A frequent filer is going after a half-dozen companies claiming their websites are not accessible to blind and visually impaired people in violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Burlington Coat Factory and Wyndham Hotels were hit with lawsuits Monday in the District of New Jersey, and similar suits were filed on Sunday against True Religion Apparel and Forever 21 in the District of Delaware. Steve Madden Handbags Inc. in the Eastern District of New York and Jimmy Choo USA in the Southern District of New York were also hit with similar lawsuits on April 16.
The plaintiff in all six suits is Jack Kang, a blind man from Los Angeles County, California. He claims the defendants’ websites aren’t compatible with software that helps visually impaired people read website content. Kang is represented in the suits by lawyers from Legal Justice Advocates, a Washington firm that brings ADA suits.
Even Beyonce’s website was sued in the Southern District of New York for failing to accommodate blind and visually impaired users. The suit over www.Beyonce.com was voluntarily dismissed April 9, “without costs, disbursements or attorneys’ fees to either party as against the other,” according to a notice of dismissal.
The suits filed by Kang seek to enjoin defendants from further violations of the ADA and to require them to take steps to make their websites accessible to blind and visually impaired people.
According to the complaints, Kang uses a program called ChromeVox to access the internet, but defendants’ websites mount barriers to access with that program. Those barriers include a lack of alternate text, which is an invisible code embedded under an image on a website that is read by the screen-reading software when a blind user’s mouse moves over the image.
The barriers to access found on defendants’ websites also include empty links that contain no text, causing the function or purpose of the link not to be presented to the user, or linked images missing alternate text.
The defendants’ websites would be compatible with ChromeVox if their design followed version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium, the international website standards organization, the lawsuits claim.
The suits also seek attorney fees and expenses, prejudgment interest and costs of suit, along with any other relief the court deems proper.
Stamatios Stamoulis of Stamoulis & Weinblatt in Wilmington, Delaware, filed the suits along with Yvette Harrell and Evan Kagan of Legal Justice Advocates in Washington. Harrell is Stamoulis’ co-counsel in the New Jersey suits and Kagan is his co-counsel in the New York and Delaware cases.
Stamoulis, Kagan and Harrell did not return calls about the lawsuits. The defendants also did not respond to requests for comment.
Burlington, with headquarters in Burlington, New Jersey, operates more than 600 off-price department stores in 45 states. Wyndham, based in Parsippany, New Jersey, operates 9,000 hotels under 20 names that include Ramada, Super 8, La Quinta, Howard Johnson and Travelodge.