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This is a list of legal cases related to web accessibility matters. It is not intended to be a detailed or exhaustive repository but rather a brief and quick reference to what's happening in the fields of equal opportunities in accessing website information and services.

Lawsuit Cases

List of Cases
Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Case
Failure to provide text alternatives for non-text contents

Background
In 1999 – 2000, Bruce Lindsay Maguire (the Plaintiff), who is a person with visual impairment, lodged a complaint to the then Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission of Australia, against the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games 2000 (the Defendant) alleging their website for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games did not provide text alternatives for all images and image map links, and the Schedule page to the Index of Sports and the Olympic Game Results Tables were inaccessible to the Plaintiff. Accusing that the Plaintiff had been discriminated against in the provision of services offered to the public by the Defendant via its website. Limited access to the online Games information caused the Plaintiff considerable feelings of hurt, humiliation and rejection.

Ruling of Court
The Defendant was ordered to make its website accessible such as including text alternatives on all images and image map links together with other features to improve the accessibility of its website. The Commissioner also made a declaration that the Defendant should pay a compensation of AUS$20,000 to the Plaintiff.

Key Learning
W3C WCAG 1.0, the prevailing version by that time was used in this case as a benchmark for web accessibility. As good practices of making an accessible website, alternative description in text format should be provided for non-text contents including images, imaged text, graphics, pictures, PDFs, image map links, etc. on each webpage.

Reference
Bruce Lindsay Maguire v. Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games H 99/115 (2000) by Australian Human Rights Commission in 2000
Target.com Case
Not compatible with screen readers

Background
In 2006 – 07, National Federation of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind of California, Bruce Sexton, and all those similarly situated (the Plaintiff) lodged a complaint against Target Corporation (the Defendant), one of the largest retailers in United States, alleging that certain features of its website (www.Target.com) were not accessible to persons with visual impairment using text-to-speech assistive technology. The Plaintiff alleged the Defendant not making its website accessible to visually impaired users for online functions such as ‘purchase’, ‘redeem gift cards’ and ‘find stores location’. Accusing that the Plaintiff had been denied access the enjoyment of goods and services offered in Target stores.

Ruling of Court
  • The Defendant established a fund of US$ 6 million for claimants who submit valid claims. Individual might claim up to US$3,500 for each incident and submit claims for two separate incidents at most.
  • The Defendant also paid US$20,000 to the Plaintiff for setting up a rehabilitation and training centre.
  • The Plaintiff was entitled to a reasonable attorney’s fees.

Key Learning
If a website is not developed with proper coding and has not been tested with appropriate techniques and tools, its webpage contents may not be fully accessible by persons with disabilities using assistive technology, hence creating barrier for them in accessing website information and services. The ruling of this case sets the precedent requiring retailers to make their websites accessible to visually impaired persons under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). As good practices of making an accessible website, user interface components and functions should be operable by all people who may use assistive technology, in such a way that navigation can be completed using keyboard interface instead of a mouse.

Reference
Final Judgment And Order Approving Settlement And Dismissing Claims National Federation of the Blind et al v. Target Corporation by United States District Court Northern District of California in 2009

Class Settlement Agreement and Release of National Federation of the Blind et al v. Target Corporation by United States District Court Northern District of California in 2009
ePass Case
Online transactional services not accessible

Background
In September 2010, a Canadian citizen Donna Jodhan (the Plaintiff) lodged a complaint to the Attorney General of Canada (the Defendant) due to difficulties in using online government services such as searching for jobs online, creating an online profile and completing census online.

Notwithstanding the Canada Government’s accessibility standards for the visually impaired in effect since 2001, a web portal service “ePass”, which required users to input personal information failed to conform to the required accessibility standards (e.g. provision of accessible online input fields and downloadable forms), making it difficult for persons with visual impairment in using this e-service.

Ruling of Court
  • The Defendant had a constitutional obligation to bring itself into compliance with the Charter of Rights – Equality Rights, within a reasonable time period, such as 15 months.
  • The Plaintiff was entitled to the legal costs including disbursements of CAN$150,000.

Key Learning
For a person with visual impairment who wishes to obtain information from an organisation or a government agency, there are always alternative channels other than surfing the Internet, such as in person, by telephone and by mail. However, these alternatives do not constitute substantively equal treatment and may induce loss of independence or ability to get timely information on an equal basis with a sighted person. Hence, making the online contents as accessible as practicable will help provide timely information to the public including persons with disabilities on an equal basis.

Reference
Citation of Jodhan v. Canada (Attorney General), 2010 FC 1197, [2011] 2 F.C.R. 355 by Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada in 2011