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Recent Internet Accessibility Cases Suggest Stricter Enforcement

Aug 11, 2017

People with disabilities are often prevented from using the internet in its full capacity because of the lack of accessible layouts, content, and AV options. In recent years, this lack of resources for disabled people has become a politicized and controversial issue as individuals fight back to claim equal access to the internet. These efforts often play out in the courtroom, up against powerful corporations and even entire cities.

Recently, those fighting for the online rights of the disabled are seeing great progress in the legal sector. Recent cases such as Gorecki v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. have brought to light the issue of large corporations either failing to comply with the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 or even to simply implement basic website accessibility features, such as closed captioning. In the case of Hobby Lobby, a customer filed a complaint that he was unable to access the website and simply requested “full and equal enjoyment,” without specifically requiring that Hobby Lobby adhere to specific regulations. Because its website was labeled as a "public accommodation" by the courts, Gorecki won the case, and Hobby Lobby was forced to comply.

Cases are also popping up that take action against — not retailers or corporations — but public domains, such as cities. In Sierra v. The City of Miami, deaf Miami resident Eddie Sierra requested access to the city resources that are available online. He won the case and the city will be working for the next decade to make resources accessible to non-hearing individuals,  such as by adding closed captioning to video content.

Website accessibility enforcement is currently regulated by Website Content Accessibility Guidelines. Because many organizations are naive or indifferent to the need there is some confusion for companies regarding their specific responsibilities regarding web accessibility. Each court decision helps clarify expectations and legal requirements.

Therefore, the results of these recent cases are especially noteworthy, because they show that the courts are lean toward stricter enforcement of web accessibility rules, which can be a sign that universal internet accessibility is becoming the new norm. As individuals are deciding to take a stand and take these cases to courts, more companies and organizations are going to be forced to reconsider their websites and make the decision to accommodate all people.

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