal the judgment, the company’s vice president of corporate and consumer affairs Anna Kelly said in an emailed statement.
“While we are sensitive to the needs of the visually impaired and are currently improving our website, the legal position regarding website standards are unclear and we believe improvement can be achieved through customer dialogue, rather than through the courts,” Kelly said.
Bloomberg Law data show that 81 cases under the ADA have been filed since January against companies—including New York & Company Inc., The Cheesecake Factory, and Costco Wholesale Corp.—for allegedly failing to make their websites accessible to blind people.
The Gil decision will “embolden plaintiffs to continue to file the rampant amount of website accessibility cases we’ve been seeing and to use it as further ammunition to press for settlements of those cases,” Joshua A. Stein, a member of the firm at Epstein Becker & Green PC in New York, said. “If your website has a legitimate connection to a brick-and-mortar location, you’re facing more of an uphill battle now.”
Goldstein said the case will spur more voluntary actions from businesses to make their websites accessible. “Every time one of these cases comes down, it stimulates more businesses to do the right thing,” he said.
Title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a), prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of public accommodations.
The court declined to rule whether Winn-Dixie’s website qualified as a public accommodation itself, an issue that courts have split on. But the court said it need not decide because the website was “heavily integrated” with Winn-Dixie’s physical stores and operated as a “gateway” to those locations.
The court said that the services Winn-Dixie’s website offered are “undoubtedly” services and accommodations offered by the company’s physical store locations. The website’s services are “especially important for visually impaired individuals since it is difficult, if not impossible, for such individuals to use paper coupons found in newspapers or in the grocery stores, to locate the physical stores by other means, and to physically go to a pharmacy location in order to fill prescriptions,” the court said.
The court ordered Winn-Dixie to ensure its website is accessible to people with disabilities, in conformance with the web content accessibility guidelines set out by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Entin & Della Fera represented Gil. Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP represented Winn-Dixie.
To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at aKramer@bna.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at email@example.com
Full text at http://src.bna.com/pTK.
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)