Legal First: California Court Holds Inaccessible Website Violates ADA

May 19, 2016

By Steven E. Helland

Image of Luggage Sold by Colorado Bag’N BaggageIn what appears to be the first court decision of its kind, a California state court held not only that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to websites, but also that in the case of Colorado Bag’n Baggage, the website design and features were sufficiently inaccessible to blind users (using screen reader technology) that the site owner violated ADA as well as the California Unruh Act and is liable for monetary damages and injunctive relief.

To review the full option, see Davis v. BMI/BMD Travelware, San Bernadino Superior Court, California, March 21, 2016.

Judge Foster wrote, in granting the blind plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment that Davis had “presented sufficient evidence that he was denied full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, privileges and accommodations offered by [Colorado Bag’n Baggage] because of his disability.”

Website Owner Must Pay Damages

The ruling calls for Colorado Bag’n Baggage to pay damages of $4,000 plus Davis’ legal fees in an amount to be determined but expected to exceed $100,000. The ruling further requires that Colorado Bag’n Baggage either make the website accessible to blind users using screen reader technology or take-down the website.

Standard for Compliance Unclear

Unfortunately, as the opinion is relatively brief, it does not shed much light as to the specific standards or requirements applicable to websites. For example, is WCAG 2.0 AA the standard as has been suggested by some commentators? Or some other standard?

Action Items

Although a number of legal issues remain ambiguous and/or unresolved, website operators may wish to consider the following options:

  • Taking action to improve website accessibility for blind, deaf, and other disabled users.
  • Adopting a Website Accessibility Policy.
  • Training staff and testing websites from time to time to ensure continued accessibility as the website evolves and is updated.

Growing Trend

For more information on website accessibility demands, litigation and enforcement actions, read the article “Blind Plaintiffs Sue Additional Retailers for Website Accessibility/ADA Claims.”

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