More retailers under the hammer for inaccessible websites

Thursday, 14 September 2017 10:07am

A new wave of lawsuits has begun in the USA with Kmart, McDonald’s, Sears, Ace Hardware, and GrubHub among the latest to be sued by blind and vision-impaired people for having inaccessible websites that exclude them from ordering products online.

Judges gavel hammer

Judges gavel hammer

A blind woman is alleging in the Chicago federal court that three major retailers are denying her, and similarly vision-impaired people, access to their websites in violation of US federal law. Kayla Reed filed suits on 8 September against hardware retailer Ace Hardware, flooring retailer Empire Today and discount store chain Kmart.

Reed is represented in the actions by attorneys with the PaytonDann firm, of Chicago, and Manning Law Office, of Newport Beach, California. These law firms are also handling similar website suits lodged this year on behalf of other blind plaintiffs against retail giant Sears, the McDonald’s fast-food chain, and the GrubHub on-demand food delivery service.

They were also handling a case against major multinational company, Kraft Heinz Foods, which was settled on 26 June for an undisclosed financial amount, with costs up to the point of settlement paid by the defendant, Kraft Heinz Foods.

The cornerstone of these complaints allege the companies being sued maintain websites for consumers that are unusable for the vision-impaired. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires sales, rental and service establishments accommodate the vision-impaired, and as a consequence, it is being alleged that companies are breaching the ADA across the country, as well as being in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.

“As an essential tool for many Americans, when accessible, the internet provides individuals with disabilities great independence,” Reed announced in her lawsuit. She went on to say that screen-readers that are used to impart information for blind and vision-impaired people, encountered ‘access barriers’ consisting of graphics, links and buttons that are not labelled or wrongly labelled, or lack alternative text, which is an embedded invisible code.

Further, Reed charged the websites are confusingly structured. All these factors prevent or obstruct navigation of the sites for the vision-impaired, Reed claimed. And in the case of Kmart, it is alleged that the company’s mobile app is not accessible to blind or vision-impaired people.

Under the provisions of the ADA, Ms Reed wants an injunction to force the companies to correct the problems, as well as an unspecified amount of money for her mental anguish, loss of dignity, and any other intangible injuries, which could well be a very high sum.

For more information and/or to talk about a solution to your organisation's online accessibility issues to ensure that sections of the community are not being excluded, you can email Media Access Australia at

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