Apple sued over claims website is inaccessible to visually impaired users

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2018
Apple has become the target of a new lawsuit, one that claims the iPhone producer's website is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not being fully accessible to blind or visually-impaired consumers, due to the way the website itself is coded.

Braille display


Filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York on Sunday, the complaint from the plaintiff Himelda Mendez is said to be filed on behalf of other users in a similar accessibility situation. Apple is the sole defendant in the lawsuit.

According to the filing, Mendez is described as a "visually impaired and legally blind person" who uses screen-reading software to access the internet. The software is able to either read out information seen on the screen or outputs it to a refreshable Braille display, and typically relies on the website being constructed in ways that it can read the contents.

In the case of a website that isn't produced in this way, such as one that doesn't follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium, the readers may be unable to read content that could be useful for the user, or read it in an unintentional way that would be difficult to parse.

Mendez, said to be a proficient user of the Jobs Access With Speech (JAWS) screen reading program, visited the Apple website earlier this month but encountered "multiple access barriers" that denied "full and equal access to the facilities, goods, and services offered to the public," such as being able to browse and purchase products, make service appointments, or learn of the facilities available in Apple Stores in New York, the city where Mendez is resident.

The filing provides a long list of issues with the website that it believes needs fixing, in order to comply with the ADA, in relation to screen readers. The list includes the lack of alternative text for graphics, empty links containing no text, redundant links, and linked images missing alternative text.

It is asserted these issues caused a denial of "full and equal access" to the plaintiff, deterring future use of the site in the process. If it were fully accessible, the filing believes those using screen-reading software would be able to independently navigate the site and perform the same transactions as those with sight.

It is also alleged the lack of compliance with WCAG 2.0 guidelines means Apple has "engaged in acts of intentional discrimination," under the belief the site was not produced with visually-impaired individuals in mind, nor has it been corrected.

The suit demands a permanent injunction requiring Apple to retain a qualified consultant to help the company comply with WCAG 2.0 guidelines for the site, including training its web developers on accessibility compliance, regularly checking the site's compliance, regular testing by blind and visually-impaired users, and the development of an accessibility policy posted on all of its websites. Also sought are "compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by proof, including all applicable statutory and punitive damages and fines," plus legal fees incurred by the filer.

AppleInsider has asked Apple for comment, and will provide an update if there is a response.

Apple prides itself on including accessibility features in its products, highlighting them in marking Global Accessibility Awareness Day each year. The company has also worked with other companies and organizations in producing accessibility aids, including developing a hearing implant sound processor with Cochlear, and participating in the USB Implementers Forum to produce a new interface standard for braille displays.

«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    One of the most accessibility friendly companies in the world. But still a big target...
    SpamSandwichracerhomie3jbdragonmagman1979curtis hannahMuntzwolfgoodfellowwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 34
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,167member
    imaffett said:
    One of the most accessibility friendly companies in the world. But still a big target...
    Right and I wonder how it would rate against the majority of websites out there .... but of course, those companies don't have as much money for the lawyers to try to get at.
    williamlondonanton zuykovracerhomie3trashman69mike1jbdragoncurtis hannahcecil444Muntzwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 34
    MacPro said:
    imaffett said:
    One of the most accessibility friendly companies in the world. But still a big target...
    Right and I wonder how it would rate against the majority of websites out there .... but of course, those companies don't have as much money for the lawyers to try to get at.
    Simply put, they are getting sued not because their website is inaccessible, but because they have the largest pile of cash (and a well-known PC stance, which they had signaled a long time ago).
    trashman69mike1jbdragonmagman1979curtis hannahtallest skilMuntzwolfgoodfellowwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 4 of 34
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,972member
    imaffett said:
    One of the most accessibility friendly companies in the world. But still a big target...
    Well, if the shoe fits and Apple is indeed not in compliance with the ADA then so be it. You would think that “One of the most accessibility friendly companies in the world” would have been aware of this issue.

