Virtual Worlds under the Americans with Disabilities Act

On the 8th of February 2010 Judge Percy Anderson of the United States District Central Court of California ruled in the case of Alexander Stern v. Sony Corp., et al (CV 09-7710 PA (FFMx)).

In summary Judge Anderson ruled that the American’s with Disabilities Act does not oblige Sony’s to facility access to their MMO EverQuest for those with Disabilities and specifically Sony does not have to provide any “auxiliary aids and services” to facilitate such access.

The case turned on whether EverQuest constituted a “place of public accommodation” as the American’s with Disabilities act only obliges access to such places, as the ruling states:

“Title III of the ADA prevents discrimination against the disabled in places of public accommodation:
No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to) or operates a place of public accommodation.”

The ruling notes that courts have established that this Title III applies only to certain physical spaces i.e. ‘bricks and mortar’; or to services that have some close link.

The case of access to (Nat’l Fed’n of the Blind v. Target Corp., 452 F. Supp. 2d 946, 951 (N.D. Cal. 2006)) was reference in the ruling but it was noted that this case fell under the act as there was a strong link between the services offred on the site and those in stores such that not having access to the web site could be seen as impeding access to some ‘goods, services […]’.

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External Links

American’s with Disabilities Act 42 U.S.C. § 12101

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