Thousands of lawsuits have been brought against businesses for not being in compliance with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) guidelines. Here’s a list of notable cases and a summary of each outcome. Are these cases common? The length of the list speaks for itself, and these are only the high profile cases. Thousands of small and medium-sized businesses have also been sued for non-compliance with ADA website accessibility mandates.

New York Southern District Court

Defendant: Parkwood Entertainment, a management and entertainment company founded by American singer Beyoncé. 

Plaintiff: Mary Conner, a visually-impaired and legally blind person.

Claims:

The plaintiff requires screen-reading software to read website content using her computer, and she claims the defendant’s website is not accessible. The site’s inaccessibility prevents Conner and other visually-impaired people from learning about the artist and her music, learning about tours, buying tickets, buying merchandise, and joining the website to take advantage of other features. The complaint alleges that, as a place of public accommodation, the denial of equal access to goods and services is in direct violation of her rights under the ADA.

Resolution:

Conner seeks a court injunction that would require Beyoncé’s company to make the site accessible to blind and visually impaired customers in accordance with ADA rules. The plaintiff is also pursuing damages for those who have “been subject to unlawful discrimination”. The resolution of this case is pending.

New York Eastern District Court

Defendant: 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc., a floral and gourmet foods gift retailer and distribution company in the United States.

Plaintiff: Kayla Reed, a visually-impaired resident of California.

Claim:

The plaintiff requires screen reading software in order to read websites on the Internet.  According to the plaintiff, the defendant denied her equal access to the goods, services, and benefits offered to the public through 1800flowers.com and its mobile application. The plaintiff encountered accessibility barriers that made her screen-reading programs ineffective. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant discriminated against her by constructing a website and a mobile application that are inaccessible to visually-impaired individuals.

Resolution:

A cause of action was brought before the Court under Title III of the ADA. The plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that the defendant violated these statutes; injunctive relief against the defendant stemming from these alleged violations; an award of attorney’s fees, costs, and litigation expenses; compensatory damages; and prejudgment interest. The plaintiff also seeks a permanent injunction requiring the defendant to retain a qualified consultant to make an ADA-compliant website for the defendant. The court denied a request by the defendant to dismiss this case, and it continues to be in litigation.

New York Southern District Court

Defendant: Rolex Watch U.S.A., a subsidiary of Rolex SA, a Swiss luxury watchmaker.

Plaintiff: Braulio Thorne, a visually impaired individual.

Claims:

The Rolex website lacks alt-text which prevents visually-impaired customers from site access, browsing, checking store locations and hours of operation, or making purchases. Linked images lack alt-text, therefore, screen readers have no way to present content to the user.

Resolution:

Mr. Thorne called for a permanent injunction against Rolex Watch to make their website fully accessible to visually impaired users. The claimant also sought for compensatory, statutory and punitive damages for violations of New York State Human Rights Law and Civil Rights Law, court costs and attorneys’ fees, all with pre- and post-judgment interest. The case was dismissed after both parties reached a settlement agreement.

New York Southern District Court

Defendant: Fox News Network, a US cable and satellite television news channel. 

Plaintiff: Luc Burbon, a visually impaired individual.

Claims:

The defendant’s website does not conform to WCAG 2.0 requirements. The site’s design prevents blind users from accessing goods and services available at physical locations. The Fox News website contains linked images with no alt-text indicating where the links go to. Empty or redundant links exist that interfere with keyboard-based navigation and may cause confusion for visually impaired users.

Resolution: 

Mr. Burbon asked for a permanent injunction against Fox News, requiring them to make the website fully accessible and conform to ADA standards. Burbon also sought compensatory, statutory and punitive damages for violations of New York State Human Rights Law and Civil Rights Law, court costs and attorneys’ fees, all with pre- and post-judgment interest. The parties reached a settlement agreement, and the case was dismissed.

New York Southern District Court

Defendant: Amazon.com, the largest US eCommerce retailer and cloud computing company.

Plaintiff: Cedric Bishop, a legally blind person.

Claims:

Amazon’s website is inaccessible to the blind and visually impaired. The defendant’s website is not compatible with screen readers and refreshable Braille displays.

Resolution: 

The claimant wanted Amazon to make its website accessible to the visually impaired. He sought damages on behalf of himself and all similarly affected individuals. The case was dismissed after both parties reached a settlement agreement.

