Website-Accessibility Disability Discrimination Plausibly Alleged, Court Finds

In Wu v. Jensen-Lewis Co., Inc., 2018 WL 5723122 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 1, 2018), the court (inter alia) held that the plaintiff plausibly stated a claim for public accommodation discrimination. Plaintiff, who is legally blind, asserted that defendants’ website is not compliant with federal law (the Americans with Disabilities Act) because it was not fully and equally accessible to her and other visually impaired persons.

From the decision:

Wu alleges that Jensen-Lewis discriminated against her in violation of the ADA by having features on its website that posed accessibility barriers to the blind, thereby denying her equal access. Though Jensen-Lewis changed its website after Wu filed her complaint, Wu argues that the accessibility barriers she alleged still apply. In her complaint, Wu cites four such barriers. First, Wu alleges that graphical images on Jensen-Lewis’s website lack alternative text (“alt-text”) or a text equivalent. Compl. ¶ 26a. Alt-text enables screen-reading software to vocalize a description of an image to users. Second, Wu alleges that Jensen-Lewis’s website has empty links that contain no text. Compl. ¶ 26b. These empty links’ functionality is confusing to screen-reader users. Third, Wu alleges that the website contains redundant, adjacent links. Compl. ¶ 26c. Redundant, adjacent links go to the same URL address, resulting in additional, unnecessary navigation efforts for screen-reader users. Fourth, Wu alleges that linked images on the website lack alt-text. Compl. ¶ 26d. Without alt-text, a user would not know what function a linked image has when he or she clicks on it.

The court concluded that these allegations – “specific facts concerning [defendant’s] website” – when taken as true, as they must be at this stage in the proceedings – “plausibly show that Jensen-Lewis discriminated against Wu by denying her a full and equal opportunity to use its website” and, therefore, that plaintiff stated a claim under Title III of the ADA.

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