European low cost airline BMIBaby has been served with legal papers by the Royal National Institute for Blind People for failing to ensure its website can be used by blind and partially sighted users.
The UK's RNIB says it has decided to take legal action against BMIBaby this week (papers filed at the Central London County Court) after the airline failed to make "vital changes" to its website to allow some customers to use online services.
Currently, the RNIB claims, partially sighted or blind visitors to the site are "forced to search for flights or make bookings via a call centre".
Concerns were initially raised with BMIBaby in 2010 after customers complained to the RNIB about the airline site.
The legal action is the "last straw" in order to force the changes required, an RNIB official says - a process the organisation has never put in place before with any other consumer website.
RNIB campaigns officer for inclusive society, Hugh Huddy, says blind and partially sighted customers "deserve to have access to the best online prices and flight information, just as any customer of BMIBaby does".
"Why should those with sight loss risk missing out on a web-only deal or be forced to ring a call centre simply because companies are failing to take accessibility standards seriously?"
Responding to the legal action, BMIBaby says it commissioned a report by the RNIB and received recommendations only in November last year.
A BMIBaby official says:
"We have a project team in place to action the recommendations which requires the bespoke development of bmibaby’s website technology.
"This inevitably takes a period of time to develop but in the meantime we have a new local rate telephone number for people to call to speak to our call centre to obtain our discounted website fares.
In the meantime, BMIBaby says it has now added a dedicated accessibility page to the site in order to keep customers up to date with its progress.
The case will be welcomed by campaigners, as some argue that the area of accessibility has fallen down the agenda in recent years as sites have become more interactive.
The globally recognised standard practice for web design and user experience in this area has been driven by guidelines put forward by the Web Accessibility Initiative.
NB: Hat-tip - Hayden Sutherland.