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Winn-Dixie decision spurs additional suits

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A U.S. District Court ruling that holds a supermarket chain must make its website more accessible to the visually impaired is encouraging litigation against other firms, experts say.

While there have been other pro-plaintiff rulings since, the June 13 ruling by the U.S. District Court in Miami in Juan Carlos Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. has garnered significant attention because it followed a bench trial rather than being based on a motion to dismiss, experts say.

Mr. Gil, who is legally blind, filed suit against the Jacksonville, Florida-based supermarket chain because of problems he had with his screen reader software in using the chain’s website, according to the ruling.

“The factual findings demonstrate that Winn-Dixie’s website is inaccessible to visually impaired individuals who must use screen reader software,” says the ruling by Judge Robert N. Scola Jr.

“Therefore, Winn-Dixie has violated the (Americans with Disabilities Act) because the inaccessibility of its website has denied Gil the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations that Winn-Dixie offers to its sighted customers,” says the ruling.

“Winn-Dixie has presented no evidence to establish that it would be unduly burdensome to make its website accessible to visually impaired individuals,” said the ruling.

“To the contrary, its corporate representative unequivocally testified that modifying the website to make it accessible to the visually impaired was feasible,” said the ruling, in also holding Mr. Gil proved he is entitled to injunctive relief in the case.

The decision is being appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.