Heart of the Matter: Number of Website Accessibility Lawsuits Continue to Rise – Discrimination, Disability and Sexual Harassment

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Last month, a legally blind Oneida County woman who works at a Utica call center serving the visually impaired added her name to a long list of plaintiffs challenging companies over the accessibility of their sites. Web under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Her lawsuit, filed in federal court, claimed a Brooklyn company described as a leader in the design and manufacture of bidets failed to make its website fully accessible to consumers like it who use various aids to navigate Internet.

When web pages are formatted correctly, these tools help provide equal access to online products and services. When they are not, potential customers are blocked.

The Oneida County woman alleged she was “hurt” that she was unable to purchase a travel bidet online. But the American Foundation for the Blind involves more mundane purchases and activities.

“Barriers to web accessibility have reduced or denied access to groceries, health care, transportation, jobs, entertainment, restaurants, and shopping,” the group wrote in a statement. letter to the US Department of Justice. “…As many sources of information, services and transactions move online, people with disabilities are being left behind due to lack of digital accessibility and inclusion.”

The letter, sent in November and co-signed by dozens of members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, urged the Department of Justice to resume work on regulations to ensure website accessibility, which began in 2010 when of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) but slowed down in 2017.

Earlier this year, however, the department issued “advice” to state and local governments and businesses open to the public, reminding them of its longstanding view that the ADA, a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in daily activities, requires them to make their websites accessible.

This did not match the regulations sought by the consortium, but the American Foundation for the Blind posted on its blog a pledge to continue to push for specific rules, even as it praised the links provided in the guidelines to the standards of commonly used accessibility.

According to one law firm’s estimates, 2021 has been a big year for web accessibility lawsuits against businesses. Chicago-based Seyfarth Shaw counted nearly 2,900 filed in federal court last year. This compared to just over 800 in 2017.

New York, California and Florida top the Top 10 states for federal filings in 2021, according to the firm.

Writing in American Bar Association magazine in January, a trio of lawyers from the Seyfarth ADA Title III practice suggested that website accessibility law continues to evolve, “slowly,” with each lawsuit filed and appeal heard. .

“Some things are clear, however,” they wrote. “Plaintiffs will continue to sue” and push the boundaries of the ADA’s applicability.

“Digital accessibility is here to stay, and businesses should proactively consider accessibility when acquiring, creating and maintaining all digital assets,” they advised.

Originally published by The Daily Gazette

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