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Court rules against Dunkin Donuts over blind customer’s access to website

Court rules against Dunkin Donuts over blind customer’s access to website

A federal appeals court overturned a lower court and ruled a blind plaintiff can pursue an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit against Dunkin Donuts L.L.C. for allegedly having an inaccessible website.

The case is part of a trend, with more courts ruling against companies over the issue of website accessibility, while the number of lawsuits alleging ADA violations related to website access grows dramatically.

The case decided Tuesday involved Dennis Haynes, who is blind and relies on screen reading software to use the internet, according to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in Dennis Haynes v. Dunkin’ Donuts L.L.C., a foreign limited liability company, DD IP Holder L.L.C., CashStar Inc.

Mr. Haynes sued Canton, Mass-based Dunkin Donuts in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, claiming the company violated Title III of the ADA by not maintaining a website compatible with screen reading software.

The District Court dismissed the case, which was overturned by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel. It appears Dunkin’ Donuts’ website “is a service that facilitates the use of Dunkin Donuts’ shops, which are places of public accommodation,” the ruling states.

Under the ADA, “whatever goods and services Dunkin’ Donuts offers as a part of its place of public accommodation, it cannot discriminate against people on the basis of a disability, even if those goods and services are intangible,” the ruling says.

Mr. Haynes could not access services offered online by Dunkin’ Donuts’, including information about store locations and the ability to buy gift cards online.

“The failure to make those services accessible to the blind can be said to exclude, deny, or otherwise treat blind people ‘differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services,’” said the ruling, in quoting the ADA and remanding the case for further proceedings.


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