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Outdoor Retail Company Faces Lawsuit for Discriminating Against Blind Customers

Image of a gavelThe outdoor retail company, Patagonia Works, Inc., is being sued by blind customers over the lack of accessibility of the company’s website. Michelle Sipe, Jill Gross and R. David New, with Access Now, Inc. (ANI), represented by law firm Carlson, Lynch, Sweet & Kilpela have filed a lawsuit in the US Federal District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Parties

Plaintiffs: Michelle Sipe, Jill Gross, and R. David New are legally blind and are members of a protected class under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). All three individuals are residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

ANI is a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of individuals with disabilities. One of the organization’s main goals is to ensure its represented members have equal access or use of programs, activities, or services of public accommodations and are not discriminated against because of a disability.

Defendant: Patagonia Works, Inc. is headquartered in Ventura, California. The company owns, operates and maintains a retail brick and mortar stores and online stores that offer goods and services to customers across the country, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where the Plaintiffs are located.

Complaint:

The collective complaint made by the Plaintiffs against Patagonia states that the company’s website is not accessible to visually impaired or blind consumers, which is in violation of consumer rights under Title III of the ADA. Due to access barriers on Patagonia’s website, the Plaintiffs cannot experience the goods and services the company offers.

The Plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction that requires Patagonia to change their corporate policies relating to the company’s website to become, and remain, accessible.

Plaintiff’s seeking:

The Defendant will hire a mutually agreed upon consultant to:

  • Improve the accessibility of the Patagonia Website, so it complies with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 AA guidelines
  • Ensure that all Patagonia employees involved in content and website development are provided with web accessibility training continually to maintain compliance with WCAG 2.0 AA
  • Consistently perform an automated accessibility audit to evaluate the state of accessibility of Patagonia’s Website and ensure it remains in compliance with WCAG 2.0 AA
  • Periodically perform user accessibility and usability testing performed by individuals with various disabilities to ensure Patagonia’s Website continues to comply with WCAG 2.0 AA
  • Create a corporate accessibility policy that will be posted on the Patagonia Website. Additionally, an e-mail address and toll-free phone number shall be posted on the website to report accessibility-related issues

If the judgment finds Patagonia Works, Inc. in violation of Title III of the ADA, the following financial remedies and actions will apply:

  • A permanent injunction directing Patagonia to take all necessary steps to bring its Website into full compliance with the requirements outlined in the ADA, so its Website is fully accessible to blind individuals
  • The Court shall maintain jurisdiction, for a determined period, to ensure Patagonia is following and adopted a policy that will cause the company to remain in full compliance with the law
  • Payment of lawsuit costs
  • Payment of attorneys’ fees
  • The provision of any other relief efforts the Court deems equitable, appropriate and just

Takeaway

Visually impaired or blind consumers often use screen readers or other assistive technologies to access a website. Patagonia, with the majority of other company websites online, present digital barriers that limit the capability of visually impaired and blind consumers to access a website. Companies that want to avoid a lawsuit must learn from Patagonia’s failures. The time has come for all companies to undergo a shift towards inclusiveness and actively incorporate web accessibility policies that include continually auditing their websites against WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines. The technology to audit a website is readily available and easy to use right here on AuditGenie™. It is the company’s responsibility to maintain accessibility and not exclude or discriminate against individuals with disabilities. If you are ready to make your website accessible, contact us now at
sales@auditgenie.com.

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