In a July 21 complaint, a visually impaired man asks a California federal court to require American Airlines Inc. (AA) to amend its website to make it accessible to blind patrons, alleging that the site’s lack of equal access for the blind violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
(Alex Hernandez v. American Airlines Inc., et al., No. 21-5590, N.D. Calif.)
(Complaint available. Document #24-210819-010C.)
Sonoma, Calif., resident Alex Hernandez is legally blind and uses screen-reading software to access the internet. Hernandez explains that for the software to function, “the information on a website must be capable of being rendered into text.” Hernandez says that when he visited AA’s website at www.aa.com on multiple occasions, he “encountered multiple access barriers which denied [him] full and equal access to the facilities, goods, and services offered to the public and made available to the public on [AA’s] website.” He identifies the barriers as including lack of alternative text for graphics and images, empty links that contain no text and redundant links.
These access barriers make it impossible for blind and visually impaired customers to enjoy equal access to AA’s website, Hernandez asserts. He states that the features offered on the website include the ability to book flights, travel planning features, check-in options, flight statuses, AA’s loyalty program, travel information and trip insurance. Hernandez claims that the lack of “full and equal access” has led to visually impaired consumers being “specifically den[ied] the goods and services that are offered an integrated with [AA’s] locations” and has “deterred [him] from visiting [AA’s] terminals, kiosks, and company store, and enjoying them equal to sighted individuals.”
If AA complied with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1, Hernandez says that he and the class members “could independently navigate the website and complete a desired transaction, as sighted individuals do.”
Class And Claims
Hernandez seeks to represent a class of “all legally blind individuals who have attempted to access [AA’s] website by the use of screen reading software during the applicable limitations. Up to and including final judgment in this action.” He also proposes a subclass of California residents.
He alleges violations of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq., and the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Calif. Civil Code § 51 et seq. Citing Robles v. Domino’s Pizza LLC, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53133, Hernandez contends that “the Ninth Circuit [U.S. Court of Appeals] has recognized the viability of ADA claims against commercial website owners/operators with regard to the inaccessibility of such websites,” Hernandez says.
For relief, Hernandez requests preliminary and permanent injunction under both statutes requiring AA “to take the steps necessary to make [its website] readily accessible to and usable by visually-impaired individuals.” He also seeks statutory damages totaling at least $4,000 per offense per person.