A legally blind consumer has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against News Corp. subsidiary and realtor.com operator Move Inc., alleging the company’s websites discriminate against people with visual disabilities.
The suit is nearly identical to one filed against Move rival Zillow Group in mid-April and the law firms representing the plaintiffs in both cases are the same: Block & Leviton LLP, The Sweet Law Firm PC and Nye, Stirling, Hale & Miller LLP. Combined, the firms have filed at least two dozen lawsuits against various types of companies under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the past year.
Some of those suits have the same plaintiff as the lawsuit against Move: Arnold Vargas, a legally blind resident of New Bedford, Massachusetts who uses screen readers, the voiceover function on his iPhone and MacBook Pro and ZoomText reading and magnification software to navigate the internet.
Attorneys for Vargas allege that Move’s websites — Move.com, realtor.com, NewHomeSource, Moving.com, Relocation.com, Doorsteps, TopProducer, FiveStreet, ListHub, Homefair.com, Remodelista, Gardenista, The Organized Home and Opcity — are “largely incompatible” with screen readers and therefore violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires websites of public accommodation to provide people with disabilities access to online content that is equal to access provided to non-disabled people.
By not making its websites compatible with screen reader programs, Move “deprives blind and visually-impaired individuals the benefits of its online goods, content and services — all benefits it affords non-disabled individuals — thereby increasing the sense of isolation and stigma among these Americans that Title III was meant to redress,” the April 23 complaint states.
The National Association of Realtors has previously warned that both real estate agents and businesses face liability over inaccessible websites. Real estate brokerage Compass and Redfin’s WalkScore have both faced similar suits, though the former was settled in March while the latter was dismissed with prejudice.
According to the complaint, Vargas tried to access Move’s websites from his home but found them “largely unusable” because the websites have broken “skip to content” links throughout. Such links allow visually impaired users to jump to the main content of a website rather than having to go through every navigation link. The complaint pointed to an example on the realtor.com home page.
“The first link, skip to Main Navigation, takes you to the element immediately following the skip to content list. The second link should take you to the search box, but is linked to a non-existent ID, so the focus does not move and leaves the user on the same link. This is confusing and can alienate and confuse screen reader users,” the complaint said.
The complaint also pointed to information on listing bedroom number, bathroom number and lot size that was nested in such a way that a browser overlooks the information and makes it “completely inaccessible to the screen-reader.”
Moreover, the complaint noted that Move’s websites “have numerous unlabeled buttons” that are therefore inaccessible through voiceover technology.
“Removal of the barriers identified above is readily achievable and may be carried out without much difficulty or expense,” the complaint said.
The complaint seeks a permanent injunction that requires Move to hire a website accessibility consultant acceptable to the plaintiffs who will help the company improve the accessibility of its websites.
The plaintiffs also ask that the court order Move to provide its employees with web accessibility training on a biennial basis, perform an automated accessibility audit on a periodic basis, perform end-user accessibility testing on at least a quarterly basis, create and post a web accessibility policy to all of its websites and provide a way to report accessibility-related problems, and allow the plaintiffs and their experts to monitor Move’s websites for up to two years after the consultant declares them to be free of accessibility violations.
The complaint also asks for payment of “actual, statutory, and punitive damages,” the costs of the suit and attorneys’ fees, including the cost of monitoring Move’s compliance.
Move declined to comment for this story.