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DOJ secures agreement to make online COVID vaccine registration accessible

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The Justice Department announced that it has secured a settlement agreement with Meijer Inc., under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that will eliminate barriers preventing people with certain disabilities from getting information about COVID-19 vaccinations and booking vaccination appointments online.

Meijer is a Michigan-based retailer that operates more than 250 stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. Today’s resolution is the department’s fourth agreement on the critical issue of COVID-19 vaccination website accessibility, following settlement announcements in November 2021 (Rite Aid Corporation), December 2021 (Hy-Vee Inc.), and January 2022 (The Kroger Co.).

Meijer’s COVID-19 vaccine registration portal was not accessible to people with certain disabilities, including those who use screen reader software or have a hard time using a mouse. For instance, people who use the “tab” key instead of a mouse to navigate websites could not proceed past the very first step of the vaccine registration process, because they could not select the button stating, “click here to schedule an appointment.” The vaccine registration portal also did not always tell people who use screen readers what information they were supposed to put on scheduling forms, including their first and last names, birthdate 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 Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke 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.”

“Our office is dedicated to upholding the civil rights of all people in the United States, including those with disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew B. Birge of the Western District of Michigan. “Those rights include full and equal access to health information and medical care, such as COVID-19 vaccinations. 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.”

Under today’s settlement, Meijer will conform web content about the COVID-19 vaccine, including the forms for scheduling an appointment to get the vaccine, to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Version 2.1, Level AA. WCAG is a set of voluntary industry guidelines for making information on a website accessible to users with disabilities. Meijer also must regularly test the pages of its website that include vaccine scheduling and information about the COVID-19 vaccine, and quickly fix any problems that keep people with disabilities from being able to use these pages.

This matter was handled jointly by the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan. Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations like drugstores and grocery stores to provide individuals with disabilities with full and equal enjoyment of goods and services, such as vaccines. The ADA also requires public accommodations to ensure effective communication with people with disabilities, including by using auxiliary aids and services like accessible technology.

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