P.C. Richard & Son faces a proposed class action that alleges the retailer has unlawfully failed to make its website fully and equally accessible to visually impaired consumers.
The 35-page lawsuit alleges that the home goods retailer’s website, pcrichard.com, is incompatible with common screen reader auxiliary aids, including VoiceOver, TalkBalk and JAWS (Job Access With Speech), and therefore blocks visually impaired users from accessing the content therein.
According to the suit, P.C. Richard & Son has run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to ensure that its website, a place of public accommodation, is fully and equally accessible to blind patrons. The plaintiff, a legally blind Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania resident who the complaint says has “advocated for blind individuals his entire life,” alleges the defendant’s apparent online accessibility barriers have made it “impossible to perceive, understand, or operate the platform’s content with screen reader auxiliary aids.”
The lawsuit explains that individuals who are blind or have limited vision are able to access the internet and mobile applications through screen access software that vocalizes content or presents it on a braille display. Per the suit, one such screen reader, known as VoiceOver, is able to describe “people, objects, text, and graphs in greater detail than ever.” Another tool, TalkBack, is the Google screen reader included on Android devices, and “gives you eye-free control of your device,” the case goes on. Finally, JAWS, described in the case as “the world’s most popular screen reader,” provides both speech and braille output that allows users to access the internet, write documents, read emails and design presentations, the suit relays.
The case stresses that such technology has existed for decades, and there are now “widely-accepted standards” for making a website or app compatible with screen access software.
Nevertheless, P.C. Richard & Son has failed to build its website in a manner that allows screen readers to fully access its content, the suit alleges. Listed in the complaint are a number of alleged examples of access barriers that the plaintiff argues prevent visually impaired individuals from accessing the defendant’s website content, including an inaccessible floating chat button; visual-only cues for selecting options, such as highlighting a selected size or warranty option with a blue border; insufficiently descriptive alternative text for links and buttons, such as the button to increase or decrease an item’s quantity; inaccessible popup windows, such as the popup that allows a shopper to check out or the display of a certain promotion; and a lack of a text equivalent for non-text elements, such as images displaying which credit cards the defendant accepts.
According to the lawsuit, these communication barriers make it “difficult and frustrating, if not impossible” for blind individuals to independently navigate the defendant’s website. Per the case, P.C. Richard & Son has “engage[d] in unlawful discrimination” by failing to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not “excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently” from other consumers because of a lack of auxiliary aids and services.
The plaintiff looks to represent all blind or visually disabled individuals who use screen reader auxiliary aids to navigate digital content and who accessed, attempted to access or were deterred from attempting to access, or who will access, attempt to access, or be deterred from accessing, the P.C. Richard & Son’s website from the U.S.
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