In the past year, I books That business owners need to be aware of the growing trend of class-action federal lawsuits alleging that commercial websites and point-of-sale terminals violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). At this point, having a website that is making sales and isn’t widely accessible is an invitation to sue.
As a renewal, the ADA requires all businesses to remove any obstacle that interferes with a disabled person’s ability to access their products or services online — and under the ADA:
“The company may have discriminated against individuals with disabilities when they build and maintain architectural barriers that prevent people with disabilities from enjoying work like everyone else.”
Earlier this week, Prospect Farms Hemp Sales LLC and Highline Wellness Inc. In separate complaints to Federal Court filed by Rasheta Bunting, legally blind. Briefly, the complaints allege:
“The plaintiff is bringing this civil rights action against Prospect Farms for its failure to design, build, maintain and operate its website to be accessible and independently accessible to the plaintiff and other blind or visually impaired persons. The defendant disenfranchises blind and visually impaired persons throughout the United States of equal access to the goods and services that Prospect Farms provides to its non-disabled customers through www.Prospectfarms.com (hereinafter referred to as “Prospectfarms.com” or the “Website”). Denying Defendants full and equal access to its website at The Web, and therefore refusal of its offered products and services, as well as its physical locations, is a violation of the plaintiff’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
Specifically, the complaints allege that the companies’ websites “contain thousands of access barriers that make it difficult if not impossible for blind and visually impaired customers to use the website.” She points out – “Blind people have a greater need than sighted people to shop and transact online because of the challenges they face in mobility.”
These lawsuits are usually brought by groups of visually impaired consumers who claim that a particular website fails to accommodate their disability – and now, whether by valid claimants or not, it appears that the industry is indeed their next target. If the lawsuit is successful, the defendant could be required to take some action, which necessarily includes things like incurring the cost of redesigning its website or point of sale system for compliance, and paying the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and costs. In general, these lawsuits can become very costly, very fast.
In the end, it’s really important to get out of all of this and make sure your business stays up to date with ADA requirements and maintain practices to ensure their systems are up to date. Compliance is key here. And if your business finds itself on the receiving end of a letter of request or complaint, the allegations must be taken seriously and dealt with quickly.