Over the past few years, a handful of law firms have filed thousands of lawsuits over website accessibility issues. This has been a lucrative business for these firms. Many of these suits are essentially cut-and-paste jobs, and the recipients often decide to quickly settle, rather than face the uncertainties and costs of litigation.
Last week, a CBD company was hit with a class action suit claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) as a result of the company’s website not being fully accessible to and independently usable by blind or visually-impaired people. The complaint filed in the New York federal court is the latest in a slew of class actions brought by plaintiff Thomas J. Olsen, who is legally blind.
According to Olsen’s claims, blind and visually-impaired customers such as himself use screen-reading software to view information on websites. For the software to function properly, the information on a retailer’s website must be capable of being rendered into text. Olsen alleges the CBD retailer named in the class action suit, Endoca, LLC, does not have a website with content capable of being rendered into text, and therefore leaves blind or visually impaired users unable to access the same content available to sighted users. As a result, Olsen is seeking damages and a permanent injunction to have Endoca alter their corporate policies, practices, and procedures in a way that will allow their website to be accessible to blind and visually-impaired consumers.
Olsen is not alone in filing multiple website accessibility suits against CBD companies; several other plaintiffs have filed lawsuits claiming CBD companies’ websites are violating the ADA. See, e.g., Guglielmo v. Charlotte’s Web, Inc. and Mahoney v. Green Growth Brands LLC. Unfortunately for CBD retailers, the wave of lawsuits in this area is likely to continue growing. While there are ways to combat these class actions, such as attaching the alleged injury in fact, the best place to start is by remediating the website proactively. This includes following the World Wide Web Consortium (“W3C”) guidelines for making website accessible to blind and visually-impaired people. However, as these are only guidelines, professional guidance is critical to determine whether a website is legally and appropriately accessible to blind and visually-impaired individuals.
For more on website accessibility and litigation, check out our sister blog, Ad Law Access.