    On the other hand this article doesn’t say that the plaintiff contacted Apple to make them aware of the problem and allow Apple time to correct the issue. Nope, they filed a lawsuit asking for monetary damages. Why? The church I attend hosts a food pantry, a thrift shop, AA meetings and the ADA militants are always griping about something and threatening the church with legal action, even though the facility is grandfathered in and has a limited budget. I guess they’d rather just have those programs shut down.
    [Deleted User]mike1jbdragonradarthekatMuntzbaconstangwolfgoodfellowwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 34
    This is the inevitable conclusion of trying to make things fair for everyone...rather, legally requiring everything be fair for everyone. Sometimes life ain't fair.
    williamlondonmike1kestraltallest skilwolfgoodfellowentropyswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 34
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,112member
    Personally, I think these types of suits should be required to show the plaintiff attempted to contact the defendant PRIOR to clogging up the court systems with yet another suit. But then you don't get: "compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by proof".
    tylersdadmagman1979kestralMuntzwolfgoodfellowwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 34
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,016member
    I’m sure Apple will act quickly to rectify this. They’re at the forefront of accessibility, so I’ve no reason to believe they’ll drag their feet.
    curtis hannahradarthekatlordjohnwhorfinMuntzmac_dogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 34
    steven n. said:
    Personally, I think these types of suits should be required to show the plaintiff attempted to contact the defendant PRIOR to clogging up the court systems with yet another suit. But then you don't get: "compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by proof".
    Then how would they make any money off of this?

    There are lawyers/ADA activists who drive around and measure disabled parking spots and other business features to make sure they are ADA-compliant. They don't tell the owner there's a problem: they just sue. Several local restaurants have closed down because it didn't make economic sense to fight the lawsuit and they couldn't afford to make the changes needed under the ADA. One local restaurant's disabled parking was literally 1cm to close to the next spot. 1cm. And they were sued, lost, and shutdown.
    magman1979jbdragonMuntzwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 34
    Unbelievable, what’s going in in this worlds....life it aint fair sometimes. I have an autistic son and i have to ask this questions. WHY him?? Lucky he uses Apple products and utilizes the accessibility features, but geh not all are provided for him so i have to step IN. That should be how it works....
    mike1magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 34
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,078member
    tylersdad said:
    steven n. said:
    Personally, I think these types of suits should be required to show the plaintiff attempted to contact the defendant PRIOR to clogging up the court systems with yet another suit. But then you don't get: "compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by proof".
    Then how would they make any money off of this?

    There are lawyers/ADA activists who drive around and measure disabled parking spots and other business features to make sure they are ADA-compliant. They don't tell the owner there's a problem: they just sue. Several local restaurants have closed down because it didn't make economic sense to fight the lawsuit and they couldn't afford to make the changes needed under the ADA. One local restaurant's disabled parking was literally 1cm to close to the next spot. 1cm. And they were sued, lost, and shutdown.
    Ya, there was someone doing this in the area I lived. Going around, checking every little thing and then suing the business. That was the persons full time job. How he made money. You could always find fault with something. A lot of places closed their Bathrooms to Public use because of this!!!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 34
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,026member
    The "intentional discrimination" part of this claim leaves me cold. I have no doubt that Apple's website and millions of other websites from less financially endowed entities have accessibility issues, but to claim that Apple is intentionally design their website to hinder accessibility is total bunk that exposes this claim for what it really is - a blatant money grab targeting the deepest pockets on the planet. 
    radarthekatbackstabMuntzbaconstangwolfgoodfellowmac_dogentropyswatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 34
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,594member
    I’m sure Apple will act quickly to rectify this. They’re at the forefront of accessibility, so I’ve no reason to believe they’ll drag their feet.
    Absolutely. There is a lot of knee jerking as usual, but I can totally believe that Apple's website is not accessible. Image heavy sites require a lot of alternative navigation work. The best way to discover how inaccessible a website is is to sit next to a blind, or other wise web navigation impaired person as they try to get around a site. (I have done this professionally). I have no doubt that Apple will be all over this.

