DOJ & Rite Aid Create Online COVID-19 Vaccine Registration for Individuals with Disabilities
The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced a settlement agreement with Rite Aid Corporation that will help people with disabilities get information about COVID-19 vaccinations and book their vaccination appointments online.
Rite Aid’s COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Portal, currently located at https://www.riteaid.com/covid-19, was not accessible to some people with disabilities, including those who use screen reader software and those who have a hard time using a mouse. For instance, the calendar on Rite Aid’s website used for scheduling vaccine appointments did not show screen reader users any available appointment times, and people who use the tab key instead of a mouse could not make a choice on a consent form that they needed to fill out before scheduling their appointment.
“Equal access to healthcare is one of the most important rights guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “As the nation continues its response to the COVID-19 pandemic — through booster shots, vaccinations for children under 12, and ongoing outreach to those still in need of initial doses — people with disabilities must be able to schedule potentially lifesaving vaccine appointments as easily as people without disabilities can.”
Under today’s settlement, Rite Aid has agreed to make content about the COVID-19 vaccine, including the forms for scheduling an appointment to get the vaccine, conform 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. Rite Aid also must regularly test the pages of its website about vaccine scheduling and information and quickly fix any problems that keep people with disabilities from being able to use these pages.
“As technology increases, the internet is where people gain access to information about COVID-19 vaccines and schedule a vaccination appointment,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. “Individuals with disabilities, including those with visual impairments and those who cannot use a mouse, must be given the same access to that information and the ease of scheduling appointments online. Since the beginning of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, private companies have partnered with the United States. Today, with the help of Rite Aid, we make great strides in that continuing partnership by ensuring individuals with disabilities have the ability to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination independently and privately.”
This matter was handled jointly by the Disability Rights Section of the department’s Civil Rights Division and Civil Rights Coordinator Michael Butler of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. 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, such as vaccines. The ADA also requires public accommodations to ensure effective communication with people with disabilities, including by using auxiliary aids and services like accessible technology.