New York Southern District Court

Defendant: Burger King, one of the largest global fast food restaurant chains.

Plaintiff: Maria Mendizabal, a visually impaired individual.

Claims: 

The Burger King website does not provide full and unrestrained access for visually impaired people; the site does not allow full access to information about goods and services available to the general public. Some obstacles include a lack of image alt-text, empty links that interfere with screen-reading software, and redundant links that cause navigation confusion.

Resolution: 

Mendizabal called for a permanent injunction for Burger King to ensure its  website accessibility. The case was voluntarily dismissed after both parties reached an ADA settlement agreement.

New York Southern District Court

Defendant: Nike, a US based multinational corporation focused on the design, development and sales of athleticwear. 

Plaintiff: Maria Mendizabal, a visually impaired individual.

Claims:

The Nike corporate websites (Nike.com & Converse.com) do not provide equal access for the blind and visually impaired as per WCAG 2.0 requirements. The websites do not use alt-text which makes screen reading software unable to identify images. The websites include empty non-text links and redundant links. Images with links have no alt-text.

Resolution: 

Mendizabal sought a permanent injunction forcing Nike to make its websites conform to accessibility standards. The claimant was also seeking awards in damages, court costs, attorney fees and pre- & post-judgment interest. The case was voluntarily dismissed after the parties reached a settlement agreement.

Defendants:

  • Kmart, a US big box department store chain, headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Illinois;
  • McDonald’s, one of the world’s largest chains of fast food restaurants;
  • Grubhub, online and mobile food-ordering company;
  • Empire Today, Illinois-based home improvement and home furnishing company.

Plaintiffs: Confidential.

Claims: 

Companies websites failed to provide accommodations for the visually impaired.

Resolution: 

The court settlements required the companies to update their online and mobile presence to improve access for the visually impaired. This included modifications to make the websites and apps more compatible with screen reader technology. The cases, filed in 2017, were all settled within weeks.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Defendant: Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., one of the largest US supermarket chains.

Plaintiff: Gil, a blind individual.

Claim: 

Nearly all of the tabs on the website were inaccessible by screen reading software. Also, the claimant had no access to digital coupons, could not find store locations, and could not refill his prescriptions online for in-store pickup or delivery.

Resolution:

The Court determined that Winn-Dixie Stores violated ADA law by failing to ensure accessibility of its website and denying the plaintiff of his rights to full and equal access to goods and services provided for regular consumers. The Court issued an injunction requiring Winn-Dixie Stores to make its website accessible to blind and visually impaired individuals. The defendant was required to pay the plaintiff’s attorney litigation fees.

U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire

Defendant: Blue Apron, a US ingredient-and-recipe meal kit service. 

Plaintiff: Access Now (on behalf of four blind individuals), an international non-profit and advocacy group.

Claim:

Blue Apron’s website was incompatible with screen-reader software and, as a result, the blind individuals could not fully access and enjoy Blue Apron’s services. 

Resolution: 

Despite the fact that the company operates only online and has no physical shopping locations, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case. The court determined that Blue Apron’s website is a place of public accommodation. This case is pending judgment.

U.S. District Court for the District of California

Defendant: Hobby Lobby Stores, a chain of American arts and crafts stores.

Plaintiff: Sean Gorecki, legally blind individual.

Claims: 

The Hobby Lobby website is inaccessible to individuals with blindness or visual impairment.

Resolution: 

The Court ruled that the company website is a public accommodation according to the ADA guidelines. The Court indicated that the website enables customers to purchase products, search store locations, check for special deals, obtain coupons, and purchase gift cards online. This case is pending its resolution.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

Defendant: Domino’s Pizza LLC, one of the largest US pizza restaurant chains.

Plaintiff: Guillermo Robles, a visually impaired individual.

Claims: 

The Dominos.com website is not accessible to blind and visually-impaired consumers, even when using screen reading software. The site’s inaccessibility discriminates against blind and visually impaired persons in violation of the ADA.

Resolution: 

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Robles, writing that the “alleged inaccessibility of Domino’s website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises—which are places of public accommodation.” Domino’s requested that the Supreme Court review its decision. The court declined the request and left the ruling in place. Domino’s continues to fight the claims in court.

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Defendant: CVS Pharmacy, Inc, an online drugstore and pharmacy.

Plaintiff: Kyla Reed, a blind individual.

Claim: 

Blind individuals do not have equal access to the pharmacy’s website.

