In 2017, after the first federal court web accessibility trial in the United States, a federal judge in Miami ruled that the Winn-Dixie grocery chain violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by maintaining an inaccessible website. On April 7, 2021 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit disagreed.
In a narrowly written opinion based on “unique facts” of the case, the Appeals Court held that Winn-Dixie’s inaccessible website was not a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Winn-Dixie Opinion applies only in the three states of the 11th Circuit – Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. And its reasoning is contrary to many other courts that have considered the ADA and its application to websites. It’s an opinion that may yet change through court procedures, but even if it doesn’t, it should not impact corporate commitment to an inclusive digital world.
At Disability:IN, our corporate partners are global leaders in the digital accessibility space. They know that having an accessible website – and accessible technology generally – is about far more than avoiding a lawsuit.
Accessibility (and its partner, inclusive design,) is good for business, a brand differentiator, and an opportunity for innovation. Digital accessibility is central to the ethics of today’s organizations and essential to a diverse workplace that includes people with disabilities. An inclusive digital environment for employees throughout their working lives is critical to all diversity and inclusion efforts because of the intersectional nature of disability.
At Disability:IN we know that one court opinion cannot turn back the clock on digital inclusion for disabled people.
Disability:IN’s Digital Accessibility Resource Lainey Feingold has written about the Winn-Dixie opinion in a post titled Narrow Winn-Dixie Court Opinion Limits Certain Types of Web Accessibility Lawsuits in three U.S. States. As Lainey writes, and as our partners know, the way to avoid a lawsuit is to bake accessibility into all aspects of your organization. From recruitment to retirement, from procurement to communications and beyond, the Winn-Dixie opinion does not change best practices. Inclusive design should still be your guiding star, WCAG 2.1 AA your development standard, and usability testing your best practice, all with the involvement of disabled people at every turn.
Interested in reading more about the Winn-Dixie Court opinion? Check out these posts by lawyers who represent organizations in web accessibility matters:
The Eleventh Circuit Finally Breaks Its Silence on Website Accessibility – But Was Its Decision Worth the Wait? by Epstein, Becker, Green Eleventh Circuit Says Winn Dixie’s Inaccessible Website Does Not Violate The ADA by Seyfarth Shaw To learn more about our work in digital accessibility, you can:
Check out our Accessibility Technology Procurement Toolkit Visit the Disability:IN Accessibility Leadership Committee page Join our Webinar: Best Practices for Accessible, Inclusive Communications