A proposed class action suit filed in Pennsylvania alleges SeaWorld violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to make the website of one of its biggest subsidiaries accessible to the blind and visually impaired.
The website at the heart of the lawsuit is that of Sesame Place theme park, which is owned by SeaWorld and located outside of Philadelphia. According to the case, SesamePlace.com is inaccessible to blind users because it is not designed in a manner that’s fully compatible with screen-reader technology capable of audibly reading text and describing images to users. Such technology, the lawsuit says, is relied upon by the plaintiff and proposed class members to navigate the Internet.
The plaintiff claims, specifically, that he encountered the following access barriers, among others, when he visited the Sesame Place website:
A lack of text equivalents for non-text elements, such as images;
A lack of titles that describe the web pages’ purposes or topics;
Non-programmatically determinable default human language for each web page; and
A lack of consistent labels or instructions when content requires user input.
The case claims that the aforementioned practices are discriminatory against proposed class members, and therefore violate the ADA, because they inhibit blind and visually impaired consumers from having full and equal access to the defendant’s benefits and services. From the case:
“By failing to make its website available in a manner compatible with computer screen reader programs, SeaWorld, a public accommodation subject to Title III, deprives blind and visually-impaired individuals the benefits of its online goods, content, and services.”
The lawsuit points out that Title III of the ADA requires venues considered places of public accommodation to make “reasonable modifications in policies, practices or procedures” when necessary to meet the needs of those covered by the statute. These modifications may include, the case says, providing “auxiliary aids and services—including electronic services for use with a computer screen reading program—where necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with a visual disability.”
The suit requests a declaratory judgment that SeaWorld violated Title III of the ADA, as well as a declaratory injunction requiring the company to become fully compliant with the law. The complaint further requests that SeaWorld hire a qualified consultant to help bring the Sesame Place website up to the ADA’s accessibility standards, as well as provide web-accessibility training for its development employees and allow end-user site testing by blind or visually impaired people.