    I also agree that Apple is a target for all sorts of groups, as is any other high profile company. An to be honest I think that is exactly as it should be. The higher your profile the greater the burden of responsibility And Apple absolutely excels at this. This is one reason that I personally rate Apple so highly beyond the fact that they make products that I love to use. Google might want to live by 'Do no Evil' but Apple's is closer to 'Do good' :smile: 

    edited August 2018 radarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 34
    Here it comes.. One of our client received their "threats" before. These are the same people targeted Walmart, Target websites over the years and at the same time solicit ADA consulting business with threat of lawsuits to smaller companies. They are looking for multi-million settlements or "consulting" business, unfortunately they are not looking after visually impaired. I suspect they only filed the suit because they could not agree on a price with Apple. By the way, the suit is specifically for a "user" on a WINDOWS OS running JAWS software accessing Apple's website!
    edited August 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 34
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,032moderator
    My question would be does the law require equal access to all avenues of access?  For example, if a visually impaired person has equal access via telephone to purchase Apple’s products, and equal access in person within an Apple retail store, do they also need equal access via the website?   Just asking.

    Oh, and what about a blind, deaf, quadrapaleguc mute?  Would it even be possible to provide such access?  Even on the phone or in person, where an actual person is interacting with the customer?  
    edited August 2018 pscooter63baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 34
    The plaintiff is something of a serial suer. But, if the site is indeed non-compliant, more strength to their elbow.
  • Reply 16 of 34
    tylersdad said:
    This is the inevitable conclusion of trying to make things fair for everyone...rather, legally requiring everything be fair for everyone. Sometimes life ain't fair.
    Not sure that suing a company that makes devices with the best support for impared people is fair. In fact, it is the opposite of fair. But, fairness is a vague and ill-defined concept. To some fair means - everyone gets their chance at trying their best in life with what they have got, while to others, it means chopping heads and legs off of those people who happen to be taller, so everyone is equally short (total fairness in terms of height). 
    entropyswatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 34
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,160member
    luxuriant said:
    The plaintiff is something of a serial suer. But, if the site is indeed non-compliant, more strength to their elbow.
    I did see as well the plaintiff has at least 3 other lawsuits filed in New York. Asking for punitive damages for not being able to access a certain website is a bit ridiculous. 
    wolfgoodfellowwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 34
    Apple is indeed excellent when it comes to accessibility — head and shoulders above any other tech company. But that said, because of this they do put a target on their backs if they ever slip up. If their website isn’t in compliance with ADA, then that’s egg on their face and they deserve to be sued. It’s a shame because they do so much good in this area, but it’s all the more reason why they shouldn’t make easy mistakes like this. They have the money and the know-how to build their website at the cutting edge of accessibility; it’s embarassing if it’s not even meeting the minimum standards.
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 19 of 34
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,167member
    tylersdad said:
    steven n. said:
    Personally, I think these types of suits should be required to show the plaintiff attempted to contact the defendant PRIOR to clogging up the court systems with yet another suit. But then you don't get: "compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by proof".
    Then how would they make any money off of this?

    There are lawyers/ADA activists who drive around and measure disabled parking spots and other business features to make sure they are ADA-compliant. They don't tell the owner there's a problem: they just sue. Several local restaurants have closed down because it didn't make economic sense to fight the lawsuit and they couldn't afford to make the changes needed under the ADA. One local restaurant's disabled parking was literally 1cm to close to the next spot. 1cm. And they were sued, lost, and shutdown.
    That is horrible. The judge in that case should have over ruled the verdict ... but it should never have got that far.  It is beyond absurd.  Lawyers!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 34
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    My question would be does the law require equal access to all avenues of access?
    Well, every single corner of every single block in my city is currently being torn up to add those bumpy sections. Every single corner. Every single block (that has sidewalk on it). The entire city is being disrupted, as are all my neighboring cities. No one in my city is blind. None. Visually impaired? Sure, technically. But they’re all old. They all live in one of two retirement centers, and they have all manner of shuttle bus access and other support to get where they’re going. Now, in one of my neighboring cities? Sure, blind people of all ages out and about. But do they, even, warrant the tax expenditure (and millions in lost revenue from time lost by disruption) of tearing up perfectly good sidewalk and replacing every corner with things they only need where they’re already going?

    This is “least common denominator” behavior and it’s what fucking kills civilization. Apple is to be commended for its efforts to care for everyone in this way and praised for being the industry leader in general. Can you imagine if another company was the one who’d spearheaded the removal of all physical buttons from devices? They wouldn’t have cared one lick for the blind, etc. Touchscreens seem like an impassible wall for impaired usability, but Apple made sure to accommodate users as they’d done before. And they did it without compromising on anyone else.
    anton zuykovwatto_cobra
Sign In or Register to comment.