Flight Centre has ended up in a legal stoush with a blind man in the US who claims the company’s website is inaccessible to people with visual impairments.
John Mahoney has filed a class action in a Pennsylvanian district court against the travel giant which alleged that himself and others living with visual impairments were entitled to relief in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Mahoney has alleged he is legally blind and cannot use a computer without the help of screen-reading software.
He claims Flight Centre’s US website, which operates as libertytravel.com, is incompatible with certain screen reader programs and he was “unable to understand, and thus was denied the benefit of much of the content and services he wishes to access or use”.
As a result, he has called for an injunction for the website to change its online content and services to be compatible with screen-reader technology.
Flight Centre’s defence said in a memorandum of law, which has been seen by Travel Weekly, that the company is seeking to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that its website is not a “place of public accommodation” and therefore does not have to comply with that clause of the ADA.
In this sense, according to the defence, a “place of public accommodation” includes physical locations like gyms, theatres and dry cleaners.
The memorandum also said Mahoney was a “tester”, meaning he had been qualified to visit places “of public accommodation” to determine their compliance with the ADA, and has filed “substantially identical lawsuits in Pennsylvania since August 2019”.
The lawsuit comes as Flight Centre continues to weather the storm of COVID-19 travel restrictions, most recently selling its Melbourne office to help stay afloat.