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Lawsuit claims Apple’s website is inaccessible for visually impaired users

A lawsuit has been filed against electronics giant Apple in the United States, over claims that its website violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is not fully accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.

The action has been taken by Himelda Mendez, described as “visually-impaired and legally blind” in the complaint document. Mendez is filing the lawsuit on behalf of both herself and “others similarly situated”, according to the complaint text.

In the complaint, Mendez is described as a “proficient JAWS screen-reader user,” but has encountered “multiple access barriers” when visiting that denied her the same level of access to the goods and services offered by the company as sighted users.

The barriers listed by Mendez include: a lack of ‘alt text’ on the site (which allows screen-readers to describe an image to the user), empty links (links without text to let the user know where it goes) and redundant links (successive links that direct to the same page), all of which can stop screen-readers from working effectively, therefore preventing the screen-reader user from understanding or navigating the page.

In the complaint document, Mendez claims that as well as violating the ADA, Apple’s site does not conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, an internationally recognised set of accessibility standards. This lack of WCAG-compliance, says Mendez, means that Apple has “engaged in acts of intentional discrimination” against people who are visually impaired.

To resolve the issue, Mendez is seeking a ‘permanent injunction’ that requires Apple to take various measures. These include: training Apple website developers on WCAG 2.0 compliance; regular checks of the company’s website based on WCAG 2.0; ensuring that people who are blind and visually impaired are involved with user-testing the site; and developing an accessibility policy which is “clearly disclosed” on the Apple website, with contact information so that users can report accessibility issues.

It is alleged by Mendez that Apple has “invested substantial sums in developing and maintaining” its website, and has generated “significant revenue” from it. The complaint claims that “these amounts are far greater than the associated cost of making their website equally accessible to visually impaired customers.”

Mendez is also seeking “compensatory damages” and “reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs” through the lawsuit.

As yet, Apple has not publicly responded to the lawsuit.

Read the Mendez versus Apple complaint document at Scribd, where it has been uploaded by Mike Wuerthele from the website.



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