Chris Ashton

week11y issue 115

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US Accessibility Lawsuits

There have been a number of accessibility related lawsuits in America of late. As ever, I’ll try my best to summarise, but bear in mind I am no legal expert.

On Reconsideration, Judge Albright Transfers AudioEye, Inc. v. accessiBe Ltd. In December 2020, AudioEye accused accessiBe of infringing 9 patents, as well as committing false advertisement. The lawsuit has dragged on since then on the basis of where the case should be heard. It was originally filed in the Western District of Texas (WDTX), but accessiBe requested that it is heard in New York (WDNY) instead. After initially declining, the Judge has now agreed to transfer the case to WDNY; the article goes into details on why.

As Refining harm in Web Accessibility cases: Harty v. West Point Realty describes, New York is the most popular district court to process ADA web accessibility cases. In this West Point Realty case, the plaintiff attempted to visit the hotel’s website but “couldn’t discern from the room description whether the accessibility features in the hotel room meet his needs”. This allegedly violates the Department of Justice’s 2010 ADA regulations that require hotels to “identify and describe accessible features in the hotels and guest rooms offered through its reservation service“.

However, in such cases, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the violation brought them harm, something author Ken Nakata summarises as the “no harm, no foul” rule. It’s clear that the plaintiff would suffer a real harm should they book the hotel room believing that it is accessible, and then can’t navigate their wheelchair into the bathroom. But Ken doesn’t believe this lawsuit will succeed on the basis of “emotional injury” alone.

The final case I’d like to look at – also centred in New York – is Early Win for Deaf Plaintiff in VR Captioning Lawsuit. In 2020, Dylan Panarra, who is deaf, filed a lawsuit against the HTC corporation, arguing that they violated the ADA for failing to include captioning in their virtual reality content (housed on their subscription service “Viveort Infinity”). The case is still ongoing, and is the first known case about virtual reality captioning, so is an important one to keep an eye on.

24×24 pixel cursor bookmarklet

Adrian Roselli shares a JavaScript bookmarklet which turns your cursor into a 24 by 24 pixel square.

It is designed to test the new Understanding Success Criterion 2.5.8: Target Size (Minimum), which will be introduced in WCAG 2.2 (currently draft). The criterion specifies that “the target offset is at least 24 CSS pixels to every adjacent target”, to “help ensure targets can be easily activated without accidentally activating an adjacent target”.

Adrian adds a disclaimer that, as this is a new SC, it is still in flux and may not even be a square when done. Follow the GitHub discussions for updates.

Google: Accessibility Not A Direct Ranking Factor

This is a short article that’s well worth a quick read. Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller says, in an office-hours hangout recorded on March 25th, that accessibility plays no part in Google search ranking. In other words, an accessible site is no more likely to be ranked higher in search results than a less accessible one.

The underlying reason for this is measurability: no automated tools can give a true evaluation of accessibility, though there are things like Google’s own Core Web Vitals which provide some automated ways of measuring accessibility.

Google already considers the mobile-friendliness of a site in the search ranking, which helped encourage companies across the world to invest in responsive. It feels like there’s a real opportunity here to make businesses value accessibility more by making it a search ranking factor. But for now at least, this isn’t on Google’s roadmap.

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