Pier A Battery Park Associates is facing a proposed class action lawsuit that claims the New York City special events hall operator’s website violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in that it is inaccessible to blind and visually impaired Internet users.
In 2008, the World Wide Web Consortium published a set of guidelines, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), designed to help organizations ensure their websites are accessible to those with impaired vision and other disabilities. These guidelines require websites to be “programmatically determined,” meaning they must present information in a way that is accessible to assistive technologies such as screen readers and translatable into formats that are useful to those with disabilities. The case states that the WCAG 2.0 requires websites to include, among other enhancements:
Alt-text for images, which allows screen reader software to audibly read text or describe visual content to the user;
Title frames with text;
Headings properly labelled with the topic or purpose of the page;
Fillable forms that are properly labelled as to what information goes where; and
No links with the same text that go to different sites.
The case states that Pier A’s site, at which customers can rent space for conferences, meetings cocktail parties and weddings, fails to follow many of the WCAG’s guidelines. Pier A’s site contains no alt-text for images and has forms that are improperly labelled, making it difficult for blind users to determine what information they are expected to input, the case claims. The website also includes multiple links with the same text that go to different websites and empty button elements with no programmatically determined name, according to the suit. This is problematic, the case claims, because the defendant’s website consists primarily of images of the venue’s spaces and cuisine offerings. In addition, the calendar used to book dates at the venue is not properly labeled, which the lawsuit says leads to difficulties for blind and visually impaired users who must interact with the feature to book or research event dates.
According to the case, the aforementioned practices have robbed the plaintiff and proposed class members of full and equal access to the defendant’s services and violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as New York City and State human rights laws.
The suit requests an injunction against the defendant and demands that Pier A hire a consultant to help bring its website up to WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards, train its web developers in accessibility compliance, and regularly check the accessibility of the site with the assistance of blind users.