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The Washington Lawyers' Committee Remembers Tom Williamson

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Blind Customers and the Committee Reach Settlement with Sweetgreen, Inc. to Ensure Its Online Ordering System is Accessible

NEW YORK, NY – Sweetgreen, Inc. has reached an agreement with customers Tajuan Farmer and Mika Pyyhkala to make its online ordering portal and mobile application accessible to talking screen readers used by the blind. On March 22, 2016, Plaintiffs, represented by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York alleging that the online portal and mobile application, where customers can place and customize salad orders for pick-up at their nearest Sweetgreen location, was not fully accessible to the blind. Plaintiffs, both blind and who use screen readers, alleged that they were not able to place orders independently. Sweetgreen worked cooperatively with the Plaintiffs to reach a settlement agreement whereby Sweetgreen will remedy these accessibility barriers by March 31, 2017 to conform to, at minimum, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Level A and AA Success Criteria (“WCAG2.0AA”), and to maintain accessibility. The settlement agreement also identifies a mechanism for providing feedback concerning any accessibility issues encountered after March 31st on either the website or mobile application, and requires web accessibility training for Sweetgreen’s IT staff.

screenreader photo“We are pleased that Sweetgreen has worked with our clients to ensure that all aspects of its business will be made accessible,” said Deepa Goraya, Staff Attorney for the Disability Rights Project. “Blind individuals are customers as well, and they deserve equal treatment just like any other patron.”

“I am relieved that we have at last resolved this issue, and that I will soon be able to use my iPhone to independently customize and place an order with Sweetgreen,” said Plaintiff Mika Pyyhkala. “It was difficult to stand in that long line and have all the menu items read aloud in such a noisy environment and try to order. Now I’ll be able to read them myself and easily place my order on my own ahead of time.”

Plaintiff Tajuan Farmer stated, “People often forget about the blind and don’t understand how we navigate the internet with screen readers. This is why accessibility is always an afterthought and is not incorporated from the beginning. But accessibility is not just a luxury for us. It’s the difference between full participation in daily activities and being left behind. It is the difference between independence and being completely reliant on others. I am greatly encouraged by Sweetgreen’s decision to focus on accessibility.”

A copy of the public settlement agreement is available online here.

This settlement is part of a larger effort of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee to make the digital world accessible to the blind. As the focus increasingly shifts to online-only businesses, services implemented through mobile applications, and automated kiosks which replace live customer service, it is crucial that the blind have equal access. Yet, many websites (both public and private); kiosks which are used at retail establishments, medical facilities, and government agencies; and mobile applications still remain inaccessible to screen readers used by the blind in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee is joining the growing number of disability rights firms and organizations to make accessibility a priority. The Committee has filed a class action lawsuit against Barbri, Inc., the most widely used bar exam preparation course in the country, for its largely inaccessible website and mobile application that are widely used by sighted students. The Committee also recently obtained a settlement against a federal agency, the General Services Administration, which administered the inaccessible website sam.gov, where federal contractors register or renew their registration.

Media Contact:
Matthew Handley, matthew_handley@washlaw.org, (202) 319-1000
Director of Litigation, Washington Lawyers’ Committee

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