ADASure client wins against GNC – See why selecting the right expert is critical
As you might have seen, the issue of ADA compliance on the web is in the news again; this time, nationwide health supplement chain GNC found themselves on the wrong side of a court decision about the accessibility of their website and the ability of customers to complete purchases online.
GNC, the nationwide nutrition retailer, is a perfect example of a large company. With more than 16,000 employees and revenue of over $2.5 billion in 2016, GNC is a corporation you would expect to be proactive in their legal protections – including ADA compliance and accessibility for customers and clients. However, the recent ruling in Gomez v. General Nutrition Corporation (US District Court – Southern District of Florida) demonstrates that web accessibility is a potentially dangerous area for businesses large and small.
The plaintiff, Mr. Gomez, attempted to use GNC’s website for the purpose of making a purchase. He utilizes a screen-reading program to interact with websites across the internet, but these programs only function at their best when sites are designed to be compatible with them. This is where the issue arose, as Mr. Gomez was unable to successfully complete a purchase from the GNC website due to incompatibility between the website and the screen reader.
GNC’s case relied on expert testimony from Mr. Paul Dolegowski, who utilized automated software to test the GNC website for accessibility. The “AChecker” and “WAVE” tests returned zero errors and found no known problems with the website – seemingly a good result for GNC in this case. However, the court found that Mr. Dolegowski lacked the expertise and experience to speak on issues of web accessibility, and granted a motion to exclude his testimony from the proceedings.
Mr. Gomez, the plaintiff, retained ADASure, and specifically the expert testimony of Michael McCaffrey, to speak to the issues of accessibility on the GNC website. Using the same testing and audit methods that ADASure provides to all clients, Mr. McCaffrey found compliance issues in multiple levels, all of which could prevent a customer from being able to select a product, locate a GNC store, or complete a purchase online.
Mr. McCaffrey’s testimony and testing of the website, as well as the report generated, were admitted, and GNC’s website was found to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Perhaps the two most important takeaways from this case are: 1) companies large and small can suffer significant consequences for failing to meet accessibility standards; and 2) taking a proactive approach and choosing the right accessibility expert can make the biggest difference in winning cases or avoiding lawsuits altogether.
GNC, despite their significant resources and having a vested interest in opening their site to all customers, failed to meet the requirements of the ADA. In addition, they chose an expert witness who lacked the proper background and rigor to provide testimony on their behalf, which had a negative impact on their case.
As the internet continues to be integrated into all areas of our lives, ADA compliance and accessibility are going to continue to be critical issues – and they can be difficult to navigate without the right help. But getting started is easy. Whether your organization is large or small, whether you have a large website or are just getting started, ADASure can help you identify and correct accessibility issues, thereby avoiding expensive legal proceedings and lawsuit settlements. Let our team protect you and your business by giving us a call today to get started.
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