Court rules grocery store’s inaccessible website isn’t an ADA violation

A Winn-Dixie supermarket in Florida.

Enlarge / A Winn-Dixie supermarket in Florida. (credit: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A federal appeals court struck a significant blow against disability rights this week when it ruled that a Florida grocery store’s inaccessible website did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ruling contradicts a 2019 decision by a different appeals court holding that Domino’s did violate the ADA when it failed to make its app accessible to blind people. The disagreement between courts creates uncertainty about the rules that will govern online accessibility in the future.

Winn-Dixie is a grocery store chain with locations across the American South. Juan Carlos Gil is a blind Florida man who patronized Winn-Dixie stores in the Miami area for about 15 years.

A few years ago, Gil learned that the store offered customers the ability to fill prescriptions online. Ordering online saves customers time because prescriptions are ready when the customer arrives. Gill also preferred to order prescriptions online because it offered greater privacy. In court, he testified that ordering in person as a blind man made him “uncomfortable because he did not know who else was nearby listening” as he told the pharmacist his order.

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#americans-with-disabilities-act, #policy, #winn-dixie


Overlooked No More: Kitty Cone, Trailblazer of the Disability Rights Movement

Shunned in school because of her disability, she devoted her life to the cause, organizing a historic sit-in that led to landmark federal legislation.

#504-sit-in, #americans-with-disabilities-act, #biographical-information, #california, #cone-kitty-1944-2015, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #disabilities, #discrimination, #san-francisco-calif


Men Posed as Marshals to Avoid Masks at Florida Resort, Authorities Say

The two men were arrested after flashing fake U.S. marshal badges and mask exemption cards at an oceanfront hotel in Deerfield Beach, Fla., according to a criminal complaint.

#americans-with-disabilities-act, #broward-county-fla, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deerfield-beach-fla, #florida, #gary-brummett, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #masks, #united-states-marshals-service, #walter-wayne-brown-jr


The robots occupying our sidewalks

The robot, shaped like a large cooler on wheels, zipped along somewhere ahead of me. My left hand clasped the smooth leather harness of my German shepherd guide dog. “Mylo, forward.” The speed of his four short legs complemented the strides of my longer two — call it the six feet fox trot. Together we glided past the competition.

My quarantine buddy stayed behind filming the race. Mylo: 1, Robot: 0.

The Mountain View City Council voted on May 5, 2020 to allow Starship Technologies’ robots on city streets. Founded in 2014, Starship operates no-contact delivery robots in several cities around the world. Customers schedule deliveries of food, groceries or other packages through the Starship app.

My amusement with the little robots shifted to curiosity. Thirty years after the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, many tech companies still fail to design for disability. How would the autonomous robots react to disabled pedestrians?

About 10 feet down the sidewalk, I stopped and turned around. Mylo tensed, his alarm crawling up my arm. The white visage of the robot stopped about a foot from his nose.

I hoped the robot would identify a pedestrian and roll away, but it stayed put. Mylo relaxed into a sitting position — guide dog school didn’t teach him about the robot apocalypse. I scratched his ears and he leaned into my hands. The robot was not moved.

More than 61 million people in the U.S. have disabilities, a significant number of whom use wheelchairs, scooters, walkers and other mobility devices. Emily Ackerman, a power wheelchair user and University of Pittsburgh Ph.D. student, encountered a Starship robot while crossing a busy four-lane street; she needed the curb cut it occupied. “I managed to squeeze myself up on the sidewalk in a panic, climbing the curb outside the curb cut in fear of staying in the street any longer — a move that causes a painful jolt and could leave me stuck halfway up if I’m not careful,” wrote Ackerman in a 2019 article.

In the ’60s and ’70s disabled activists protested the lack of accessible sidewalks, then later wielded the ADA to compel cities across the country to install curb cuts and repair broken sidewalks. Wheelchair users, parents pushing strollers, kids with skateboards and now even robots benefit from these hard-won curb cuts. Disability-driven designs improve experiences for the whole community.

