BarBri, Inc., a provider of review courses and materials for law school graduates preparing for the bar exam, earlier this month entered into a consent decree to resolve claims that its online and app-based content was not accessible to students with visual disabilities.
As we have previously reported, the extent to which Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to courses and materials available only on the Internet has been a hotly debated topic. Only a month ago, the Department of Justice (DOJ) withdrew its proposed regulations for such services. The regulations would have subjected most websites to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG). Despite the DOJ's decision, private plaintiffs have continued to pursue litigation claiming that Title III requires adherence to WCAG standards—even in the absence of explicit regulations to that effect.
This was the case for the plaintiffs in the action against BarBri. Specifically, they claimed before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that BarBri violated both the ADA and Texas law by failing to make all elements of its website and mobile applications—including elements of practice tests and essay tools—accessible to students with visual disabilities. The plaintiffs were particularly concerned that several functions of the web-based tools and app were not compatible with screen-reader software they typically use to interact with online content. Compatibility with the software would have rendered the site and apps compliant, they claimed.
BarBri disputed that its course materials were inaccessible, but ultimately settled the case. Under the terms of its agreement with the plaintiffs, the company will work to ensure that its online content, mobile apps, in-person lectures, and print materials are all accessible to individuals with visual disabilities. This specifically includes adhering to the WCAG and making sure that its web content and mobile apps are accessible to those who use screen-reading software.
This case serves as another reminder to private entities engaged in internet-based commerce to consider carefully whether their website is accessible. In particular, all private entities that provide or sponsor exams, professional certifications, or prep courses should review this case carefully.