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H&R Block Website Not Accessible to Disabled, U.S. Says

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government sought to lend its weight to a lawsuit accusing units of H&R Block Inc., the biggest U.S. tax preparer, of operating a website inaccessible to people who are blind, deaf or have other disabilities.

The Justice Department asked a federal court in Boston to let it join a suit against the companies that the National Federation of the Blind had filed. The U.S. in court papers accused two H&R Block units, HRB Digital and HRB Tax Group, of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Inaccessible websites of public accommodations are not simply an inconvenience to individuals with disabilities,” Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, said in a statement. “They deny persons with disabilities access to basic goods and services that people without disabilities take advantage of every day.”

H&R Block’s website isn’t designed to be used with commonly available technology -- such as screen reader software, refreshable Braille displays and keyboard navigation aids -- for people who are blind, deaf or have trouble with manual dexterity, the U.S. said in court papers.

As a result, two people who sued and other disabled people aren’t able to register for an online account with H&R Block, the U.S. said. The website offers tax advice, do-it-yourself tax return preparation and electronic filing.

H&R Block, based in Kansas City, Missouri, said in an e-mailed statement that it wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the case.

“H&R Block is firmly committed, however, to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” the company statement said. “As part of this commitment, we continually strive to make our products and services accessible to all individuals.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Laurie Asseo in Washington at lasseo1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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