Resolution: 

CVS had faced similar litigation in 2009 and, according to the settlement agreement, was required to make their website accessible to persons with disabilities. This case was dismissed in court.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District Of Florida

Defendant: Lindeberg USA, LLC, a popular fashion and activewear clothing brand.

Plaintiff: Andres Gomez, a legally blind Florida resident.

Claims: 

The plaintiff encountered multiple barriers to using the Lindeberg website, including the lack of compatibility with his screen reader software.

Resolution: 

Lindeberg was ordered to undertake immediate action to make its website fully accessible to blind and visually impaired people. The clothing brand was also ordered to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees and additional legal expenses.

Defendant: Hulu LLC, a US subscription video-on-demand service, a joint venture with The Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, Comcast, Time Warner.

Plaintiff: National Association of the Deaf (NAD), a non-profit organization that advocates for deaf rights.

Claim: 

The Hulu platform is not accessible to deaf persons due to lack of closed captions for video content provided on Hulu’s service.

Resolution: 

Hulu was to adhere to the FCC standards for caption quality, and to closed caption all full-length English and Spanish video content. Hulu also agreed to make content available with captions in other languages on demand.

District Court for the Southern District of Ohio

Defendant: Miami University, a public research university located in Oxford, Ohio.

Plaintiff: Aleeha Dudley, a blind student of Miami University.

Claims: 

Miami University violated the ADA by requiring students with disabilities to use inaccessible websites and LMS software, and by providing them with inaccessible courses.

Resolution: 

Miami University was required to ensure that technologies and software across all its campuses are accessible to individuals with disabilities. The defendant was also ordered to pay $25,000 in compensation. The court ordered the university to ensure that their web content and learning management systems conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards.

2016 Davis v. Bag’n Baggage

Superior Court of the State of California

Defendant: Bag’n Baggage, a luggage retailer providing luggage and travel bags online.

Plaintiff: Edward Davis, a blind individual.

Claims: 

Bag’n Baggage’s website contains several barriers for the visually impaired, such as linked images missing alt-text, empty links with no text and missing form labels. Individuals who require screen reading software can’t effectively browse or shop for products on the defendant’s website.

Resolution:

The court ruled that the defendant violated the ADA and corollary California law – the Unruh Act. The company was ordered to pay $4,000 in statutory damages. The court also issued an injunction for the defendant to take the necessary steps to make their website accessible to blind persons. Additionally, the defendant was responsible to pay the defendant’s attorney fees.

Defendant: National Museum of Crime and Punishment (NMCP), an educational resource on law enforcement, crime, and forensic history.

Plaintiff: US Department of Justice (DOJ).

Claims: 

The Department of Justice investigated the NMCP’s compliance with title III of the ADA. The DOJ found that the NMCP failed to make all of its exhibits, public programs and other offerings accessible to individuals with disabilities. The museum also failed to provide necessary auxiliary aids and services to ensure easy interaction for people with disabilities.

Resolution: 

NMCP was ordered to update and maintain its website to conform to the Level AA WCAG 2.0.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Defendant: Reebok, a global athletic footwear and apparel company, a subsidiary of Adidas.

Plaintiff: Jose Del-Orden, a visually impaired individual.

Claims: 

Reebok failed to incorporate accessibility tools for the blind on their website, Reebok.com. These obstacles are discriminatory and are in violation of the ADA.

Resolution:

This case was voluntarily dismissed.

District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Defendant: National Basketball Association (NBA).

Plaintiff: Robert Jahoda, a blind individual.

Claims:

The NBA’s website does not comply with ADA accessibility standards, and the site contains numerous barriers to the blind and visually impaired. Others also complained that the NBA website does not enable navigation with screen reading technology.

Resolution:

This case is pending resolution.

Massachusetts District Court

Defendants: Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Plaintiff: National Association of the Deaf (on behalf of four hard-of-hearing individuals), a non-profit organization run by Deaf people to advocate for deaf rights.

Claims: 

The schools failed to provide captions for a large volume of online content available to the general public, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). This practice discriminates against deaf persons and is in violation of the ADA.

Resolution: 

On November 4, 2016, Judge Mark G. Mastroianni denied Harvard’s and MIT’s motion to dismiss the closed captioning ADA lawsuit. After the institutions’ attempt to dismiss the cases was denied, a yearlong attempt to reach a settlement out of court failed. Further dismissal requests have been denied, and the case continues to be in litigation. 

