This class action alleges that Modell’s Sporting Goods and Henry Modell & Company operate a website, Modells.com, that is inaccessible to legally blind persons and therefore violates state and federal civil rights laws.
The class for this lawsuit includes all blind persons in the US who have tried to access Modells.com, and who have been denied access to the enjoyment of its goods and services during the relevant period statutory period (that is, during a period that is within the statute of limitations for any of the laws cited in this case). There is also a New York State subclass.
In the US, 2 million persons are legally blind, which means that they may have no vision or only limited vision.
The blind access websites using keyboards and screen-reading software which vocalizes on-screen information. Websites must be designed for use in this manner. Well-established guidelines have existed for several years for making websites accessible to blind people. These include the guidelines developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
The federal government has also set accessibility standards that recommend several basic features for websites, including the following:
- adding alt-text (which screen readers can detect and vocalize) to graphics
- ensuring that all functions can be performed with a keyboard rather than a mouse
- ensuring that image maps are accessible
- adding headings so that blind people can easily navigate the site
Without features like these, websites may not be usable to the blind, even with screen readers.
The complaint alleges that Modells.com contains access barriers that prevent use by blind persons, including the lack of alt-text on graphics, inaccessible forms, inaccessible image maps, the lack of adequate prompting and labeling, the denial of keyboard access, and the requirement that transactions be performed solely with a mouse.
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says that “No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation…”
Discrimination can take the form of things like “a failure to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures” when such modifications are necessary to provide access to persons with disabilities, or “a failure to take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services…”
Laws in New York and other states contain similar prohibitions.
The complaint claims that Modell’s stores are sales establishments and public accommodations that fall within the definition of anti-discrimination laws. It also claims that Modells.com is a service, privilege, or advantage of Modell’s Stores, because the website contains features such as a store locator, an online store for products and gift cards, current ads, information on employment, investing, company policies, the company rewards program, and so on.Article Type: Lawsuit