My standoff with the robot occurred six months after Ackerman’s article calling out Starship for failing disabled pedestrians. I waited patiently for it to back up, but the rascal remained rooted to the spot. As a deaf-blind person with full mobility, I had the ability to maneuver around the robot. With heavy steps I walked past it, continuing my daily physical distancing walk.

Before the pandemic, Mylo would accompany me to foreign countries, book talks and social dances. Dancing swing and salsa I could sense the beat through my dance partners’ hands and shoulders. Remembering those nights plunges me into nostalgia. So many of my interactions rely on my sharpened tactile intelligence. Our current no-touch world isolates me more than deaf-blindness ever could.

My home centers around touch-based solutions. The tactile stickers I added to my microwave and washing machine allow me to operate them on my own. The coffee machine, blender and stove all have physical controls. Even my phone supports tactile access. VoiceOver on the iPhone reads content out loud, sends dots popping on a connected braille computer and allows for nonvisual touchscreen navigation through gestures. I read the news, conduct research and schedule deliveries on websites and apps compatible with VoiceOver.

Relying on the internet as my primary channel to the outside world constantly throws me against barriers. Many web and app developers ignore accessibility guidelines and the ADA. News feeds are full of images without descriptions, videos without captions or transcripts, and recommendations for new apps to help everyone. In my experience, the word “everyone” means everyone except disabled people.

Thinking the no-contact delivery robots could benefit blind people, I tested the app with VoiceOver on the iPhone. The Starship app refused to fly with VoiceOver, crashing my hopes for a no-contact solution.

During a pandemic disproportionately extinguishing disabled lives, the last thing we need is cities adopting tech that excludes blind people and endangers pedestrians with mobility disabilities. The ADA’s promise of equality depends on enforcement. Advocates have already applied the ADA to Netflix’s video streaming, Scribd’s digital library, Domino’s online ordering and other tech services.

Cities and tech companies need to plan for accessibility early in the design process, include disabled people in solutions and review the many published accessibility guidelines. The next time Mylo and I encounter a robot, it better jump, spin and run.

#accessibility, #ada, #americans-with-disabilities-act, #artificial-intelligence, #column, #diversity, #mobility, #opinion, #policy, #robotics, #security-robot, #transportation


Overlooked No More: Roland Johnson, Who Fought to Shut Down Institutions for the Disabled

He survived 13 years of neglect and abuse, including sexual assault, at the notorious Pennhurst State School and Hospital outside Philadelphia before emerging as a champion for the disabled.

#abuse-of-the-disabled, #americans-with-disabilities-act, #biographical-information, #intellectual-disabilities, #johnson-roland-1945-94, #pennhurst-state-school-and-hospital, #pennsylvania


Overlooked No More: Cheryl Marie Wade, a Performer Who Refused to Hide

Going public with her disability helped her cope with the pain and hardship she felt.

#americans-with-disabilities-act, #art, #axis-dance-co, #biographical-information, #disabilities, #poetry-and-poets, #wade-cheryl-marie-1948-2013


What Disabled Americans Really Want

For true inclusion, we can’t just follow the letter of the law; we must embrace its spirit.

#americans-with-disabilities-act, #civil-rights-and-liberties, #disabilities, #discrimination, #group-homes-and-supportive-housing


Functional Fashion, People With Disabilities and Love of Clothing

But #disabledandcute influencers say the fashion industry has been slow to embrace them.

#americans-with-disabilities-act, #design, #disabilities, #dresses, #fashion-and-apparel, #jeans-apparel, #zippers


A ‘Safety Net’ That’s a Kafkaesque Mess

The Supplemental Security Income program, on which millions of disabled Americans depend, is daunting by design.

#americans-with-disabilities-act, #disabilities, #poverty, #social-security-us


Overlooked No More: Brad Lomax, a Bridge Between Civil Rights Movements

A member of the Black Panthers, he helped lead a historic, and successful, sit-in in San Francisco as part of a nationwide anti-discrimination campaign on behalf of people with disabilities.

