The Winn-Dixie Ruling – what it means for your company
A new precedent was set when the honorable Robert Scoula, a District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, found Winn-Dixie liable under Title III of the ADA for having an inaccessible website. The plaintiff, Juan Carlos Gil, was unable to find the store locator, order his prescriptions, or download coupons through the Winn-Dixie website. Since Mr. Gil is blind and relies on a screen reader to navigate through websites, the lack of accessibility prohibited him from accomplishing tasks that a normal person could carry out and thus discriminated against sight-impaired users.
Judge Scoula also ruled that the grocery chain must make its website accessible to the blind. This will cost the grocery chain an estimated $250,000 to make its site accessible. Although Winn-Dixie has spent a total of 9 million dollars over the past 2 years for website updates, the court did not find the additional cost to make its site accessible an undue burden.
Furthermore, Judge Scola found Winn-Dixie responsible for the entire website although some of the site is operated by third party vendors. This is a common issue we hear from small business owners. They believe third party sites or plug-ins are not their responsibility. The findings of this ruling eliminate this excuse and provides notice to all business owners that they are responsible for their site and the contents, regardless of who developed the website.
What does this mean for business owners?
This verdict is significant for business owners because this was the first time that a public accommodation violated the ADA guidelines due to an inaccessible website. This opens the door for companies to be sued if they have an inaccessible website. Previously there was uncertainty regarding the ADA III website guidelines, but now there is a federal ruling which eliminates any confusion.
What should a business owner do now?
Is your company familiar with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0? The injunction requires that Winn-Dixie use this guideline as a guide to make their website accessible. It also appears that the courts have adopted WCAG 2.0 AA as the accessibility standard. If you’re not familiar with WCAG 2.0 Levels A and AA, then you should strongly consider hiring an outside consulting firm to assist you. You’re also probably thinking this sounds expensive and that your internal IT staff can fix any issues. They can probably attempt to make the website accessible, but are they experts? Do they have time to take on a new project? From our 30+ years of industry experience, we find that most IT departments are already 100%+ utilized and have a project roadmap spanning into the next year.
Remember, a new precedent has just been set and companies can be liable for accessibility issues. Let the experts in ADA help you and avoid tying up your internal IT team. We can help you avoid costly legal fees and potential bad publicity, and most importantly, make your site accessible for all users.