Lawsuits & Settlement Agreements

Case number: 2:14-CV-162 was filed against Scribd, Inc. by the National Federation for the Blind (NFB.) and Heidi Viens, a blind parent from Colchester, Vermont. The NFB is the nation’s leading advocate for equal access by the blind to technology and electronic information.

Scribd, Inc. is a website that offers subscription access to more than 50,000 books for 8.99 a month. Currently the service is only accessible to sited subscribers and is delivered through apps as well as the web. Other services allow users to publish their own work and utilize social media features.

The case was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Vermont. It alleges violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act claiming that the website and mobile apps are not accessible to people who are blind.

Read more about the case at the NFB website.

An agreement with the National Federation of the Blind has been reached to make H&R Block’s Web site, online tax preparation products and mobile application fully accessible to taxpayers who are blind. H&R Block prepares approximately one in seven tax returns in America. People who are blind access digital content using screen reader software that represents the content as spoken words or Braille. Improperly coded Web sites and applications can prevent the screen readers from working properly, making it inaccessible to a user who is blind.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) published a proposed rule. The rule is to expand the definition of the term “disability” under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The revision is an effort to make the Title II, which applies to the state and local governments, and Title III, which applies to public accommodations, regulatory definition of the term “disability” consistent with the definition of that term contained in the ADA Amendment Act of 2008.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking states that post-secondary educational institutions and entities that provide test administration services due to the increased number of people who will have qualifying disabilities are the public accommodations to be impacted, entitling them to test-taking accommodations.  The DOJ estimates the monetary impact of the rule on public accommodations to be $382 million over the next eleven years.

The National Federation of the Blind files suit against the Department of Transportation

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) filed suit against the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The NFB is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of people with vision disabilities. The suit challenges the regulations that require airline check-in kiosks be made accessible to airline passengers who are blind, which were announced on December 12, 2013, by the DOT under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA.)

The NFB maintains that the regulation, which requires 25 percent of airport check-in kiosks be accessible in 10 years, fails to implement the ACAA as intended by Congress. The ACAA prohibits discrimination against passengers with disabilities by airlines.

The website for Safeway’s grocery delivery will undergo accessibility and usability improvements. They will use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, WCAG 2.0 Level AA as the standard for this effort.

Safeway worked on this initiative in structured negotiations with individual customers with visual impairments in California and Washington. The Law Offices of Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian of the Oakland, California civil rights firm Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho represented the Safeway shoppers.

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As Americans continue to rely on the web to perform everyday functions like shopping, banking and travel, web accessibility rises to the surface as a growing concern. In a major effort to make online communications accessible, DOT has implemented new rules as part of their continuing implementation of the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986.

An interim settlement agreement between the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and private plaintiffs and the state of Texas, will enable Texans with intellectual and other developmental disabilities live in community settings rather than nursing facilities.

The litigation alleges that Texas has not complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C. and other federal statutes in ways leading to the needless institutionalization of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities in nursing facilities. More on Texas settling the disabilities lawsuit.

A student with a low vision disability sparked allegations that the University was in violation of the ADA. The student fell behind in coursework due to a lack of accessible course materials, prompting the student to dropout early in the quarter.

In a Justice Department announcement yesterday, it was said that a settlement was reached with Louisiana Tech University and the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System to remedy the alleged violations to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The University agreed to implement several policies that require they deploy learning technology, web pages and course material that meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA.

Read more about Louisiana Tech University adopting WCAG 2.0 level AA standard in a settlement with the Feds.

Read the Department of Justice Press Release here.

Weight Watchers announced today that they have an ongoing initiative to make its websites, iOS mobile applications and print information more accessible and inclusive for its members and subscribers with visual impairments and will conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 level AA. 

Read More About Weight Watchers Accessibility Initiatives

Lainey Feingold stated, "Weight Watchers has been a great partner in Structured Negotiations with the ACB and blind Weight Watchers members.   Linda Dardarian, of the Oakland civil rights firm Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho, and I represented the blind community."

Where the ADA does not spell out specifics, legal leveraging is filling the gap on how schools must accommodate making course textbooks and materials accessible.  The recent settlement between the nonprofit group Disability Rights Advocates and UC Berkley sets a precedent which proponents hope other universities will follow.

Rebecca Williford, an attorney for the DRA, said, “Access to print material is an emerging issue.  We’re hopeful that the technology is going to get better and that the agreement with UC Berkeley will help to put students on a more equal playing field.”

The improvements Berkeley agreed to include:

  • providing digital versions of textbooks within 10 days,
  • providing  course readers within 17 days
  • encouraging instructors to identify course materials earlier,
  • providing scanning machines to allow students to self-scan materials.

The school will also implement a library print conversion system to enable students to request a specific book or journal from the library.  This system will make materials available in different formats in about 5 days.

Read more about this story at LA Times - Pact gives disabled UC Berkeley students more access to books.

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