University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Brown v. Free Library of Philadelphia DR-PA-0002
Docket / Court 2:12-cv-02373 ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Attorney Organization Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP
Case Summary
On May 2, 2012 Brown and three other blind or visually impaired individuals filed a lawsuit against the Free Library of Philadelphia, the city's public library system, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, seeking relief under Section 504 of the ... read more >
On May 2, 2012 Brown and three other blind or visually impaired individuals filed a lawsuit against the Free Library of Philadelphia, the city's public library system, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, seeking relief under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and Title II of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12132.

The Plaintiffs alleged that they had been discriminated against by the Library, which had developed a program to make e-reading devices available to be borrowed at no cost by patrons 50 years old and older. To implement this program, the Library purchased 65 Nook Simple Touch e-reading devices, which the plaintiffs alleged were completely inaccessible to blind users. The plaintiffs alleged that accessible alternative devices were readily available on the market. The e-reader program was funded in part by a $25,000 federal grant from a program established by the Library Services and Technology Act, 20 U.S.C. § 9121, et seq.

The Plaintiffs, in their complaint, argued that the Library had been alerted by several groups of the federal requirement to acquire only accessible technology and its obligation to conform its practices to federal law. Among these sources were the American Library Association, of which the Library is a member; in 2009 it passed a resolution recommending that members ensure electronic resources comply with federal accessibility guidelines. In addition, a 2010 "Dear Colleague Letter" from the United States Departments of Justice and Education had warned educational institutions not to procure or use inaccessible e-reader technology because the use of such technology would violate federal law.

On October 22, 2012, the parties reached a settlement, and on October 23 the parties filed a Notice to Dismiss the case with prejudice, referencing the settlement. In the Settlement Agreement, the library denied any legal liability related to the allegations in Plaintiffs' Complaint, but agreed to make its e-reader program fully accessible to blind patrons. To this end, the settlement implements a timetable, committing to procure 10 mainstream e-reader devices accessible to both sighted and blind patrons within sixty days of the Settlement Agreement, which initially were to be available to patrons with visual impairments or other print disabilities. The library agreed that, within four years of the agreement, it would stop lending inaccessible devices and ensure the full accessibility of all the e-readers it made available.

The Library also agreed to train relevant staff members on the accessibility features of the devices, and to publicize the availability of the accessible devices. It further agreed to use its best efforts to ensure that all new contracts with its vendors contain an accessibility clause requiring that information technology products and services sold to the Library to not cause the Library to be in violation of its obligations under the Rehabilitation Act or Title II of the ADA. The agreement remains in effect until 2016.

Alex Colbert-Taylor - 05/30/2013

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Content of Injunction
Reasonable Accommodation
Visual impairment
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Disparate Impact
Reasonable Accommodations
Screen readers and similar accessibility devices
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) City of Philadelphia
Plaintiff Description Four blind or visually impaired individuals allegedly discriminated against by defendant public library's program to provide free access to inaccessible Nook-brand e-reader devices when accessible alternatives were readily available.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration 2012 - 2016
Filing Year 2012
Case Closing Year 2016
Case Ongoing No reason to think so
2:12-cv-02373-MSG (E.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/28/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
DR-PA-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/05/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Dismissal [Settlement Agreement Attached] [ECF# 14]
DR-PA-0002-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/23/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Goldberg, Mitchell S. (E.D. Pa.)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Goldstein, Daniel F (Maryland)
DR-PA-0002-0001 | DR-PA-0002-0002 | DR-PA-0002-9000
Krevor-Weisbaum, Sharon (Maryland)
DR-PA-0002-0001 | DR-PA-0002-0002 | DR-PA-0002-9000
Ross, Daniel A. (Maryland)
DR-PA-0002-0001 | DR-PA-0002-9000
Rudovsky, David (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0002-0001 | DR-PA-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Shoffel, Amanda C. (Pennsylvania)
Straw, Craig M. (Pennsylvania)

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