Supreme Court allows blind people to sue retailers if their websites are not accessible

R0binHood

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https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-10-07/blind-person-dominos-ada-supreme-court-disabled

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and business groups that said they represented 500,000 restaurants and 300,000 businesses joined in an appeal urging the high court to review the 9th Circuit’s decision. They complained of a “tsunami of litigation” and worried that judges nationwide would see the appeals court’s decision as “imposing a nationwide website-accessibility mandate.”

But without comment or dissent on Monday, the high court said it would not hear the case of Domino’s Pizza vs. Robles.

This is not a formal ruling upholding the 9th Circuit decision, and the justices could agree to take up the issue later if lower courts are divided. But for now, the court’s action strongly suggests that retailers will be required to make their websites accessible.
How many of the forum platforms are completely ADA accessible I wonder?

I'm all for accessibility and I think there should be a certain amount of accountability, but I fear a decision like this will open the floodgates for frivolous law suits against smaller businesses and websites and online business owners.
 
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Kyrie

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A website is inheritance not blind-user friendly. This whole thing seems crazy.
 

R0binHood

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The dominoes case actually has some merit. The prices online or in the app are cheaper than when calling by phone and most of the online vouchers can't be applied verbally by phone due to the way the system works even if the managers wanted to, which ends up being discriminatory if the website or app isn't usable by that customer.
 

zappaDPJ

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It's about time the Internet was given a kick up the backside as far as the visually impaired are concerned. They have as much entitlement as anyone else and the technology to make it accessible to them already exists.

I don't know much about the judgement but on the surface it seems it could ultimately benefit a large group of people.
 

Penguin

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Guess those companies didn't see this one coming... sorry, I'll show myself out ;)
 

Nev_Dull

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This is a no-brainer.

We expect businesses to be wheelchair accessible and there would be a huge outcry if a store posted a sign reading "No Muslims" or "No Women". Yet it's somehow crazy or frivolous for a huge part of the internet to effectively prohibit visually impaired users.

Maybe I'm wrong and blind people have no business being on the internet anyway. So we should just all go back to whingeing about how forums need to change so we can more easily access them from our mobile phones.
 

Wes of StarArmy

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Maybe we can put something on our sites that says:

"Blind and Low Vision Users - at MySite.com we strive to ensure accessibility for all users. If you discover accessibility problems such as missing ALT text or navigation problems, please provide our accessibility contact by email with a brief description of the issue and the URL where the problem was encountered and we will attempt to rectify the issue in 24-48 hours and get back to you."

Basically this would be a way to give users an obvious way to swiftly address issues they find before they turn into a big deal.
 

R0binHood

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We expect businesses to be wheelchair accessible and there would be a huge outcry if a store posted a sign reading "No Muslims" or "No Women". Yet it's somehow crazy or frivolous for a huge part of the internet to effectively prohibit visually impaired users.
It's not crazy or frivolous to expect a certain level of compatibility, and to strive for the best accessibility possible, wherever possible. I don't think anyone disagrees with the principle of striving to ensure their sites and businesses are accessible. The problem arises when precedent is set that it's possible to sue a business based on a requirement in the ADA.

It's a long standing existing problem that there are litigious trolls out there, similar to patent trolls, that go after small businesses in particular to try and extract money from them because they're not fully ADA compliant.

If these ends up propagating to websites, what's going to happen to smaller companies that don't have the budget to spend tens of thousands of dollars or more on their website to ensure it's specked out to the highest degree of compliance? What happens to companies that want to push the boundaries of web technologies or be particularly creative with the design and UI?

If companies are stifled from doing this because they're worried someone might sue them for not being 100% compliant, then we'll all end up stuck on cookie cutter Wordpress and Squarespace and Shopify sites because they're the only companies that are going to invest the resources in ensuring their sites are compliant while being affordable to smaller businesses.

Dominoes screwed themselves and everyone else over on this accessibility issue because it was all about the ability to place an order. They already had a telephone system for accepting orders, a perfectly accessible way for a blind person to patronise their business, but they discriminated against them by not giving them the same deal as those using the website.
 
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R0binHood

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Maybe I'm wrong and blind people have no business being on the internet anyway. So we should just all go back to whingeing about how forums need to change so we can more easily access them from our mobile phones.
What's funny about this comment is that Apple and iOS are industry leading in mobile phone and computing accessibility enabling many users with disabilities to compute and use the internet and software/apps through mobile devices better than ever before, and frequently better than their desktop counterparts.

They have excellent text to speech, voice dictation, magnifying tools, font controls, accessible readable colour schemes, colour filtering, direct braille entry without the use of a braille display, use of a braille display for both input and output and more.

