Boston, Massachusetts (April 8, 2013): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the oldest and largest organization of blind people in the United States, and two blind taxpayers residing in Massachusetts—Mika Pyyhkala and Lindsay Yazzolino—filed suit today in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Case 1:13-cv-10799-GAO) against the digital arm of H&R Block, which prepares approximately one in six tax returns in America and claims to be “the only tax preparation company capable of serving clients anyway, anywhere and anyhow they want to be served.” The complaint alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Article 114 of the Massachusetts Constitution as enforced through the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act (MERA) because the company’s online tax services and Web sites are not accessible to blind taxpayers.
Blind people access computers and Web sites through screen access software that converts what is on the screen into spoken words or Braille, but improperly coded Web sites and applications can prevent this software from working properly, denying the blind user equal access. Both Mr. Pyyhkala and Ms. Yazzolino unsuccessfully attempted to file their 2012 tax returns using HRBlock.com. The plaintiffs are requesting the court to certify the suit as a class action.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “As millions of Americans rush to prepare and file their taxes online using H&R Block’s popular Web sites, blind people are unable to do so because the company has refused to make its Web site accessible to us. For most blind people, this means that they must obtain assistance filing their tax returns, rather than having the option to do so privately and independently. The laws of the United States and the state of Massachusetts require, and blind Americans demand, that H&R Block make all of its online services accessible to blind taxpayers.”
The National Federation of the Blind and the individual plaintiffs are represented in this matter by Christine M. Netski of the Boston firm Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C., and Daniel F. Goldstein and Gregory P. Care of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP.
The National Federation of the Blind needs your support to ensure that blind children get an equal education, to connect blind veterans with the training and services they need, and to help seniors who are losing vision continue to live independent and fulfilling lives. To make a donation, please go to www.nfb.org.