PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island and the Justice Department announced today that they have reached a settlement agreement with CVS Pharmacy, Inc., (CVS) to ensure that people with disabilities can get information about COVID-19 vaccinations and book vaccination appointments online. CVS, headquartered in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, is the country’s largest retail pharmacy, with nearly 10,000 locations nationwide.
Following investigation, the United States determined that CVS’s COVID-19 vaccine registration portal, currently located at https://www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine, was not accessible to people with certain disabilities, including those who use screen reader software or have a hard time using a mouse. For instance, at the outset of the scheduling process, the types of vaccine appointments offered (which included influenza, pneumonia, and others in addition to the COVID-19 option) were not read to screen reader users. Further, on the page where a user picks a time for their appointment, screen reader users were told that all available times were “checked,” even though the user had not made any selection. Additionally, people who use the “Tab” key instead of a mouse to navigate websites were not able to navigate past a request for insurance information.
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public accommodations like drugstores and grocery stores to provide individuals with disabilities with full and equal enjoyment of goods and services. The ADA also requires public accommodations to provide effective communication with people with disabilities, including through the use of auxiliary aids and services like accessible technology.
Under the terms of the agreement, CVS will facilitate accessibility by conforming its web content about the COVID-19 vaccine, including the forms for scheduling an appointment to get the vaccine, to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Version 2.1, Level AA. WCAG is a set of voluntary industry guidelines for making information on a website accessible to users with disabilities. The agreement also requires CVS to regularly test the pages of its website that include vaccine scheduling and information about the COVID-19 vaccine, and quickly fix any problems that keep people with disabilities from being able to use these pages.
“While web accessibility is always important, when it comes to critical health services like COVID-19 vaccination, making sure that everyone—regardless of disability—can access information and care is essential,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha of the District of Rhode Island. “This Office is committed to vigorously enforcing the ADA to eliminate unnecessary barriers that stand in the way of lifesaving care.”
“Now more than ever, we must ensure web accessibility for people with disabilities seeking access to critical needs and services,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We are working aggressively to identify and remove barriers that prevent people with disabilities from privately and independently securing potentially life-saving COVID-19 vaccines. We will continue to work towards the ADA’s promise of equal access during the ongoing global pandemic.”
This matter was handled jointly by Assistant United States Attorney Amy R. Romero of the District of Rhode Island and Anne Langford and Joy Welan, attorneys for the Disability Rights Section of the Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island is committed to investigating alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Department of Justice has a number of publications available to assist entities in complying with the ADA. For more information on the ADA and to access these publications, visit www.ada.gov or call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY). Any member of the public who wishes to file a complaint alleging a public entity or public accommodation in Rhode Island is not accessible to persons with disabilities may contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office at https://www.justice.gov/usao-ri/civil-rights-enforcement or 401-709-5000.