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Federal Gov’t Settles with Kroger Over online COVID-19 vaccine registration accessibility

United States Attorney Kenneth L. Parker announced last week a Department of Justice settlement agreement with Ohio-based retailer The Kroger Co. The agreement, secured under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), will eliminate barriers preventing people with certain disabilities from getting information about COVID-19 vaccinations and booking their vaccination appointments online.

Kroger has 2,800 retail grocery stores under the Kroger name and others, with a presence in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Portal for Kroger-branded stores, currently located at https://www.kroger.com/health/pharmacy/covid-care, was not accessible to people with certain disabilities, including those who use screen reader software. For instance, critical medical screening questions, were not read to screen readers users.  These included questions about current COVID-related symptoms, allergies, and reactions to previous vaccines. Further, when a screen reader user selected an available appointment time, the website told them that the available appointment was “unavailable” instead of “selected.”   

Under the settlement, Kroger will 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.

Kroger also must 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.

“All individuals deserve a full and equal opportunity to access services like vaccines,” U.S. Attorney Parker said. “This office will continue to partner with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to ensure that equal access.”

“Access for people with disabilities should never be an afterthought, including during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “When a store’s website is inaccessible, people with disabilities may struggle to get potentially life-saving vaccines for themselves and their loved ones. This agreement helps fulfill the promise of the ADA by ensuring individuals with disabilities have equal access to healthcare.”

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