On March 6th, 2014 the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and major tax preparation company, H&R Block entered into a consent decree. The landmark lawsuit between the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and HRB Digital LLC will be the first case in history the DOJ made the decision to intervene on accessibility with regards to mobile apps and web pages. The lawsuit emerged after a complaint was filed when several disabled individuals were not able to access the company’s website.
The consent decree, along with additional charges, demands that H&R Block provides access to its mobile web applications and websites to disabled users prior to the upcoming tax season in 2015 as well as pay $100,000 in damages.
H&R Block Findings and Settlement:
- NFB and two individuals filed a lawsuit against HRB Digital LLC in federal district court in Massachusetts, claiming the H&R Block website and mobile applications presented barriers that prevented equal use by individuals who had hearing, vision or physical disabilities, in violation of ADA laws
- U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) intervened in the case on behalf of the plaintiffs
- H&R Block has entered into a consent decree, subject to court approval, with the DOJ and plaintiffs
- The company will pay $45,000 to the two individual plaintiffs, and a $55,000 civil penalty
- The consent decree calls for H&R Block to no longer deny disabled individuals the opportunity to receive full and equal benefits for the goods, facilities, services, advantages, privileges and accommodations offered through the website, its mobile apps and its tax filing utility
- By January 1, 2015, H&R Block has agreed to have their website and tax filing utility meet, at minimum, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level A and AA Success Criteria
- By January 1, 2016, the company’s mobile apps would meet, at minimum, the WCAG 2.0 AA
- H&R Block will adopt a Web Accessibility Policy no later than June 1, 2014
- The tax company agreed to appoint a skilled web accessibility coordinator
- Additionally, H& R Block agreed to offer web accessibility training to employees who develop programs, write or code for the company’s digital programs
This landmark lawsuit against the global tax preparation company represents the shift happening online, requiring all company websites and digital information to be accessible to disabled individuals. Failure to comply with will be costly to any company. A legal battle can be avoided if a company takes proper steps to ensure their website is accessible by testing and maintaining compliance using a validation tool. Providing accessibility online will offer equal rights to disabled individuals and avoid an ADA lawsuit.
AuditGenie™ is a leading provider of an online website testing tool that is used by web developers, law firms, human resource professionals, and advocacy groups. AuditGenie™ can “crawl” 1,000’s of web pages on any website and provide both visual and automated reports that identify hidden website programming errors or warnings. Errors or warnings that left uncorrected could lead to lawsuits from special interest groups and/or violate ADA Regulations.