On February 6, 2023, East End Trial Group and Block & Leviton LLP’s client, Stephen Giannaros, filed a lawsuit challenging the decision by Post Media, Inc. to not make its social media platform accessible to users with disabilities.
Post is a digital news and community platform located at https://post.news/. Post has emerged as a popular alternative to Twitter. Noam Bardin, Post’s founder, describes Post as a town square for civil debate, learning, and conversation.
Unfortunately, individuals with disabilities cannot fully participate in this town square because, as Mr. Bardin explained, Post is “not focused on things like…accessibility.” In response to backlash from Post’s users, Mr. Bardin defended Post’s priorities, explaining that Post “will invest in accessibility when we can.”
Post’s approach to accessibility is common among startups. “With a minority of exceptions, providing accessibility is ignored in favor of faster market entrance for a product or simply because of long-standing assumptions regarding the need for accessibility and the cost of creating accessible products.” Brian Wentz, Paul T. Jaeger, and Jonathan Lazar, Retrofitting Accessibility: The Legal Inequality of After-the-Fact Online Access for Persons with Disabilities in the United States, First Monday, Vol. 16, No. 11 (Nov. 7, 2011), available at https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/download/3666/3077.
This exclusionary approach persists among founders notwithstanding the fact that “[n]othing about technology makes it inherently accessible or inaccessible. Most of today’s technologies are digital, meaning that they are made up of zeros and ones, and there is nothing inherently visual or auditory about zeros and ones.” Id.
The action seeks an injunction ordering Post to adopt policies and practices that ensure Mr. Giannaros and other blind users have full and equal access to Post’s town square. Such an injunction is necessary because “[i]f people with disabilities are to move from being the most disadvantaged population online to equal residents of cyberspace,” id., we must reject the mentality of retrofitting in favor of a philosophy that emphasizes the design and development of technology that is inclusive from launch.