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ADA Lawsuit Targets Wine.com

by Kerana Todorov
April 09, 2021

The online retail wine store wine.com allegedly does not comply with federal law for the disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a class action lawsuit.

New York resident Milton Williams, who is legally blind, said he was filing the complaint on behalf of himself and other visually impaired or legally blind individuals, according to the complaint. Williams seeks a court order to have the website be “accessible to blind and visually-impaired consumers,” according to the court filing.

Wine.com allegedly failed to build and operate a website that is “fully accessible to and independently usable” to blind and visually impaired users, according to the complaint filed late March in U.S. District Court in New York. 

“Defendant has, upon information and belief, invested substantial sums in developing and maintaining their Website and has generated significant revenue from the Website. These amounts are far greater than the associated cost of making their Website equally accessible to visually-impaired consumers,” according to the complaint. 

Wine.com, through its alleged failure to make its website compatible with computer screen reader programs, deprives “blind and visually-impaired individuals the benefits of its online goods, content, and services – all benefits it affords nondisabled individuals – thereby increasing the sense of isolation and stigma among those persons,” the complaint alleged.

Visually impaired individuals can use websites that are designed for screen-reading software, which according to the lawsuit, is the only way a visually-impaired or blind person can “fully access websites,” according to the lawsuit. Screen access software either “vocalizes” the information found online or displays it in Braille. 

The alleged discrimination is “particularly acute” during the global pandemic, according to the lawsuit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans with disabilities are at higher risk of falling severely ill from Covid-19 than other groups, and should stay home during the health crisis, according to the court filing. “This underscores the importance of access to online retailers” such as wine.com  “for this especially vulnerable population,” according to the lawsuit.

The complaint cited a 2018 letter from then Assistant General Stephen Boyd to U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., in which Boyd confirmed that under ADA’s Title III, public accommodations’ websites must be “equally accessible to people with disabilities,” according to the court filing.

About 8.1 million people in the United States are visually impaired, including 2 million who are blind, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, the lawsuit stated. There are about 400,000 visually-impaired New Yorkers, the court filing stated citing data from the American Foundation for the Blind. 

The plaintiffs, who have asked for a jury trial, seek number of rulings, including order to have wine.com to make its website into “full compliance” under the ADA and unspecified compensatory damages, attorney fees and court costs, according to the complaint. 

Wine.com could not be reached to comment on the lawsuit. 

According to its website, wine.com’s sales revenues grew by 119 percent in 2020, to more than $300 million. “We encountered many challenges during 2020 to keep up with demand, including doubling our workforce in operations and customer service and keeping our people safe during the pandemic,” wine.com Chief Executive Officer Rich Bergsund said in a statement posted on the website in January.


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