ADA settlement to enhance vaccine access

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The U.S. Department of Justice secured a settlement with Meijer to make its online COVID-19 vaccine portal accessible to individuals with certain disabilities.

A recent Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) settlement agreement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan and the department will eliminate barriers preventing people with particular disabilities from obtaining COVID vaccinates and booking appointments online.

Within 30 days of the agreement, Meijer will conform its web content about the COVID vaccine, including forms for scheduling an appointment and getting the vaccine, to a set of voluntary industry principles for making website information accessible to users with disabilities. Meijer also will be required to regularly test the pages of its website, including COVID vaccine information and scheduling access, and fix any problems that create usage barriers for people with disabilities.

“Our office is dedicated to upholding the civil rights of all people in the United States, including those with disabilities. Those rights include full and equal access to health information and medical care, such as COVID-19 vaccinations,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge. “This agreement reflects our ongoing commitment to enforcing the ADA, protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities, and supporting our nation’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Meijer’s COVID vaccine registration portal was inaccessible to people with certain disabilities, including those who use screen reader software or have trouble using a mouse. Those who use the “Tab” key instead of a mouse to navigate websites couldn’t proceed past the first step of vaccine registration as they were unable to select the button stating, “click here to schedule an appointment”. The portal also was inconsistent to inform those using screen readers what information they should include on scheduling forms, such as their first and last names, birth date and ZIP code.

“As our nation continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Justice Department will not allow members of the disability community to be left behind,” said Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Individuals with disabilities are an important part of the fabric of our country, and it is critical that they have equal access to potentially life-saving vaccines.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Laura Babinsky and attorneys for the Disability Rights Section of the Department’s Civil Rights Division Anne Langford and Joy Welan jointly handled the review.

Meijer did not immediately respond to requests for comment at press time.

ADA Title III requires public accommodations, such as grocery stores, to provide individuals with disabilities with equal enjoyment of goods and services, including vaccines. It also requires public accommodations to ensure effective communication with those suffering from disabilities, including using auxiliary aids and services like accessible technology.

The ADA authorizes the U.S Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to undertake investigations and periodic reviews of covered establishments.

More information is at ada.gov.

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