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ADA website Demand Letters and Lawsuits – is this Legal Blackmail?

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2019 | ADA |

If you own a business in California, you understand the importance of taking steps to ensure your company is ADA compliant. From wheelchair accessibility to the design of your website, there are various factors that business owners have to consider in order to make sure their store meets standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A new form of this “drive-by” ADA claim, are law firms sending claim letters and filing lawsuits, often asking for money because the claim the website is not “ADA compliant”.  Such claims and letters may fall under the law, so it may be legal to make the claim or even file the lawsuit, but in our view even if legal, it can be a form of unfair backmail because the cost of fighting the claim often outweighs paying a small settlement.  Ironically, after 10 years or more the Department of Justice was not able to come up with any guidelines or standards on how a website can be more user friendly to the visually impaired or blind, or help the blind use a program called “Jaws” to verbalize what is on the website. Nevertheless, these lawsuits are being filed and must be responded to, and that can be very costly.

Some of the ADA website attorneys who are filing ADA website lawsuits or making these types of claims are: Bruce Carlson, Carlson Lynch, David Reid, Joseph Manning, Kevin W. Tucker, Luis Licea, Manning, Pacific Trial Attorneys, Scott Farrell, and some of the ADA website Plaintiffs or Claimants are: Abacus Heras, Abelardo Martinez, Cesar Cotto, Cheryl Thurston, Eddie White, Kayla Reed, Luis Licea, Rebecca Castillo, and Robert Jahoda

Is your website accessible?

The issue of making websites accessible under the ADA is a complex matter. The ADA was passed in 1990, which was during a time when the internet was not as popular and websites were much different from what they are now. There is no set list of federal standards for companies to follow, and it can be quite difficult for business to know what to do.

In this particular situation, one woman sued almost 200 businesses because she was not able to use her screenreader with their store websites. This is a specific type of tool that allows her to browse websites as a visually impaired woman, but the lawsuits state these businesses do not have the proper coding to allow it to work. Consider the following facts:

  • In these cases, plaintiffs do not often receive damages, but business may be required to cover their attorney fees and have to guarantee they will bring their sites up to ADA compliance in a certain amount of time.
  • There are some who believe this approach is legal extortion and does not actually help the disabled community. Instead, people see it as an attack on small businesses.
  • Most business facing this type of lawsuit settle, as it is very difficult to fight this specific type of complaint.

Many businesses use Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 to ensure that visually impaired and disabled individuals can use screenreaders and other tools.

Protecting your company 

ADA compliance for your website is a tricky and confusing issue for many business owners. You may find it beneficial to discuss your company’s needs with an experienced attorney who can help you both avoid legal complications and effectively defend your business against the threat of a civil claim.