Coles faces disability discrimination court case over website

A blind NSW woman is seeking changes to the Coles supermarket shopping website to make it accessible for the blind or vision-impaired.

Gisele Mesnage, who relies on a screen-reader to use the internet, has launched a claim of unlawful discrimination against the Coles supermarket website following ongoing problems accessing the website for her shopping since 2008.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), which represents Ms Mesnage in this case, said online grocery shopping should allow people who are blind to do their supermarket shopping independently.

“It’s very disappointing that a large supermarket chain like Coles has not made accessibility a high priority,” PIAC Senior Solicitor Michelle Cohen said.

“It’s not acceptable for people in a wheelchair to be prevented from using a physical supermarket, so why should people with vision impairment be treated as second-class citizens?”

For Ms Mesnage, this legal action is a last resort, after years of negotiations with Coles failed to bring about a lasting solution.

“I just want to shop online like everyone else. I’m sick of being shut out or spending literally days completing just one order,” she said.

“Although Coles has tried to fix problems with the site over the years, the site isn’t consistently accessible. Each time the site is upgraded, accessibility issues recur, or new ones arise.”

Litigation funder Bentham IMF is backing Ms Mesnage’s case as part of its pro bono program.

“Hopefully our assistance will help Ms Mesnage have her claim against Coles heard and successfully resolved,” Bentham IMF Director Clive Bowman said.

President of the Association of Blind Citizens of NSW Graeme Innes said shopping online is supposed to be an easy and quick experience, “but it’s not at Coles for people who cannot see their computer screen”.

“I don’t understand why Coles would not want to make online shopping easy and quick for all of their customers,” he said.