Defendant: Higley Unified School District.

Plaintiffs: US Department of Education and the Office for Civil Rights.

Claims: 

Higley Unified School District violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The District’s website contained barriers that prevent people with disabilities from equally accessing content, especially for visually impaired people who use screen reading software.

Resolution: 

Prior to the end of the investigation, the defendant voluntarily agreed to settle this case. The school district was ordered to create accessible web content and functionality in compliance with level AA WCAG 2.0 criteria. The site would then undergo an in-depth audit by the district and a report would be submitted to OCR. The district was also required to provide website accessibility training for all appropriate personnel.

Massachusetts District Court

Defendant: Bank of America, a multinational banking and financial services corporation.

Plaintiff: Ashley Cwikla, a visually impaired individual.

Claims: The bank’s Credit Card Rewards Redemption Solutions on their website was not accessible to blind and visually impaired persons.

Resolution:

This case reached a settlement agreement. Bank of America was obliged to launch a new web service that satisfied Level A and AA Success Criteria set forth by the WCAG 2.0. The defendant was to conduct training for all customer service telephone staff to be able to assist visually impaired clients of Bank of America. 

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Defendant: eHarmony, one of the largest US online dating websites.

Plaintiff: Mary West, a blind individual.

Claims: 

eHarmony violated state and federal law by its website being inaccessible to the visually impaired, for example, the site uses pop-up forms and images lacking alt-text. Blind users could not autonomously navigate the site adequately.

Resolution: 

This case is pending resolution.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Defendant: Ace Hardware, a US hardware retailers’ cooperative.

Plaintiff: Access Now Inc. (on behalf of three visually impaired individuals), an international non-profit advocacy group dedicated to an open and free Internet.

Claims: 

Ace Hardware’s website has accessibility barriers for the blind and visually imparied. This is discriminatory and in violation of the ADA.

Resolution: 

The plaintiffs seek compensation for all legal fees and damages suffered. This case is pending resolution.

Defendant: U.S. Department of Education.

Plaintiff: National Federation of the Blind.

Claims: 

Student loan information presented on the website was not accessible to persons with disabilities. 

Resolution:

This case was resolved in a settlement agreement. The US Department of Education and its contracted student loan servicers were ordered to make their websites, documents and forms equally accessible to disabled users. The US Dept of Education also had to provide documents in alternative formats such as Braille and large print. 

U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Defendant: HRB Digital LLC, one of the largest tax return preparers in the United States. 

Plaintiff: National Federation of the Blind.

Claims:

H&R Block’s website was incompatible with assistive technologies used by people with disabilities. The website had problems with keyboard navigation and captioning which are barriers for people with disabilities.

Resolution: 

This case came to a consent decree. The defendant was ordered to make their website accessible by Jan. 1, 2015. HRB Digital and HRB Tax Group agreed to implement a massive and organization wide accessibility policy that included training, evaluations, user group testing and regular audits. H&R Block was ordered to pay $45,000 to the two individual plaintiffs in addition to a $55,000 civil penalty.

Defendant: Safeway, American supermarket grocery chain.

Plaintiffs: Ardis Bazyn, Don Brown, Cindy Flerman, Tom Foley, Marlaina Lieberg, Lillian Scaife, Rebecca Welz, Judy Wilkinson, Perry Lou Wolfe.

Claims: 

Safeway failed to construct and maintain their eCommerce websites as fully accessible to the visually impaired. This is in violation of the ADA.

Resolution: 

This case reached a settlement agreement. Safeway was ordered to update their websites in compliance with Level AA of WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Safeway was also to provide training and technical support for all personnel involved in providing customers with eCommerce services.

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Defendant: Walt Disney, a diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate.

Plaintiff: National Federation of the Blind.

Claims: 

The Disney sites contained video and audio content which could not be turned off by physically impaired people and this interfered with screen-reading technology. The defendant’s websites contained Flash content not accessible by blind persons. 

Resolution: 

This case reached a settlement agreement. Disney was to make upgrades to their website to accommodate individuals with disabilities. The plaintiffs were awarded a sum of up to $15 000. The defendant also paid up to $1,550,000 in attorney litigation fees and costs.

U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Defendant: Netflix, a video-on-demand and online streaming provider.

Plaintiff: National Association for the Deaf.

Claims: 

Netflix violated title III of the ADA by failing to provide adequate closed captioning on their streaming video programming.

