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H&R Block Legal Settlement


Synopsis

On April 8, 2013, the NFB filed a lawsuit (National Federation of the Blind v. HRB Digital LLC) on behalf of its members alleging that H&R Block failed to adequately support individuals with disabilities. The suit specifically alleged that the company’s website and mobile application did not allow the plaintiff to access the same information, use the same services, or leverage the same benefits provided to those without disabilities including:

  • Preparing and filing taxes online
  • Obtaining info from the blog or instructional videos
  • Meeting with a live tax preparer in real-time
  • Having previous years’ taxes reviewed
  • Downloading tax preparation software

Outcomes

On December 11, 2013, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the District Attorney of Massachusetts took the unusual step of filing a Complaint of Intervention alleging that the accessibility barriers outlined above constituted a violation of Title III of the ADA. This is the first time that DOJ intervened in a lawsuit based only on Web and mobile app accessibility.

On March 6th, the DOJ, the District Attorney of Massachusetts, and H&R Block entered into a Consent Decree to resolve the allegations. H&R Block must meet a number of stringent requirements including:

Policy/Statement

  • Create a detailed (and publicly posted) Web Accessibility Policy
  • Provide an accessibility statement linked to the campus home page that addresses web pages, mobile applications and other online products

Web Development/Practices

  • Remediate existing/develop new web content that conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 level AA by January 2015
    • Web Touchpoints:

      • Goal 1 Evaluation Process:  Identify and repair or replace inaccessible websites, web applications, and digital content.
      • Goal 2 New Web Development:  New website/web application and digital content development complies with all Section 508 accessibility guidelines.
      • Goal 3 Monitoring Process: Updating and maintenance of websites/web applications and digital content comply with Section 508 Accessibility Standards.
  • Make its mobile apps conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 level AA by January 2016
  • Ensure that contractors are familiar with WCAG 2.0 and requirements of the Consent Decree
    • Procurement Touchpoints

      • 1.6: Developed a process for all non-competitive bid procurements that require an evaluation of Section 508 compliance.
  • Incorporate accessible web development requirements into employee and contractor performance evaluations
    • Adding accessibility tasks into staff job descriptions and performance evaluations

Testing/Remediation

  • Conduct regularly-scheduled automated testing of H&R Block’s web content
  • Establish a User Accessibility Testing Group comprised of individuals with a range of disabilities to conduct annual testing as well as review proposed changes to H&R Block’s online or mobile products
  • Modify the bug fix policy to prioritize WCAG conformance issues at the same level as bugs as other bugs involving equivalent loss of function

Staffing/Training

  • Appoint or hire a Web Accessibility Coordinator to ensure compliance with the consent decree. This person is to be responsible for oversight, reporting, and communicating directly with CIO.
    • ATI Touchpoints
      • ATI Coordinator and Executive Sponsor
    • Web Touchpoints
      • Goal 1 Evaluation Process:  Identify and repair or replace inaccessible websites, web applications, and digital content.
      • Goal 3 Monitoring Process: Updating and maintenance of websites/web applications and digital content comply with Section 508 Accessibility Standards.
      • Goal 5 Training Process: Professional development training has incorporated Section 508 accessibility guidelines into website and web applications development and digital content preparation.
      • Goal 6 – In general the campus community is aware of Section 508 guidelines to make web based information available to everyone (students, staff, faculty and the general public) regardless of disability
      • Common theme across most of the Web Goals that there will be a person responsible for the process
  • Create a Web Accessibility Committee
    • ATI Touchpoints
      • ATI Steering Committee/Sub-committees
  • Provide mandatory annual accessibility training for anyone developing web content or mobile apps for H&R Block.
    • Goal 5 – Goal 5 Training Process: Professional development training has incorporated Section 508 accessibility guidelines into website and web applications development and digital content preparation.
      • Responsible person
      • Establish and deploy training for web developers and content managers
        • Web development
        • Digital documents and multimedia

Customer Support

  • Web accessibility statement
    • Articulates the accessibility status of the site,
      • lists work around,
      • projected remediation effort if there are accessibility gaps,
      • should be linked to every page (footer)
  • Solicit web accessibility feedback from its customers
  • Provide special escalated customer assistance for customers with disabilities

Reporting

  • Retain a Web accessibility consultant and provide reports to NFB and DOJ on H&R Block’s conformance with the Consent Decree

Damages

Pay $45,000 in damages to private plaintiffs and $55,000 in civil penalties to DOJ

References