ADA and FHA defense attorney Richard Hunt wrote a blog post entitled, Is there a silver bullet for ADA website accessibility? Sorry, but the answer is no where he listed out 5 cases (in a two week stretch) where the defendants used an accessibility overlay / widget / toolbar and were nevertheless sued.
Note: This is because accessibility overlays, despite their claims to the contrary, do and can not make your website instantly accessible per the commonly referenced WCAG 2.0 AA standard (nor do they meet with WCAG 2.1 AA).
In this 5 part series, I’ll extract the claims of inaccessibility from each case and the overlay / widget being used. Below are all five cases and obviously we’ll start with Venum Training World.
Walters v. Venum Training World, Inc., Case 6:20-cv-00324 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York.
Williams v. VaporDNA, Case 1:20-cv-02294-JGK in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Fredericka Nellon v. Agri Beef Co., Case 1:20-cv-10595-RGS in the United States District Court for Massachusetts
Ariza v. Carmen Sol FL, LLC, Case 1:20-cv-21262-KMW in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
Cruz v. Rockwell Time, Inc., Case 1:20-cv-01902-LJL in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101
Venum.com no longer has an overlay / widget on its website. However, I did find Venum’s accessibility page (last updated in 2019) where they stated:
“Venum.com makes available the UserWay Website Accessibility Widget that is powered by a dedicated accessibility server. The software allows Venum.com to improve its compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1).”
Here’s a screenshot of the accessibility page text:
- keyboard trap
- required fields not accessible
- screen reader users cannot select a weight or add the product to the cart (not part of the tab index)
- 20% off advertisement is not announced to the user
Benjamin J. Sweet
One interesting selection from the complaint reads, “Defendant’s Website contains an icon that opens the accessibility features, however, this feature is not always announced to the screen reader user. If the user uses Chrome, the button is only announced four out of ten times.”
So the plaintiff’s lawyer actually gave some initial credit to the icon but the it didn’t load.
This is a crucial and overlooked reason of why – even if we assume these overlays amount to any level of real accessibility – they don’t – overlays likely wouldn’t be considered ADA compliant.
It’d be interesting to see how the plaintiff would have proceeded had the icon loaded every time.
Of the five lawsuits, this was the only one that bothered to acknowledge the existence of an overlay.