There is (almost) no one in the world who hates Beyoncé. She is an Independent Woman, an incredibly talented queen, married to hip hop royalty, and pumps out hits like other people brush their teeth. One other great thing about Beyoncé is that she doesn’t seem to hate much of anyone herself, outside of “Becky with the Good Hair.’
This is why it is so odd that it came out last week that Beyoncé, the Queen B herself, may hate blind people. Weird, I know! I mean, who hates blind people (outside of maybe Mimes)? These claims are something we need to get to the bottom of so, without further ado, let’s Check on It.
Ring the Alarm
To start our investigation, we will look at a lawsuit filed against the alleged Beautiful Liar at the beginning of 2019. But first, before we get into that, let us just start with the disclaimer that all these claims are alleged and we are in NO WAY besmirching the good name of Ms. Carter. This needs to be said for two reasons. One, legal nonsense, blah, blah, blah, and two, much more importantly, we want to make it clear to both the Beyhive and Beyoncé’s younger sister that we are not trying to sully the Bootylicious Beyoncé’s good name.
The kerfuffle all started in early 2019 when a Beyoncé fan, who also happens to be blind, filed a lawsuit against Parkwood Entertainment. This is Beyoncé’s company that runs her business. The lawsuit alleges that the Beautiful Liar’s official website “violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (1990) by denying visually impaired users equal access to its products and services.”
The lawsuit was brought by a blind Beyoncé fan who claims to have missed out on tickets to her show because the website was not properly configured to cater to the blind as the ADA requires. Her attorney told The Guardian, “There are many important pictures on beyonce.com that lack a text equivalent … As a result, Plaintiff and blind beyonce.com customers are unable to determine what is on the website, browse the website or investigate and/or make purchases.”
He went on to explain how music specifically is very important to many blind people saying it is, “the one and only form of entertainment that truly presents an even playing field between the visually impaired and the sighted”.
Cater 2 U
When most of us think about the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), we think of things like ramps to go upstairs, rails in the bathroom, or other things that help create less discrimination and limitations for those Americans who have certain disabilities. What we may not think about is that the ADA includes provisions to also cover things like websites.
Digital Authority Partners has a great, comprehensive explainer about all the aspects of ADA compliance you need to know about. But, for our purposes here, what you need to know is that there are certain functions websites must have in order to comply with ADA mandates. These functions, a few of which Beyoncé.com violated, are as follows:
- Keyboard access. The website must be accessible by keyboard only as it can be difficult or impossible for people with certain disabilities to navigate with a mouse.
- Alt text on graphics. For people who are not able to see pictures, having descriptions on them that can be read by a computer is vital.
- Accessible forms. Any forms on the site must be easy to navigate and fill out as well as have clear error messages that are easy to understand and remedy.
- Proper nested HTML markup. The ADA has specific requirements for the way the coding that creates the website is formatted.
- Language. The coding of the website needs to specify which language so a computer can decipher.
- Link titles. Same with links.
- Descriptive links. Links also need to be descriptive and informative, not just “read this” or “click here’
- Color contrast. The contrast needs to be significant so it is easier to see and read.
- Fonts. They have specific rules around font styles and sizes to make pages easier to read.
Beyoncé and her entertainment company are certainly not the first (or the last) digital media entity to run afoul of the ADA’s website and technology laws. There have been many other high-profile cases where major businesses have been sued for running afoul of the ADA online. Companies such as Nike, Netflix, and Amazon have all had to make major changes to their online offerings to become ADA compliant.
Bills, Bills, Bills,
Not complying with ADA standards on your website can come with big costs. There is a chance that the government can fine your organization and collect civil penalties. These penalties may reach a maximum of $75,000 for a first violation of the ADA and $150,000 for repeated violations.
In addition, there are cases where courts can award customers who were damaged thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars’ worth of damages. The offending company may even be on the hook for the plaintiff’s legal fees.
Does Beyoncé hate blind people? While we may never know for sure, we can probably be almost positive she does not. She is, according to all accounts, a lovely and charitable woman who usually does the right thing. That said, her situation with her website and the ADA should teach us a very valuable lesson about websites and compliance.
While no one believes that Beyoncé and her team set out to create a situation where the blind are negatively affected by her website, the truth is, they probably did just that. This type of compliance is something that people rarely think about an, in truth, rarely get busted for.
However, all it takes is one time where the lack of compliance takes its toll on someone with a disability and the company that runs the website can be in big trouble. So, as Beyoncé would say, you better Check on It.