A legally blind New York resident has accused Facebook's Oculus, which manufacturers and sells virtual reality headsets, of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to ensure its site is compatible with screen-reading software.
“Due to the inaccessibility of defendant’s website, blind and visually-impaired customers ... who need screen-readers, cannot fully and equally use or enjoy the facilities, products, and services defendant offers to the public,” Christian Sanchez alleges in a class-action complaint brought last week in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Sanchez, who accesses the web with screen-reading software that converts text to speech, alleges that the Oculus site is missing key codes that enable screen-reading software to function correctly.
He alleges that the products for sale on the site “have text that describe the item, details of the item and price,” but that the information “is not fully labeled to integrate with screen reader.”
The result is that customers who use screen-readers lack enough information to purchase items sold on the site, he says.
Sanchez claims Oculus is violating federal and state civil rights laws, including the federal Americans with Disabilities Act -- a 1990 law that prohibits places of public accommodation from discriminating against people with disabilities.
Numerous website operators have been sued for allegedly violating that 30-year-old law, which predates the modern internet.
To date, courts haven't conclusively determined the extent to which that law applies to websites. Some judges have said that consumer-facing websites like Netflix.com are places of “public accommodation,” and therefore covered by the law. But many others have ruled that websites are only covered by the law if they are operated by companies that also have brick-and-mortar stores.