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Funimation Faces Class-Action Lawsuit for Allegedly Violating Americans with Disabilities Act (Updated)

posted on by Crystalyn Hodgkins
Legally blind person claims Funimation's shop website is inaccessible

Jenisa Angeles, a legally blind person, filed a class-action lawsuit against Funimation Global Group, LLC on January 13 on behalf of herself "and all others similarly situated" alleging that Funimation's website violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit was filed in the District Court of the Southern District of New York.

The lawsuit claims that Funimation has failed "to design, construct, maintain, and operate its website to be fully accessible to and independently usable by [Angeles] and other blind or visually-impaired people," which it claims is a violation of her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The website referred to in the lawsuit is specifically the "shop.funimation.com" website.

The lawsuit states that Angeles is "a visually-impaired and legally blind person, who cannot use a computer without the assistance of screen-reading software," and is proficient at using the "NonVisual Desktop Access" screen-reading software. Angeles reportedly visited the "shop.funimation.com" website on multiple occasions (including in January) to make a purchase, but was "denied a shopping experience similar to that of a sighted individual due to the website's lack of a variety of features and accommodations, which effectively barred [her] from being able to determine what specific products were offered for sale."

Specifically, the lawsuit claims that features on the site lacked alt. text and failed to "Add a label element or title attribute for each field." Additionally, the lawsuit stated pages on the site contained the same title elements and the site contained broken links. The lawsuit states that Funimation has therefore "engaged in acts of intentional discrimination."

The lawsuit asks for a permanent injunction that requires Funimation to "retain a qualified consultant acceptable to" Angeles to assist Funimation to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) for its website. The World Wide Web Consortium maintains the WCAG.

According to supplementary information on Title III Regulations of the ADA:

Although the language of the ADA does not explicitly mention the Internet, the Department [of Justice] has taken the position that title III covers access to Web sites of public accommodations. The Department has issued guidance on the ADA as applied to the Web sites of public entities, which includes the availability of standards for Web site accessibility.
an agency (and similarly a public accommodation) with an inaccessible Web site also may meet its legal obligations by providing an accessible alternative for individuals to enjoy its goods or services, such as a staffed telephone information line. However, such an alternative must provide an equal degree of access in terms of hours of operation and range of options and programs available.

The lawsuit alleges that Funimation is a "public accommodation" in accordance with another section of Title III of the ADA, which states:

No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.

Lastly, the lawsuit also alleges that Funimation's website is a "sales establishment and public accommodations" in regards to the N.Y.C. Administrative Code, which contains anti-discriminatory clauses against disabled people.

Angeles is also seeking the following: an injunction to prohibit Funimation from violating the ADA and the N.Y.C. Administrative Code, an injunction for Funimation to make its website in full compliance with the ADA, a declaration from Funimation that it operates its site "in a manner that discriminates against the blind and which fails to provide access for persons with disabilities as required by Americans with Disabilities Act," and compensatory damages along with other relief such as expenses for attorneys' and expert fees. The lawsuit requests a trial by jury.

ANN has reached out to Funimation for a statement regarding the lawsuit, but has yet to receive a reply. ANN will update this article if we receive a statement from the company.

Thanks to Mikhail Koulikov for the news tip.

Sources: PACER, Accessibility.com

Update: Funimation declined to comment with ANN on the lawsuit.

This article has a follow-up: Funimation Reaches Settlement in Class-Action Lawsuit Over Allegedly Violating Americans with Disabilities Act (2021-04-06 08:02)
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