Goya Foods Does Not Meet ADA Requirements, Lawsuit Says

On Monday Goya Foods, Inc., was sued via class action complaint alleging that the food giant has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for failure to have its website fully accessible to those that are blind and visually-impaired.

Plaintiff Donna Hedges, who is represented by Gottlieb & Associates, is a visually-impaired and legally blind individual.  The complaint stated that she requires screen-reading software to read website content using her computer.  She claimed Goya has failed “to design, construct, maintain, and operate its website to be fully accessible to and independently usable by Plaintiff and other blind or visually-impaired people.”  Furthermore, this “denial” of its products and services offered is a violation of her rights under the ADA. 

Hedges claimed she experienced and faced several “barriers” on Goya’s website when she attempted to purchase products. For example, she claimed there is a lack of alternative text, empty links that contain no text, redundant links, and linked images missing alternative text.  A lack of alternative text prevents a visually-impaired reader from “accurately vocalizing a description of the graphics” resulting in “visually-impaired customers [being] unable to determine what is on the website, browse, or make any purchases.”  Empty links that contain no text affect the visually-impaired by causing confusion for keyboard and screen-reader users, which is similar to redundant links.  Linked images missing alternative text allegedly causes a “screen reader…to have no content to present the user as to the function of the link.”  Additionally, some titles on the website did not allow the screen readers to distinguish pages for the visually-impaired and broken links also hindered navigation for visually-impaired users.  The plaintiff asserted these access barriers denied her and others similarly situated equal opportunity as required under the ADA.

The complaint contains three causes of action: one under the ADA, another under New York state law, and third under New York City Administrative Code.  The first claim pertaining to the ADA asserts violations under Title III, because the plaintiff is a member of a protected class of persons under the ADA and “has been denied full and equal access to the Website, has not been provided services that are provided to other patrons who are not disabled.”  The New York and New York City allegations follow similar arguments.

The plaintiff is seeking a jury trial in this action, as well as preliminary and permanent injunction from the Southern District of New York to prevent Goya from operating its website in violation of the ADA, and require Goya to make the necessary changes.  Additionally, for the court to certify the requested class action and award compensatory and punitive damages for Goya’s alleged violations.