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Access Now v. Southwest Airlines

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Citation Edit

Access Now, Inc. v. Southwest Airlines Co., 227 F.Supp.2d 1312 (S.D. Fla. 2002) (full-text), appeal dism., 385 F.3d 1324 (11th Cir. 2004) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

The plaintiffs claimed that the airline violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) (42 U.S.C. §12101 et seq.), by not making its websiteaccessible” to blind persons.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

In dismissing the action, the court held that the website "virtual ticket counter" was not a "place of public accommodation," and hence, the ADA did not apply.

The court noted that while there is software available to assist sight-impaired users in turning text into voice dictation, there are no standards for such software, and therefore, not every website will be accessible, even if the website operator implements some version of assistive software. The plaintiffs maintain that the web site is inaccessible to plaintiffs using a screen reader, does not provide “alternative text” which can be read by a screen reader, does not provide online forms that can be filled out by a sight-impaired user and does not provide a "skip navigation link" which assist blind users by permitting them to skip the navigation bars and proceed directly to the main content.

The court ruled that a "place of public accommodation" is limited to "physical, concrete places of public accommodation," not to cyberspace. "To expand the ADA to cover 'virtual' spaces would be to create new rights without well-defined standards."

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