On Thursday in the Southern District of New York, Microsoft was sued in a putative class-action complaint by the plaintiff, “a visually-impaired and legally blind person who requires screen-reading software to read website content using his computer,” who alleged that Microsoft failed to have an accessible website for its Xbox under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Specifically, the plaintiff brought this suit for Microsoft’s purported “failure to design, construct, maintain, and operate its website to be fully accessible to and independently usable by Plaintiff and other blind or visually-impaired people.” He claimed the lack of website access denied access to the company’s goods and violated the plaintiff’s rights under the ADA. According to the complaint, the Xbox website is allegedly “not equally accessible to blind and visually-impaired consumers,” and consequently violates the ADA.
Moreover, the plaintiff asserted that a lot of information is obtained through the internet and technology is available to allow a blind or visually impaired person to access websites, including keyboards, screen access software to vocalize information or places it on a braille display. The plaintiff and the putative class rely on this screen reading technology to access websites. In order for the screen-reading software to function, and a visually impaired user to access website information, it “must be capable of being rendered into text.” Furthermore, the plaintiff claimed that the World Wide Web Consortium has published its accessibility guidelines, which are “universally followed by most large business entities and government agencies.”
The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s site “should allow all consumers to access the goods and services.” For example, the website should offer “the ability to browse video game consoles for purchase and delivery, view accessories, obtain defendant’s contact information, and related goods and services available online.” The plaintiff proffered that he has visited the defendant’s website using the JAWS screen-reader, but the plaintiff “encountered multiple access barriers that denied Plaintiff full and equal access to the facilities, goods and services offered to the public and made available to the public; and that denied Plaintiff the full enjoyment of the facilities, goods and services of the Website.” Moreover, the plaintiff claimed that he encountered various access barriers, such as lack of alternative text embedded to describe graphical images, and “empty links that contain no text,” causing the plaintiff to not know where it led; “redundant links”; and “linked images missing alt-text,” among other barriers.
Consequently, the plaintiff claimed that the website violated the ADA. Additionally, the plaintiff claimed that because the defendant has not complied with the standard guidelines set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium, Microsoft allegedly “engaged in acts of intentional discrimination” because of the access barrier to the visually impaired on its website and its purported failure to remedy these access barriers.
Microsoft is accused of violating the ADA, the NYSHRL, and the New York State Civil Rights Law, and the NYCHRL. The plaintiff has sought declaratory and injunctive relief, an order certifying the class and to appoint the plaintiff and his counsel to represent the class, and an award for damages.
The plaintiff is represented by Cohen & Mizrahi LLP.