On April 26 I announced that the Dann Law Firm and California-based Manning Law Firm of Newport Beach had filed suit in federal court alleging that the McDonald’s restaurant chain is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act because the company’s website and mobile app are not fully accessible to or independently usable by people who are blind or visually impaired. Since then Dann Law Firm has filed similar actions against GrubHub, the online food delivery service, as well as Bath and Body Works and DSW.
I’d like to take credit for being the one who recognized the need to bring these suits on behalf of the blind and the visually impaired, but I can’t. The credit goes to Emily White, the managing partner of our Columbus office and director of our disability law department who made the following observations:
- People with disabilities aren’t just people with disabilities, they’re also consumers who have billions of dollars to spend;
- The explosive growth in e-commerce—224 million Americans are expected to spend nearly $400 billion online this year–is generating a concurrent increase in the number of people with disabilities who are finding it difficult if not impossible to buy goods and services online.
- Those difficulties may represent violations of the ADA and other laws designed to protect the rights of persons with disabilities;
- The companies violating those laws should have the hell sued out of them;
- Our firm should do the suing.
Not only was she right, she changed my entire perspective on persons with disability and the law. Before she educated me I had always viewed disability law as a critically important area of practice—but one that was totally separate and removed from consumer law which has always been the primary focus of our firm. Once she explained the nexus between the two I was convinced that we should begin holding companies that refuse to make their e-commerce platforms accessible accountable for their actions.
So we sued McDonald’s, GrubHub, Bath and Body Works, and DSW–and we’re prepared to take action against other companies that ignore the law and make it difficult if not impossible for the blind and visually impaired to engage in e-commerce.
I’m extremely proud of and energized by the work we’re doing in this field and I’m pleased that the media, including Chicago’s Channel 5, is paying attention to this rapidly expanding area of the law. I was happy to help them put the story together because media scrutiny will raise awareness about the critically important issue of disability rights and that, in turn, may motivate companies to do the right thing and break down the virtual barriers they’ve erected on their e-commerce platforms. But until they do so, we’ll continue to use the law and the courts to ensure that persons with disabilities have the opportunity to do what millions of Americans do every day: shop online.