[nfbmi-talk] NBA Sued by Blind Man
Terry D. Eagle
terrydeagle at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 17 16:47:28 UTC 2015
NBA Sued by Blind Man Over Website
A legally blind man has claimed in a lawsuit filed in federal court that the
National Basketball Association's website does not accommodate blind and
visually impaired users.
Robert Jahoda filed his discrimination suit under the Americans with
Disabilities Act on Nov. 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Western
District of Pennsylvania. In it, Jahoda asked for a court order that would
require the NBA to format its website to be compatible with the
screen-reader, or text-to-audio, technology utilized by Web users with
"Screen-reader software provides the primary method by which a blind person
may independently use the Internet. Unless websites are designed to be read
by screen-reader software or other assistive technologies, blind individuals
are unable to fully access websites and the information, products and
services available through the sites," Jahoda's complaint said.
The ADA states that the court can step in "to alter facilities to make such
facilities readily accessible to and usable by individuals with
disabilities." The act also authorizes judicially-mandated changes to an
organization's policies; in addition to the formatting requests, Jahoda
asked that the NBA implement policies that guarantee website accessibility
for the blind. That would include periodic audits to ensure accessibility.
According to the docket, legal counsel had not yet been assigned to the NBA.
A call to an NBA spokesperson was not returned.
"Web-based technologies have features and content that are modified on a
daily, and in some instances an hourly, basis, and a one-time 'fix' to an
inaccessible website will not cause the website to remain accessible without
a corresponding change in corporate policies related to those Web-based
technologies," the complaint said.
"To evaluate whether an inaccessible website has been rendered accessible,"
the complaint continued, "and whether corporate policies related to
Web-based technologies have been changed in a meaningful manner that will
cause the website to remain accessible, the website must be reviewed on a
periodic basis using both automated accessibility-screening tools and end
user testing by disabled individuals."
Jahoda pointed to guidelines promulgated by W3C, an international Web
standards organization, and maintained that those accessibility
standards-which provide for the maximum level of website compatibility with
assistive devices-have been endorsed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Specifically, Jahoda alleged the NBA violated multiple sections of Title III
of the ADA, including Section 302(a), which states that no individual will
be discriminated against on the basis of a disability in that they are
denied full access to goods and services. A subsequent section, 302(b)(1),
makes such a denial unlawful.
Jahoda also pointed to Section 302(b)(2), which goes further into what is
considered unlawful discrimination.
For example, violations of the section include failure to make reasonable
modifications in policies, practices or procedures when they're necessary to
afford facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations to individuals
with disabilities. That is, unless the entity can demonstrate that making
such modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of those aspects of
Also, the section provides that "a failure to take such steps as may be
necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied
services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals
because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services" would make for an
undue burden on the user.
Jahoda claimed the alleged lack of accessibility to the NBA's website fit
the bill for a Title III violation.
Jahoda "has not been provided services that are provided to other patrons
who are not disabled, and/or has been provided services that are inferior to
the services provided to non-disabled persons," the complaint said.
"Defendant has failed to take any prompt and equitable steps to remedy its
discriminatory conduct. These violations are ongoing."
In addition to a permanent injunction directing the NBA to modify its
policies and take steps to make its website fully accessible to blind and
visually impaired users, Jahoda is seeking litigation costs and attorney
fees. Jahoda's attorney, R. Bruce Carlson of Carlson Lynch Sweet & Kilpela
in Pittsburgh, declined to comment
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