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Gathers v. 1-800-Flowers.Com, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 12, 2018

LISA GATHERS, R. DAVID NEW, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
1-800-FLOWERS.COM, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          INDIRA TALWANI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendant 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc., violates Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by not making its websites sufficiently accessible to blind and visually-impaired consumers. Plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction compelling Defendant to bring its websites into compliance with the requirements of the ADA, by, among others things, requiring Defendant to comply with Version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines developed by the Worldwide Web Consortium. Compl. 8; 18-19 [#20]. Plaintiffs also seek a declaratory judgment that at the time of the commencement of the action, Defendant was in violation of the ADA, and payment of costs and reasonable attorney's fees. Defendant has moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint (“Complaint”) [#20] pursuant to both Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1), arguing, among other things, that Plaintiff improperly seeks to impose liability for Defendant's failure to follow voluntary standards for web accessibility that do not have the force of law. Mot to Dismiss Pls. Am. Compl. [#26]. For the reasons that follow, the motion is DENIED.

         I. Standard

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, whether for failure to state a claim or lack of standing, the court must accept the plaintiffs' well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs' favor. See Trans-Spec Truck Serv., Inc. v. Caterpillar, Inc., 524 F.3d 315, 320 (1st Cir. 2008) (Rule 12(b)(6)); Blum v. Holder, 744 F.3d 790, 795 (1st Cir. 2014) (Rule 12(b)(1)). To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The court “draw[s] the facts primarily from the complaint, ” and “may supplement those factual allegations by examining ‘documents incorporated by reference into the complaint, matters of public record, and facts susceptible to judicial notice.'” Butler v. Balolia, 736 F.3d 609, 611 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Haley v. City of Bos., 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir. 2011)).

         II. Background

         Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services of any place of public accommodation.[1] The ADA specifically requires Title III entities to “take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated, or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services.” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii).[2]

         Plaintiff Access Now, Inc. is a national disability rights organization. Am. Compl. (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 14-18. Individual Plaintiffs Lisa Gathers, R. David New, and Stephen Theberge allege that they are all legally blind individuals who access the Internet using auxiliary aids known as screen readers, which convert a website's text, buttons, and links to audio. Id. ¶¶ 5, 19-21, 30, 32, 34 [#20]. Defendant owns and operates sixteen websites, including 1-800-Flowers.com, which sell various products and offer services to consumers. Id. ¶¶ 2-3.

         Individual plaintiffs allege that they have tried to access websites run by Defendant using screen readers but have discovered myriad barriers that prevent them access. Id. ¶¶ 29-34. For example, plaintiffs allege that, among other things, the following problems arose when navigating one or more of the websites owned and operated by Defendant:

• Buttons are missing labels describing their action to a screen reader user;
• Error messages generated during the placement of orders are difficult for a screen reader to locate and read;
• Multiple audio streams automatically begin playing simultaneously on the customer support page, making it impossible to determine what any feed is saying;
• Images of items for sale on many of Defendant's websites do not provide any written description that a screen reader program can read aloud to describe the pictures;
• The screen reader is unable to “go back”
• The screen reader is unable to locate the correct field in which to type ...

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