Friday, December 6, 2013

Access Now, Inc. v. Southwest Airlines Co. case brief

Access Now, Inc. v. Southwest Airlines Co. case brief summary
227 F. Supp. 2D 1312 (2002)

Plaintiffs, an advocacy group and a blind individual, sued defendant airline, alleging that the airline's Internet website excluded plaintiffs in violation of the Americans With Disability Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C.S. § 12101 et seq. The airline moved to dismiss.

Plaintiffs contended that the airline's technology violated the ADA, as the goods and services offered on the airline's website were inaccessible to blind persons using a screen reader.


  • The court disagreed, holding that an Internet website, such as the airline's, was not a "place of public accommodation" as defined by the ADA because: 
  • (1) 42 U.S.C.S. § 12181(7) defined 12 particularized categories of such places, all of which were concrete places of public accommodation; 
  • (2) 28 C.F.R. § 36.104 defined "facility" as a physical location; 
  • (3) to expand the ADA to cover "virtual" spaces would be to create new rights without well-defined standards; and 
  • (4) under the rule of ejusdem generis, where general words follow a specific enumeration of persons or things, the general words were to be limited to persons or things similar to those specifically enumerated. 
  • Also, plaintiffs failed to establish a nexus between the website and a physical, concrete place of public accommodation, such that their access was impeded to a specific physical, concrete space, such as a particular airline ticket counter or travel agency.

The motion to dismiss was granted, and the action was dismissed with prejudice.

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