Judge Holds Winn-Dixie Supermarket’s Website Violates the ADA

(CN) – A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the website of the Winn-Dixie supermarkets chain violates the ADA because it’s inaccessible to visually-impaired individuals.

In his June 13 ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola Jr. said plaintiff Juan Carlos Gil demonstrated that Winn-Dixie’s website is not easy to use for the legally blind because it does not offer a screen-reader software.

Winn-Dixie operates about 495 grocery stores in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Gil, who has resided in Miami for 25 years, is legally blind and has cerebral palsy.

In his complaint, Gil said he relies on access technology software like JAWS to be able to use his computer and the Internet.

“The screen reader automatically tells Gil what is going on on the website. Every time he hits the tab or shift tab the program will tell him what he needs to type,” the complaint said.

Gil alleged that when he accessed Winn-Dixie’s website some tabs worked, but most didn’t, and that even though he spent a long time on the website he was not able to access any information.

Judge Scola said “an accessibility notice is put on a website by the creator to showcase that the website is working diligently to create a better experience for the low-vision or blind users,” but that Winn Dixie did not include any notice on its website.

Rodney Cornwell, a Winn-Dixie official, said in his testimony that the supermarket chain is in the process of working on creating an ADA policy for its website, and that they want to modify it to make it accessible to the disabled.

“The current website was created in September 2015 and at that time, there was no discussion whatsoever about the website’s accessibility to the disabled,” Cornwell said.

Cornwell said one of the challenges the company has faced in conforming to the ADA’s requirements is the fact several third-party vendors, such as Google and American Express, have their own requirements to continue their interactions with the Winn-Dixie website.

Judge Scola says “the fact that third party vendors operate certain parts of the Winn-Dixie website is not a legal impediment to Winn-Dixie’s obligation to make its website accessible to the disabled.”

He explained that when a website is integrated and connected with its physical store locations, the courts have found that the website is a “public accommodation” and it’s covered by the ADA.

“The services offered on Winn-Dixie’s website, such as the online pharmacy management system, the ability to access digital coupons that link automatically to a customer’s rewards card, and the ability to find store locations, are undoubtedly services, privileges, advantages and accommodations offered by Winn-Dixie’s physical store locations,” Scola wrote.

The judge concluded that Winn-Dixie violated the ADA because its website failed to offer Gil the “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations” that it provides to the rest of its customers.

A representative of Winn-Dixie did not immediately respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment.

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