[technology taskforce] [Accessibility-wg] Fwd: Victory in Scribd case: Internet-based Companies Must Comply with the ADA

Rafid Fatani rafid.fatani at accesspartnership.com
Tue Mar 24 11:23:41 UTC 2015

Thank you Judith for updating us – I look forward finding out more about the call outcome.

Let us know how we can help get traction on this issue.

Kind Regards,


From: accessibility-wg-bounces at atlarge-lists.icann.org [mailto:accessibility-wg-bounces at atlarge-lists.icann.org] On Behalf Of Judith Hellerstein
Sent: 24 March 2015 01:16
To: accessibility-wg at atlarge-lists.icann.org; ttf at atlarge-lists.icann.org
Subject: [Accessibility-wg] Fwd: Victory in Scribd case: Internet-based Companies Must Comply with the ADA

I just wanted to send this note out that I had received from Haben Girma who works with the ISOC SF Bay ALS about the victory she just had over Scribd.  Depending on what settlement that Scribd decides on and other lawsuits in different circuits it seems there is coming many lawsuits against companies and businesses that do not comply with the ADA. This is important for both these committees because it highlights the importance of making our webinars, meetings, videos, and websites or apps that ICANN creates to be accessible to everyone.

ICANN is finally working on revamping its website to be compliant with the WCAG 2.0 rules, but it should also look to ensure that all the videos and webinars that are produced are also accessible and currently they are not. As Glenn and others showed it is not that difficult to get videos and webinars captioned after the fact so some effort to be put into to doing this to make sure that ICANN is compliant. Since ICANN owns all the video rights it is not difficult to do. On the TEch Task force call we reviewed several different tools that can do this and there are man other tools that can be used.

Joly MacFie of ISOC NY ALS and Glenn McKnight and others within ICANN have the skill and probably would be happy to help others who were interested in doing this to learn more about how it is done.



Judith Hellerstein, Founder & CEO

Hellerstein & Associates

3001 Veazey Terrace NW, Washington DC 20008

Phone: (202) 362-5139  Skype ID: judithhellerstein

E-mail: Judith at jhellerstein.com<mailto:Judith at jhellerstein.com>   Website: www.jhellerstein.com<http://www.jhellerstein.com>

Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/jhellerstein/<http://www.linkedin.com/in/jhellerstein/>

Opening Telecom & Technology Opportunities Worldwide

-------- Forwarded Message --------

Victory in Scribd case: Internet-based Companies Must Comply with the ADA


Mon, 23 Mar 2015 23:39:56 +0000


Haben Girma <hgirma at dralegal.org><mailto:hgirma at dralegal.org>


Judith Hellerstein <judith at jhellerstein.com><mailto:judith at jhellerstein.com>

Dear Judith,

In my first lawsuit as a Skadden Fellowship Attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, we just achieved an exciting victory that will change how Silicon Valley thinks of accessibility. On March 19, 2015, Judge William K. Sessions III issued a beautifully written opinion holding that companies providing services through websites and apps must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A copy of the Court’s opinion is here: http://www.dralegal.org/sites/dralegal.org/files/pressreleases/30opiniondenyingmotiontodismiss.pdfin-scribd-case-internet-based-companies-must-comply

Below is more background on the case. Please contact me if you would like further information.



Background on National Federation of the Blind v. Scribd

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) filed a lawsuit last year, in the United States District Court for the District of Vermont, against San Francisco-based Scribd, Inc. for failing to design its website and apps in a manner accessible to blind readers. Rather than providing access to blind readers who want to read the more than 40 million books and documents in the Scribd collection, Scribd moved to dismiss the case. Scribd argued that the ADA applies to public physical locations, thus allegedly exempting Internet-based businesses like Scribd.

Confirming what DRA, NFB, and other advocates have argued, the Court ruled on March 19th that the ADA does indeed cover online businesses. “Now that the internet plays such a critical role in the personal and professional lives of Americans, excluding disabled persons from access to covered entities that use it as their principal means of reaching the public would defeat the purpose of this important civil rights legislation,” the Court wrote.

Why did NFB sue Scribd?

The NFB turned to litigation to compel Scribd to program its website and apps for accessibility after Scribd failed to commit to providing access for blind readers. Scribd offers an internet-based “personal digital library” that allows sighted subscribers to access a collection of over 40 million titles. For a monthly fee of $8.99, sighted subscribers gain unlimited access to Scribd’s large collection through its website and apps, as well as other services, including the ability to upload their own work to the Scribd collection and participate in social media features. The website and apps that Scribd uses to provide its subscribers with access to electronic documents are not accessible to blind people.

How do blind people access digital media?

The blind use software called screenreaders that allows the content of websites, apps, and documents to be read aloud or displayed in Braille on a connected Braille device. When websites, apps, or documents are not properly coded, they cannot be accessed with the technology used by the blind.

What does this mean for Silicon Valley and the rest of the tech world?

The Court’s ruling signals to businesses the importance of designing websites and apps for accessibility. The decision impacts all entities that conduct business in Vermont over the Internet, and just about every online business has customers in Vermont. Because the Court ruled that the ADA covers Internet-based businesses, companies will need to ensure their Internet-based services are accessible to Americans with disabilities, unless doing so would amount to an undue burden for a particular entity.  To design an accessible website or app, companies should reference the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, a set of technical standards for making websites accessible to people with disabilities, available at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/.

What does the disability community think?

Advocates around the country are celebrating the Court’s confirmation that the ADA applies to online businesses. Only one other court has held that the ADA covers virtual businesses, National Association of the Deaf v. Netflix, Inc. Together, the Scribd and Netflix decisions promise Americans with disabilities that the ADA’s protections apply to services over the Internet.

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “We wholeheartedly applaud the court’s ruling, which recognizes that the Americans with Disabilities Act is a comprehensive civil rights law intended to prevent discrimination against the blind and others with disabilities and to promote our full and equal participation in all aspects of society. There can be no denying that full participation in the economy and society of the twenty-first century requires access to services provided over the internet. If blind people are denied such participation, we will be more segregated and isolated than we have ever been. Fortunately, the process of making internet services accessible to us is straightforward. We hope that Scribd will now focus on providing us access to its vast library of online books and documents rather than on seeking to deny it. We further hope that other companies will take the court’s message about the importance of accessibility to heart and make their online services accessible.”

Through this case, Disability Rights Advocates works to change attitudes about accessibility not only at Scribd, but throughout the digital services industry. We hope companies will feel inspired to make their services accessible after reading the Court’s decision.

The Lawyers

The plaintiffs are represented in this matter by Laurence Paradis, Haben Girma, and Rebecca Rodgers of the firm Disability Rights Advocates; Daniel F. Goldstein and Gregory P. Care of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein and Levy, LLP; and Emily J. Joselson of the Middlebury, Vermont firm Langrock Sperry & Wool, LLP.

About Disability Rights Advocates

With offices in New York and California, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is one of the leading nonprofit disability rights legal centers in the nation.  Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunities for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. In the organization’s 20+ year history, DRA has taken on more than 400 cases and won almost all—achieving dramatic improvements for people with disabilities seeking health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting and housing. www.dralegal.org<http://www.dralegal.org>

About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. www.nfb.org<http://www.nfb.org>


Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations, National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330, (410) 262-1281 (Cell), cdanielsen at nfb.org<mailto:cdanielsen at nfb.org>

Haben Girma
Skadden Fellowship Attorney, Disability Rights Advocates
(510) 665-8644, hgirma at dralegal.org<mailto:hgirma at dralegal.org>

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