Software in every other industry has blazed ahead on mobile because it's often very well executed and it can be done in an accessible way. That's part of the source of frustration for those that call for better forum mobile compatibility. It's possible to do and it can be a great experience.

https://www.apple.com/uk/accessibility/

https://www.apple.com/uk/accessibility/iphone/

https://www.apple.com/uk/accessibility/iphone/vision/

Voice Over
Voice Control Text
Voice Control App/Switch Control
 
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Nev_Dull

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If these ends up propagating to websites, what's going to happen to smaller companies that don't have the budget to spend tens of thousands of dollars or more on their website to ensure it's specked out to the highest degree of compliance? What happens to companies that want to push the boundaries of web technologies or be particularly creative with the design and UI?
The easiest way to avoid being sued is to be compliant with the law. What you're voicing are common complaints from those who don't understand what making websites accessible entails. There doesn't need to be any compromise in design. And sure, it's always way more expensive to retrofit accessibility than build it in from the beginning, but that's the same with anything.

What's funny about this comment is that Apple and iOS are industry leading in mobile phone and computing accessibility enabling many users with disabilities to compute and use the internet and software/apps through mobile devices better than ever before, and frequently better than their desktop counterparts.
Yes, and that would be a great benefit, if only the sites people try to visit were accessible. All the cool do-dads in the world won't make it easier to use a site that isn't accessible. Part of every web design course should be to spend a day sitting with a visually impaired user, followed by a day on the internet with no monitor. The level of appreciation for accessibility online would be greatly enhanced.
 

R0binHood

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Yeah, I don't disagree with where you're coming from, in a perfect world all sites would be fully accessible. I'm just highlighting the fact that if this issues isn't handled correctly it could up negatively impacting a large number of businesses who may already be doing their best, but may not be able to comply depending on the technology they're using. If it's structured in such a way that trolls are able to file frivolous lawsuits against sites, as they have done when it comes to physical premises.

Most of these cases are against good, well meaning business owners, but they didn't execute things perfectly and so they are then taken advantage of by teams of lawyers resulting in lots of lost money over claims they should never have been filed in the first place.

The alleged violations were “minor, even trivial.” Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities, LLC v. MidFirst Bank, 2018 WL 3545291, at *2 (D. Ariz. July 24, 2018). Some claimed a handicap accessibility sign was infinitesimally lower than required; others incorrectly calculated the heights in question.

They also “failed to allege a single harm to Ritzenthaler, let alone that he ever visited [the] premises – or even that he was disabled.”
These business owners getting sued by the trolls aren't wilfully flaunting the act because they don't care, they're often very willing and trying to comply, but haven't complied completely for one reason or another, sometimes due to restrictions they don't have much control over which leaves them exposed to abuse of the law.

I used to live in a residential home as a kid as my mother ran one. It was a small one with only about 12 beds. The health and safety regulations and requirements ended up getting completely out of control. They wanted her to install a ludicrously expensive dedicated lift system among countless other things that were completely unnecessary to a smaller home like hers, when the stair lift and other systems she had in place worked perfectly well and there were no complaints from staff or residents.

All these demands and new regulations kept pouring in over the years and eventually it became too much for a small business like hers to handle. She had to close up shop. Her local inspector and the family of the residents begged her not to close as she ran one of the cleanest and well regarded residential homes in the county. And it was, I lived there every day, it didn't reek of piss like most other residential homes you go to and it was beautifully well kept and the residents well cared for. But slowly these regulations choked this small business who was doing everything they could to comply and was running a great business to the best of their ability.


So when I see stuff like this it makes me so frustrated and disgusted that Dominoes were so belligerent in their case. In their case they were having a real impact on their visually impaired users on their website. I obviously think they should still fix it and make it accessible, but they could have at least let them order by phone for the same price for an instant solution to the situation while they worked on it or made an alternative accessible version.

Hopefully the net result will be beneficial and more sites will take it seriously, I just have a feeling the trolls may end up out in force with this one to abuse it if we're not careful.
 

LeadCrow

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A website is inheritance not blind-user friendly.
Screen readers existed for quite a while, web services and software providers just need to follow certain compatibility criterias. Those technologies dont serve only users with poor or lost sight and exist in many forms.

In the context of retail, poorsighted readers' QOL would significantly improve if they can shop online and get their goods shipped home instead of stumbling around in crowded streets and limited in their ability to shop in a physical store. It might not be a huge audience but it's worth going the extra mile since it wouldnt degrade anyone else's experience.
 

Nev_Dull

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Hopefully the net result will be beneficial and more sites will take it seriously, I just have a feeling the trolls may end up out in force with this one to abuse it if we're not careful.
Certainly, when you create a system that pays people for spurious or frivolous lawsuits, you will get those who seek to benefit from the practice. Sadly, that has become part of the price of doing business and generated a lot of money for the insurance industry (As a consultant, I paid horrendous amounts every year for both liability and error & omissions insurance).

