Interactive Brokers gets accused of discriminating against the blind

Maria Nikolova

Interactive Brokers faces a lawsuit for its alleged failure to design, maintain, and operate its website to be fully accessible to blind or visually-impaired persons.

Online trading and the ability to see are apparently intertwined. But what happens when a visually impaired person wants to make use of the services of an electronic trading company? With some brokerages, the situation is far from rosy, as indicated by a lawsuit launched by Marion Kiler against Interactive Brokers LLC.

Kiler’s complaint, lodged at the New York Eastern District Court, alleges that Interactive Brokers has failed to design a website that makes it fully accessible to visually-impaired persons.

The plaintiff is a visually-impaired and legally blind person who requires screenreading software to read website content using her computer. The plaintiff uses the terms “blind” or “visually-impaired” to refer to all people with visual impairments who meet the legal definition of blindness in that they have a visual acuity with correction of less than or equal to 20 x 200.

Based on a 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report, approximately 8.1 million people in the United States are visually impaired, including 2 million who are blind, and according to the American Foundation for the Blind’s 2015 report, approximately 400,000 visually impaired persons live in the State of New York.

This civil rights action accuses Interactive Brokers of denying blind and visually-impaired persons throughout the United States with equal access to the goods and services IB provides to their non-disabled customers through http//:www.Interactivebrokers.com. The defendants’ denial of full and equal access to its website, and therefore denial of its products and services offered, and in conjunction with its physical locations, is a violation of Plaintiff’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), the plaintiff says.

According to the complaint, Interactivebrokers.com contains thousands of access barriers that make it difficult if not impossible for blind and visually-impaired customers to use the website.

The blind have an even greater need than the sighted to shop and conduct transactions online due to the challenges faced in mobility. The lack of an accessible website means that blind people are excluded from experiencing transacting with defendant’s website and from purchasing goods or services from defendant’s website, the plaintiff says.

Marion Kiler notes that, despite readily available accessible technology, such as the technology in use at other heavily trafficked retail websites, which makes use of alternative text, accessible forms, descriptive links, resizable text and limits the usage of tables and JavaScript, Interactive Brokers has chosen to rely on an exclusively visual interface.

According to the complaint, Congress provided a clear and national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities when it enacted the ADA. Such discrimination includes barriers to full integration, independent living, and equal opportunity for persons with disabilities, including those barriers created by websites and other public accommodations that are inaccessible to blind and visually impaired persons. Similarly, New York state law requires places of public accommodation to ensure access to goods, services, and facilities by making reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities.

The plaintiff browsed and intended to open a trading account on Interactivebrokers.com. However, unless Interactive Brokers remedies the numerous access barriers on its website, the plaintiff and Class members will continue to be unable to independently navigate, browse, use, and complete a transaction on Interactivebrokers.com.

The plaintiff seeks a permanent injunction to cause a change in Interactive Brokers’ policies, practices, and procedures so that its website will become and remain accessible to blind and visually-impaired consumers. This complaint also seeks compensatory damages to compensate Class members for having been subjected to unlawful discrimination.

On August 13, 2020, the parties in this lawsuit agreed that Interactive Brokers will have until October 12, 2020 to respond to the plaintiff’s Complaint.

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