Compliance » More Website Accessibility Lawsuits Under The ADA

More Website Accessibility Lawsuits Under The ADA

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October 24, 2017

The New York Times reports there has been a spate of lawsuits targeting New York area colleges over alleged failure of their websites to accommodate persons with disabilities. It has long been understood that the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that public accommodations be accessible to people with disabilities, thus generating legal battles over physical spaces and solutions such as elevators or wheelchair ramps. Now, the Times explains, plaintiffs are claiming that websites are also public spaces and need to be accessible, by way of such things as captions or audio descriptions. This has proven to be a grey area, increasingly the subject of litigation. Citing a Seyfarth Shaw website that tracks ADA Title III cases, the Times says that since January of 2015 and through August of this year, at least 751 such lawsuits have been filed. The law firm site notes that at least 432 of those were filed in just the first eight and a half months of 2017. Plaintiff proponents argue these cases are a natural extension of the law and address a valid rights issue. Defendants and business critics portray them as a plaintiff bonanza, citing what they consider cut-and-paste lawsuits filed in the hope of quick settlements. They also point to potentially negative fallout of the sort that occurred at U.C. Berkeley where, after DOJ found the institution in violation of the ADA, it responded “by taking down more than 20,000 publicly accessible videos and audio files, a move administrators had called ‘unenviable’ but unavoidable given the ‘extremely expensive’ cost of compliance.”

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