#504-sit-in, #americans-with-disabilities-act, #black-panther-party, #black-people, #califano-joseph-a-jr, #california, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #disabilities, #discrimination, #heumann-judith-1947, #lomax-brad-1950-84


Building Accessibility Into America, Literally

Thirty years on, the Americans With Disabilities Act has reshaped the way designers and the public have come to think about equity, civil rights and American architecture. But it’s only a start.

#accessability-exhibit, #americans-with-disabilities-act, #architecture, #brooklyn-botanic-garden, #cooper-hewitt-smithsonian-design-museum, #design, #disabilities, #hunters-point-queens-ny, #libraries-and-librarians, #united-states, #wheelchairs


Disabled Do-It-Yourselfers Lead Way to Technology Gains

So long to overhyped innovations. Hello to tech that embeds accessibility into everyday devices.

#americans-with-disabilities-act, #blindness, #computers-and-the-internet, #disabilities, #driverless-and-semiautonomous-vehicles, #dyslexia, #innovation, #mobile-applications, #prostheses, #race-and-ethnicity, #smartphones, #voice-and-speech, #wheelchairs


What Happens When You’re Disabled but Nobody Can Tell

The author and clinical psychologist Andrew Solomon examines the disabilities that ramps and reserved parking spots don’t address.

#americans-with-disabilities-act, #anxiety-and-stress, #autism, #disabilities, #discrimination, #invisible-disabilities, #mental-health-and-disorders


How I Came Out About My Disability

Three writers share how they revealed their disability, to a family member, to a love interest on a dating app and to oneself.

#americans-with-disabilities-act, #autism, #chambrot-krysten, #disabilities, #haddad-ryan-j, #hoang-helen, #homosexuality-and-bisexuality, #prostheses, #writing-and-writers


Job Bias Laws Do Not Protect Teachers in Catholic Schools, Supreme Court Rules

The case was the court’s latest consideration of the relationship between the government and religion.

#americans-with-disabilities-act, #decisions-and-verdicts, #education-k-12, #private-and-sectarian-schools, #religion-state-relations, #roman-catholic-church, #supreme-court-us


Mask Exemption Cards From the ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency’? They’re Fake

The group, which is selling the cards online, is not a real government organization, federal officials said.

#americans-with-disabilities-act, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #frauds-and-swindling, #freedom-to-breathe-agency, #masks, #protective-clothing-and-gear, #social-media


Needing At-Home Workers, Call Centers Turn to People With Disabilities

Companies caught short by the pandemic are hiring from a pool that was already prepared to handle a surge in phone traffic away from offices.

#americans-with-disabilities-act, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #customer-relations, #disabilities, #labor-and-jobs, #national-telecommuting-institute, #outsourcing, #shutdowns-institutional, #telecommuting


The changing face of employment law during a global pandemic

Prompted by Jeff Bezos’s plans to test all Amazon employees for the virus that causes COVID-19, we wondered whether employers can mandate employee testing, regardless of symptoms. The issue pits public safety against personal privacy, but limited testing availability has rendered the question somewhat moot.

But as the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have noted, asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers can spread the virus without realizing they’re infected. To learn more about workers’ rights in this arena, we spoke to Tricia Bozyk Sherno, counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton, who focuses on employment and general commercial litigation.

The answer, for now, is not entirely straightforward, though updates from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could make the situation clearer going forward as more tests are made available and state governments begin pushing to reopen businesses.

Sherno offered a fair amount of insight into the EEOC’s updated guidance and made some predictions about how things may look for both employers and workers going forward.

TechCrunch: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, what sorts of laws governed an employer’s ability to test employees for infectious diseases?

Tricia Bozyk Sherno: Covered employers (employers with 15 or more employees) must comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which limits an employer’s ability to make disability-related inquiries or require medical examinations. (Note that certain states may also have similar statutes in place.) Generally, disability-related inquiries and medical examinations are prohibited by the ADA except in limited circumstances. A “medical examination” is a procedure or test that seeks information about an individual’s physical or mental impairments or health — so infectious disease testing would fall into this category.

#ada, #americans-with-disabilities-act, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #employment-law, #equal-employment-opportunity-commission, #extra-crunch, #health, #hiring, #privacy, #startups, #u-s-centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #work, #world-health-organization