Last month, a putative class action lawsuit was filed in New York federal court against Charlotte’s Web, Inc., a Colorado-based maker of cannabidiol (“CBD”) oils, balms and gummies claiming that its website is not accessible to visually impaired shoppers, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
According to the complaint, plaintiff Joseph Guglielmo, who is visually impaired, visited Charlotte’s Web’s website several times in December 2019, where he had difficulty navigating the site because it was not coded such that it was compatible with his screen-reading software. As a result, Guglielmo claims he was effectively barred from determining what specific products were offered for sale.
The complaint further alleges that the company’s website does not meet the World Wide Web Consortium’s guidelines for blind and visually impaired website accessibility. Moreover, the complaint alleges that because websites are places of public accommodations under the ADA, the company’s alleged denial of equal access to its website and refusal to make changes to improve the accessibility of the website amounts to an ADA violation.
The suit seeks a court order requiring the company to modify its website to conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, hire a consultant to improve the accessibility of the website, and regularly monitor the site’s current state of accessibility.
Takeaway: This putative class action serves as an important reminder to all companies who maintain websites for promoting and selling their products that such websites should be free of accessibility barriers that could support a plaintiff asserting an ADA claim. Unless a website has been coded with accessibility in mind, cannabis companies and dispensaries appear to be among the disability rights bar’s next targets in the ever increasing number of class action lawsuits filed alleging digital access ADA violations.