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Beyoncé's production company sued for 'discriminating against visually impaired fans'

The plaintiff is requesting that Parkwood Entertainment makes the website fully accessible to all users

Sarah Young
Friday 04 January 2019 15:00 GMT
(Getty Images for Coachella)

Beyoncé’s website is facing legal action following claims that it fails to accommodate visually impaired users.

Mary Conner, from New York, who is blind filed the class action lawsuit after recognising the website isn’t fully accessible to her or millions of others who have visual impairments.

Conner claims the website violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) by being “an exclusively visual interface” without any coded alt-text behind the images, meaning she is unable to browse the website or make online purchases without the assistance of a sighted companion.

“Web accessibility requires that alt-text be coded with each picture so that a screen-reader can speak the alternative text while sighted users see the picture,” writes attorney Dan Shaked.

“There are many important pictures on Beyoncé.com that lack a text equivalent. ... As a result, Plaintiff and blind Beyoncé.com customers are unable to determine what is on the website, browse the website or investigate and/or make purchases.”

Many websites use alt-text in the HTML mark-up to to help describe what an image is via an audio screenreader. There is no limit when it comes to what can be included in alt-text and it is often used to convey who or what is the focus of the image, what the message is, if the person is performing an action and if the person or people have a particular expression.

The lawsuit also cites a lack of accessible drop-down menus and the inability to use a keyboard instead of a mouse to navigate the website.

This is particularly important as users with visual impairments are typically not able to interact with a computer without assistive technologies such as Braille displays.

“The one and only form of entertainment that truly presents an even playing field between the visually impaired and the sighted is the joy of music,” Shaked continues.

“Plaintiff dreams of attending a Beyoncé concert and listening to her music in a live setting. However, when she browsed the Beyoncé.com website, she encountered numerous barriers which limited her accessibility to the goods and services offered on the website.”

As a result, Conner is asking the court for an injunction that would require Parkwood Entertainment to make the website accessible to visually impaired customers.

She is also seeking compensatory damages for class members who have “been subjected to unlawful discrimination”.

The Independent has contacted Parkwood Entertainment for comment.

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