Cook County Record
April 24, 2017
Lawsuit: McDonald's website, mobile app not accessible to the blind, violates ADA
by Jonathan Bilyk
A blind man has sued McDonald’s, claiming the fast food giant has discriminated against him under federal disabilities law because it has not made its smartphone app or website accessible to those with visual impairments.
On April 23, plaintiff Sean Gorecki, of Los Angeles, filed suit in Chicago federal court, accusing the Oak Brook-based McDonald’s Corp. of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as California state law.
According to his lawsuit, Gorecki, while visually impaired, navigates the internet and smartphone apps by using special screen-reading software. Specifically, the complaint said Gorecki regularly uses a popular screen reader known as “Jobs Access With Speech,” or JAWS, to browse webpages and obtain information from online sources.
The complaint said he also uses an Apple iPhone, browsing websites and mobile apps using the iPhone’s built-in VoiceOver screen reader.
The complaint noted federal authorities have typically interpreted the ADA law to mean businesses must also design their websites and apps to allow for people with visual impairments to read the pages and access the information using only such a screen reader and a keyboard.
However, Gorecki said he and others who are blind or have significant visual impairments cannot easily read the information listed on McDonald’s website or app, including sections designed to allow users to “find … restaurants, access menu item descriptions and nutritional information, acquire special offers and coupons, and many other benefits related to these goods and services.”
He alleged McDonald’s has designed these online sources in ways that make it difficult for the screen readers he uses to navigate and access the information contained on the pages and in the app.
Specifically, the complaint alleged the online resources lacked accessible slide shows, made it difficult for visually impaired site users to use the site’s Nutrition Calculator, contained bad links and various “cursor traps,” which “structured (the site) in a confusing manner for screen readers.”
“During several separate visits to Defendant’s (McDonald’s) website and mobile app, Plaintiff (Gorecki) encountered multiple access barriers which denied Plaintiff full and equal access to the facilities, goods and services offered to the public and made available to the public on Defendant’s websites,” the complaint said.
The lawsuit alleged the “widespread access barriers” has meant those with visual impairments have “been deterred, on a regular basis, from accessing Defendant’s website and Mobile App,” preventing them from enjoying “full and equal access” to McDonald’s “goods and services” and deterring Gorecki and others from being able to visit McDonald’s restaurants “to purchase McDonald’s products and utilize coupons found on McDonald’s website and Mobile App.”
In the complaint, the plaintiffs ask the court to order McDonald’s to agree to allow a consultant to work with their website and mobile app teams to redesign the resources to be accessible to those with visual impairments who are using screen readers.
The lawsuit asks the court to order McDonald’s to pay compensatory damages “including, but not limited to, mental anguish, loss of dignity, and any other intangible injuries suffered by the Plaintiff as a result of the Defendant’s discrimination,” plus attorney fees. And the lawsuit asks the judge to award statutory minimum damages of $4,000 per violation, under California law.
Gorecki is represented in the action by attorneys Rusty A. Payton and Marc E. Dann, of the firm of PaytonDann, of Chicago, and attorneys Joseph R. Manning Jr. and Caitlin J. Scott, of the Manning Law Office, of Newport Beach, Calif.
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