First Trial on Website Accessibility Under Title III Points to Likely Outcome for Future Lawsuits
The groundswell of legal activity surrounding whether websites are covered under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is likely to increase following a recent verdict in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In Juan Carlos Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., a legally blind plaintiff sued the Winn-Dixie grocery chain because he was unable to navigate its website to download coupons, order prescriptions, and find store locations—activities with a close nexus to its brick-and-mortar “experience.” Though there have been several recent decisions regarding whether inaccessible websites violate Title III, this is the first case to go to trial, says Matthias Niska, employment attorney at Nilan Johnson Lewis who counsels businesses on disability accommodation issues. He advises companies selling goods and services on their websites—particularly if those sites have a close relationship to their customer-facing brick-and-mortar facilities—to see this as a wake-up call. “Although the ruling is only binding on Winn-Dixie, it paints a picture for future lawsuits,” Niska says. He also points out a key aspect of Judge Scola’s ruling: the court held that Winn-Dixie is responsible for the website’s lack of accessibility including third-party vendor components (e.g., a map locator). “When companies are thinking about building or redesigning their websites, they need to not only have web developers that know how to build under ADA guidelines but also include those that can audit third-party components for accessibility,” Niska explains. To speak with Matthias Niska on ADA compliance and other matters, contact him at 612.305.7727 or firstname.lastname@example.org.