H&R Block’s website not accessible to disabled people, Justice Department says

11/26/2013 11:06 AM

11/26/2013 9:36 PM

The U.S. government has sought to intervene in a lawsuit accusing units of Kansas City-based H Block of operating a website inaccessible to people who are blind or deaf or have other disabilities.

The Justice Department asked a federal court in Boston to let it join a lawsuit against the companies filed by the National Federation of the Blind. The U.S. in court papers accused two H Block units, HRB Digital and HRB Tax Group, of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Inaccessible websites of public accommodations are not simply an inconvenience to individuals with disabilities,” Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, said in a statement. “They deny persons with disabilities access to basic goods and services that people without disabilities take advantage of every day.”

H Block’s website

isn’t designed to be used with commonly available technology — such as screen reader software, refreshable Braille displays and keyboard navigation aids — for people who are blind, deaf or have trouble with manual dexterity, the U.S. said in court papers.

As a result, two people who sued and other disabled people aren’t able to register for an online account with H Block, the U.S. said. The website offers tax advice, do-it-yourself tax return preparation and electronic filing.

H Block declined to comment Tuesday on the specifics of the suit, citing the litigation. However, the company said in a statement that it is “firmly committed to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. As part of this commitment, we continually strive to make our products and services accessible to all individuals.”

The company also said it has devoted substantial time and resources to improving the accessibility of its website and online services. “These enhancements are part of a larger effort H Block has undertaken to assure that all Block’s online resources meet or exceed industry standards for accessibility,” the company said.


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