By: Emily Aziz
On August 19, 2018, a class action suit was brought against Apple Inc. (“Apple”) in New York federal court. Plaintiff Himelda Mendez, and other visually impaired and legally blind persons who require reading software to read website content, claim that Apple’s website is in violation of the Plaintiff’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
The ADA, which became law in 1990, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, such as blindness, in the public sphere. This includes jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private spaces that are open to the general public. This act allows those with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to everyone else.
In the complaint filed against Apple, Mendez claims that the Apple website is designed, constructed, maintained, and operated in a way that denies visually-impaired and blind individuals from using the website, and therefore, is in violation of the ADA. She seeks a permanent injunction to cause a change in Apple’s corporate policies, practices, and procedures in order for its website to be fully accessible to blind and visually-impaired consumers.
Typically, in a growing internet-savvy world, visually-impaired and blind people are able to use screen-reading technology that states aloud the information on the website. Alternatively, the screen-reading technology displays the content on a Braille display. Companys, when dealing with their websites, must have an invisible code embedded beneath the graphic imagines in order for the screen reader to verbalize the picture that is on its website. Apple’s website, however, does not do that.
The complaint states that the World Wide Web Consortium, the international website standards organization, has published “well-established” guidelines for making websites accessible to blind and visually-impaired people. The complaint continues to explain that these guidelines are universally followed by most large business entities and government agencies to ensure their websites are accessible.
As a result of Apple being inaccessible to visually-impaired and blind people, some of its customers are unable to determine what is on the website, look for store locations, and browse or purchase electronics, such as the widely popular iPhone, iPad, and MacBook laptops.
According to Forbes, as of 2018, Apple is the largest technology company in the world and the eighth largest company in the world. This poses no question whether it has the funds or ability to make its website accessible to all individuals. Additionally, both the company and its consumers benefit from having the website more accessible; More of Apple consumers will be able to browse/purchase its products online when visually-impaired and blind individuals can explore its website. Additionally, visually-impaired and blind people, like Mendez’ complaint asserts, should have access to all websites, and are seriously hindered when companies, such as Apple, do not make its website accessible.
Dave Simpson, Apple Cite Violates ADA For Those Who Are Blind, Suit Says, Law360 (March 16, 2018), https://www.law360.com/articles/1074822?sidebar=true.
Mendez v. Apple Inc. No. 07550. (S.D.N.Y. filed Aug. 18, 2018).
U.S. Dep. of Jus. Civ. Rights Div. Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), https://www.ada.gov/2010_regs.htm.
Kristin Stoller, The World’s Largest Tech Companies 2018: Apple, Samsung Take Top Spots Again, Forbes (June 6, 2018, 5:50 pm), https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinstoller/2018/06/06/worlds-largest-tech-companies-2018-global-2000/#3173ee524de6.