Three proposed class action lawsuits out of New York respectively claim that Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., Lowe’s Companies, Inc. and Wayfair LLC have unlawfully failed to make videos on their websites accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing users.
The complaints were filed by a deaf New York City woman who claims to have visited each of the defendants’ websites in an attempt to find a new faucet for her kitchen and encountered accessibility barriers. In particular, the lawsuits allege that each of the defendants’ websites lack closed captioning for informational videos, which the plaintiff claims made it nearly impossible for her to digest informational content on the faucets she was browsing. According to one case, Wayfair’s website even displayed a “cc” symbol on its videos, which typically indicates the availability of closed captioning. The plaintiff alleges that this tag was deceptive, however, since the videos contained no captions.
Deaf and hard-of-hearing consumers rely on closed captions, which translate the audio portion of a video into text, in order to fully comprehend the content of a video, the cases explain. According to the complaints, while accessible technology that makes use of closed captioning is readily available, as evident with services like Netflix and YouTube, the defendants failed to make “reasonable accommodations” for deaf and hard-of-hearing users by neglecting to include captions.
“Just as buildings without ramps bar people who use wheelchairs,” the suits explain, “video content without captions excludes deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.”
According to the complaints, the defendants’ failure to include closed captioning for their video content is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA, the lawsuits say, requires places of public accommodation, such as “service establishments” and “place[s] of recreation,” to be fully accessible and provide “full and equal enjoyment” of their goods and services to those with disabilities. By failing to include closed captioning in their video content, the defendants created an obstacle to the full and equal enjoyment of their goods and services and therefore discriminated against proposed class members, according to the cases.
The suits all seek permanent injunctions requiring the defendants to bring their respective sites into compliance with ADA standards, as well as compensatory damages including statutory damages and fines for their respective classes.