In a series of lawsuits filed in recent weeks, a legally blind Brooklynite is accusing dozens of New York City-based art, antiquities, and rare book dealers of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because their websites are allegedly not accessible to visually impaired and blind visitors. The galleries implicated in the lawsuits include Higher Pictures, Sperone Westwater, Marian Goodman Gallery, Marlborough Gallery, Michael Werner Gallery, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, and more. The lawsuits, filed in New York’s southern district court, also accuse the dealers of violating city and state human rights laws in New York.
In the 41 nearly identical lawsuits that have been filed as of this writing, Dawson denounces each gallery:
for its failure to design, construct, maintain, and operate its website to be fully accessible to and independently usable by Plaintiff and other blind or visually-impaired people. Defendant’s denial of full and equal access to its website, and therefore denial of its goods and services offered thereby and in conjunction with its physical locations, is a violation of Plaintiff’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
When the ADA was passed in 1990, website accessibility was not an issue because the internet was in its infancy stage. After President Donald Trump’s administration put on hold a project to draft guidelines for ADA compliance for websites in 2017, a flood of new lawsuits were filed against businesses over their non-compliant websites—almost 5,000 lawsuits in the first half of 2018, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Many revolve around the lack of optimization for screen-reading software, which helps visually impaired and legally blind persons to navigate the internet.