That said, a great deal of the internet is still out of reach for visually impaired users, even though most states, provinces, and countries have laws requiring equal access to services for disabled persons. There are lots of reasons for this, including lack of knowledge, penny-pinching, and laziness. If nothing else, publicity around lawsuits like this may push more businesses to become accessible. Blind people have money too and are more than willing to spend it online.
 

zappaDPJ

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If nothing else, publicity around lawsuits like this may push more businesses to become accessible.
Absolutely. Reading this certainly made me think about how accessible my sites are to the visually impaired.
 

R0binHood

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it seems some vultures are already starting to pounce, will be interesting to see what comes of some of this initial wave of litigation

I was going to post this on a throwaway but obviously that had no karma so I just shredded my post history in case this hurts my case.

On Thursday I received a letter that informed me that my LLC is being sued under something called the ADA.

Essentially they're claiming that my Shopify store isn't accessible by deaf and blind people and it should be???

I don't have a lawyer but I'm really quite worried. Our revenue is under $500,000 per year and a settlement of even 10% of that would wipe us out.

What do I do here? How should I have prevented this from happening? Is this a scam? Hopefully it is right?

From the comments:

Another one!? There was a guy with a very similar situation on /r/smallbusiness yesterday. Albeit with Wordpress though.

Copy and paste of my comment on that thread.

Okay, I heard this news as soon as it broke and was really worried as I run some medium size sites as well. The potential downside in lawyer fees is ridciulous, starts at 10k and goes up and up.

There are a couple of solutions I found. It really depends on what stage you're at. If you've been contacted already/in litigation, it's obviously too late and you need to lawyer up. You'll be paying a settlement and fixing your site. If you you haven't been contacted, you can get your site up to code before (if?) you do.

How to do that? It's interesting. There are some all in one solutions like Accessibe which apparently have bought corporate brand's sites up to par. Pricing seems to be based on the size of your website (pages, not traffic), starting at $490/year for 1000 pages. 40 bucks a month is worth it for me as my site is less than 1000 pages. Might be the same for you.

There's no official checklist or standard, but here is the standard that most people are following and is accepted as the go-to.

https://accessible.org/Web-Accessibility-Standards-WAS.pdf

I'm looking for a Wordpress plugin. I'll update this when I find a good one.
Im seeing a lot of bad info in this thread. My bet is this doesnt even apply to your business.

Do you have 15 full time employees and are open 20 weeks of the year?

Or

Are you a public facing business like a movie theater, park, school, day care, recreation facility?

Then it doesnt apply to you and you are being trolled.

Heres some more info

https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/10900-ada-website-requirements.html
 

\o/

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I fear a decision like this will open the floodgates for frivolous law suits against smaller businesses and websites and online business owners.
Good.

Because most of these "modern" websites which require users to allow executing arbitrary JavaScripts (-> security!) are not accessible because of that.

Finally there is a reason to sue this cancer off the web.
 

mysiteguy

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Good.

Because most of these "modern" websites which require users to allow executing arbitrary JavaScripts (-> security!) are not accessible because of that.

Finally there is a reason to sue this cancer off the web.
Good that small businesses will get sued?
 

\o/

an oddity
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Yup.

There is no legal obligation to have a non-accessible website. If you think that you need one anyway (because you are a business or whatever), make sure that you know what you're doing. If you don't, hire someone who knows it instead.

My security is more important than a company's understanding of good web design.
 

mysiteguy

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Yup.

There is no legal obligation to have a non-accessible website. If you think that you need one anyway (because you are a business or whatever), make sure that you know what you're doing. If you don't, hire someone who knows it instead.

My security is more important than a company's understanding of good web design.
There are millions of small mom and pop businesses, small churches, non-profits and so forth with a basic web site who don't even know such things even exist and what to look for, yet you're all for them getting sued. It's one thing to have lofty principles, but the statistical fact is many laws for people with disabilities have actually in practice resulted in the opposite happening.

For example, since the passage of the ADA, a smaller percentage of disabled people have been hired. In 1988, 50% of people with disabilities were employed. It's fallen steadily since then and is now at 19%. Why? Because businesses are so afraid of being sued that they avoid hiring them. I saw this first hand with my father who was blind. Now imagine what's going to happen if small businesses start getting sued left and right for accessibility issues on web site. The likely outcome is many businesses with forego with having a web site altogether.

Follow the money, this was a money grab, pure and simple, for the person who sued Dominos. He could have simply picked up the phone, and the local shop would almost certainly have been happy to take his order and apply the online discount.

 
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