Lawsuits have increased in recent years against various companies by blind and deaf plaintiffs that are alleging that the websites violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. The cases are mostly concentrated in California, New York, and Pennsylvania. The cases have become more complicated because the Department of Justice announced in 2010 that it would be issuing formal regulations but not until 2018. Various judges, however, refuse to wait that long. In California, one judge granted summary judgment to a plaintiff suing Colorado’s Bag’n Baggage company for four thousand dollars. Among the companies being sued are eBay, Netflix, Patagonia, Ace Hardware, Aeropostale, and Bed Bath & Beyond.
The lawsuits allege that these company sites are not accessible to the visually impaired who use screen reader technology to view the sites. This technology converts text to audio and “reads” the contents of the page to the consumer. However, many companies have failed to provide alternate text to provide text descriptions for the webpages’ images and non-text elements. ADA laws prohibit discrimination against individuals on the basis of disabilities and guarantee them full and equal enjoyment of goods and services. The plaintiffs in these cases are arguing that various companies are discriminating against them by not following these guidelines. However, because these are webpages, and not physical places, some jurisdictions have been hesitant to state that websites fall under ADA mandates.