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Legal Thought Leadership Series: Level Access Asks the Experts

Rishi Agrawal 01/10/18

Digital accessibility is a constantly changing area of law. There are no explicit regulations for private companies and although we have dozens of court decisions, many of those decisions contradict each other.

Even though no one can be completely sure what the future holds for digital accessibility, we can make some educated guesses. At the tail end of 2017, we asked eight leading attorneys to dust off their Magic 8-Balls and give us their best predictions of where the law may be headed.  We’re sharing their responses in this 4-part blog series.

What notable cases have happened recently?

One of the most talked-about decisions from 2017, Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., came from a federal district court in Florida. Winn-Dixie runs a chain of supermarkets, predominantly in the Southeastern United States. The case involved a plaintiff, who is blind, who could not access Winn-Dixie’s website. What made the case significant was that it was a bench trial, and the judge issued an opinion on the merits of the case. The judge ruled that the ADA requires websites to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) standards. However, the WCAG 2.0 standards have several levels of “success criteria,” and no guidance was given on which successes criteria to use. Winn-Dixie is currently appealing the verdict in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Many cases never get to trial. Instead, the timeline typically looks like this:

  • First, a lawsuit is filed by a plaintiff who cannot access a website
  • Next, the defendant files a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, alleging that the ADA does not require websites to be accessible to people with disabilities
  • The court then rules to either grant or deny the motion to dismiss
  • If the motion is denied, it just means that the case can move forward in court; at this point, however, most cases are settled

Two cases that highlight the discrepancies in court rulings both come from the Central District of California, Robles v. Domino’s Pizza and Gorecki v. Hobby Lobby Stores. The cases were heard by different judges. Both cases involved plaintiffs who were blind and unable to access the defendants’ websites. However, the judge in the Domino’s case granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, while it was denied in the Hobby Lobby case. Though the fact patterns in the two cases were not identical, they were similar enough to create more uncertainty in the field of digital accessibility.

Download WhitepaperDeregulation, legislation, court cases? There are so many variables, but we’ve got it covered.
To find answers to all of your burning digital accessibility legal questions, download our free whitepaper – The Digital Accessibility Crystal Ball.

This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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