Resolution: 

This case reached a settlement agreement. Netflix agreed to caption new content within 7 days of release by 2016. The agreement also required Netflix to make “good faith, diligent efforts” to ensure compatibility on most devices. The defendant paid $755,000 to plaintiffs’ lawyers involved in the accessibility lawsuit, as well as $40,000 to allow for the decree to be executed in the next four years.

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Defendant: Charles Schwab, a bank and brokerage firm, based in San Francisco, California.

Plaintiff: Kit Lau, a visually impaired individual.

Claims: 

The defendant’s website had accessibility barriers that prevented visually impaired people from accessing content.

Resolution: 

This case was closed in a settlement agreement. Charles Schwab was obliged to ensure that its website is accessible to all customers. Subsequently, the company adopted Level AA WCAG 2.0 web accessibility standards.

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Defendant: Hilton Hotels & Resorts, global brand of full-service hotels and resorts.

Plaintiff: US Department of Justice.

Claims: 

The Department of Justice launched an investigation that found that individuals with disabilities faced significant obstacles while attempting to access the hilton.com website. The claim highlighted the difficulty to reserve an accessible room using the online reservations system.

Resolution: 

This case reached a settlement agreement. Hilton was required to reconstruct their websites and ensure that all the company websites and webpages would comply with WCAG 2.0, Level A success criteria.

Defendant: CVS Pharmacy, a subsidiary of the US retail and healthcare company CVS Health.

Plaintiff: American Council of the Blind

Claims: 

Certain inaccessible features and content on CVS.com violated Public Accommodation Laws.

Resolution: 

This case reached a settlement agreement. CVS was to implement best efforts to ensure that all of CVS.com pages substantially comply with WCAG 1.0 Guidelines. CVS was ordered to appoint a third-party, pre-approved consultant to audit CVS.com for WCAG compliance.

Defendant: Staples, a US multinational office supply retailing corporation.

Plaintiff: American Council of the Blind.

Claims: 

The www.Staples.com website was inaccessible to visually impaired people. This was in violation of the ADA.

Resolution: 

This case reached a settlement agreement. Staples was ordered to use good faith efforts to ensure that all pages of the company website would comply with WCAG 1.0. This case was settled prior to the introduction of WCAG 2.0, therefore Staples had the opportunity to choose either version 1.0 or 2.0 of WCAG after supersession. 

Defendant: Rite Aid, one of the largest US based drugstore chains.

Plaintiff: American Council of the Blind.

Claims: 

Several organizations complained to Rite Aid about its website, riteaid.com, stating that the site had serious accessibility issues.

Resolution:

This case reached a settlement agreement. Rite Aid was ordered to ensure that its website substantially complied with Level AA of WCAG 1.0 accessibility standards. This case settled prior to WCAG 1.0 which was superseded by version 2.0. When WCAG 2.0 was introduced, Rite Aid had the opportunity to choose between version 1.0 and 2.0 compliance.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

Defendant: Target Corporation, the second-largest discount store retailer in the US.

Plaintiff: National Federation of the Blind.

Claims: 

Target’s website was inaccessible to blind and visually impaired persons since the site lacked alt tags throughout the site. This led to barriers for disabled users who use screen readers to navigate websites.

Resolution: 

This case reached a settlement agreement. Target was ordered to make its website accessible to individuals with disabilities. The defendant was obliged to pay $6 million to a “Damages Fund” which were directed to members of the class action suit. Target also was required to pay up to $15,000 of the costs of the plaintiff’s costs per session for Target personnel accessibility design training.

Conclusion

This list of well known companies and entertainers that have been sued for ADA non-compliance and discrimintaion is eye opening. Accessibility is now considered a necessity when building a website or digital application. No company is too large or too small to be targeted by an ADA website compliance lawsuit. Courts almost unanimously rule in favor of the plaintiff. You can see from the results above, it is almost always better to just settle the case. The damages can range from thousands of dollars to millions, not including your time and the compliance work that needs to be done on your website which will now be court mandated. 

At Adally we feel the best defense is to be proactive regarding the ADA and accessibility. This means taking the necessary steps to make your website compliant before you get sued. Your website can easily become inclusive and accessible for all of your website visitors by simply applying some of our compliance tools. 

To learn about how to ensure ADA website compliance, contact the web accessibility experts at Adally for a free homepage website ADA compliance scan. 

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