As regular readers of this blog know, Scribd offers a subscription ebook service where users can pay $9 a month to read as many titles as they like. It’s a good service, and judging by the latest funding round, it’s also a popular one.
But it’s not accessible to the visually disabled, hence the lawsuit.
The story got little press attention at the time (I missed it completely), but in July 2014 Scribd was sued by lawyers working on behalf of a blind Vermont woman, Heidi Viens. The lawsuit alleges that Scribd violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by depriving blind readers access to its online service.
This lawsuit came across my desk on Thursday when a reader tipped me to Scribd losing its motion to dismiss. (Thanks, Rebecca!)
Scribd had argued that “the ADA does not apply to website operators whose goods or services are not made available at a physical location open to the public”. While it might sound ridiculous that a website wouldn’t be included under the ADA, there is precedent to support the argument (see Young v Facebook, Earll v Ebay, etc).
Judge Sessions disagreed. He concluded in his ruling that (PDF) that “The
fact that the ADA does not include web-based services as a specific example of a public accommodation is irrelevant because such services did not exist when the ADA was passed and because Congress intended the ADA to adapt to changes in technology.”
And so the lawsuit is moving forward to its inevitable conclusion. Scribd is going to lose, and well they should.
The law is clear on this point, and what with the $22 million in capital which Scribd raised in December 2014 Scribd has both the means and the ability to comply with the ADA.
The fact that they would rather fight it out in court rather than invest in an accessible service is simply reprehensible.
image by quinn.anya