Posts Tagged ‘web accessibility’

January 4 roundup

Disabled rights roundup

  • Wall Street Journal covers surge in web accessibility suits [Sara Randazzo, WSJ] State and local governments comment on federal proposals for public sector web accessibility;
  • “Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III lawsuits are up 63 percent over 2015, according to law firm Seyfarth Shaw.” [Insurance Journal]
  • “Drive-by” ADA suits in Austin, Tex.: “Lawyer sanctioned $175,000 for phony email, offensive comments” [Ryan Autullo, Austin American-Statesman] Arizona mass-filing attorney responds to professional conduct complaint [East Valley Tribune, earlier]
  • “Airlines seek to limit types of therapy animals allowed on planes” [L.A. Times]
  • “Fired for being (twice) intoxicated on the job, a mechanic for the D.C.-area transit authority undergoes treatment, applies for his job back. But his bosses refuse, allegedly because of his alcoholism. An ADA violation? Indeed, says the D.C. Circuit.” [Alexander v. WMATA as summarized on John Ross, Short Circuits]
  • Department of Justice unveils ADA regulation requiring movie theaters to offer captioning and audio description [Federal Register]

Disabled rights roundup

  • As filing mills, web accessibility concepts go nationwide and appeals court green-lights use of “testers”: “Disability Lawsuits Against Small Businesses Soar” [Angus Loten, Wall Street Journal]
  • More on legal imperilment of universities’ free online course offerings [George Leef and thanks for quote, earlier here, here]
  • Bill filed by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) would provide for “notice and cure” of some ADA violations [East Valley Tribune]
  • Supreme Court’s CRST decision might open door for defendants to recover legal fees in more ADA cases that did not result in merits ruling [William Goren, earlier on CRST]
  • Prenda Law founder loses law license, won’t be filing access suits for a while [Mike Masnick, earlier]
  • Jury backs Austin, Tex. police officer with narcolepsy [Austin American-Statesman, h/t Mark Pulliam]

“The Pyrrhic Victory For The Disabled”

As noted in posts here and at Cato, the University of California, Berkeley is considering taking down free online course content rather than expose itself to liability and litigation over its possible lack of accessibility for some disabled users. One irony: even if the welfare of disabled persons is treated as the only important outcome, the application of the ADA is probably going to do harm, because online alternatives to classroom instruction are particularly valuable to disabled persons, notably those with impaired mobility. [Alex Tabarrok, FEE (“The ADA Attack on Online Courses Hurts the Disabled Too”) Scott Greenfield (from whom title is taken); The Suburbanist (“So if your disability keeps you homebound, then the ADA will prevent you from viewing online courses.”); Preston Cooper, Forbes.

Berkeley, facing accessibility demands, may take down free online course content

Advancing a trend we’ve been warning about, the University of California, Berkeley, said it may have to take down educational course content posted free online for the benefit of the public due to an ongoing conflict with the U.S. Department of Justice over whether it is obliged to accompany the content with expensive captioning and other technological assists to make it more accessible to disabled visitors. I’ve got a write-up at Cato. More: Robby Soave, Reason; Andrej Karpathy Twitter thread about withdrawal of computer science videos; earlier on web accessibility. And this tweet, from Prof. Sam Bagenstos responding to Soave’s article, represents the culmination of the entire civil rights model.

Schools roundup

The Economist on ADA litigation

“The hundreds of pages of technical requirements [relating to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA] have become so ‘frankly overwhelming’ that a good 95% of Arizona businesses haven’t fully complied, says Peter Strojnik, a lawyer in Phoenix. He has sued more than 500 since starting in February, and says he will hit thousands more in the state and hire staff to begin out-of-state suits. … Violators must pay all legal fees” and courts ordinarily find violations. [The Economist]

Overlawyered has been covering the phenomenon of ADA filing mills since the start of this website and the issue of web accessibility for very nearly as long. Here’s some of The Economist’s reporting on the latter topic:

“[Texas attorney Omar Weaver] Rosales says extending ADA rules to websites will allow him to begin suing companies that use color combinations problematic for the color-blind and layouts that are confusing for people with a limited field of vision.

The DOJ is supporting a National Association of the Deaf lawsuit against Harvard for not subtitling or transcribing videos and audio files posted online. As such cases multiply, content may be taken offline. Paying an accessibility consultant to spot the bits of website coding and metadata that might trip up a blind user’s screen-reading software can cost $50,000 for a website with 100 pages.”

“Law firm targets real estate companies for ADA suits over inaccessible websites”

Yes, mass production of web accessibility suits is under way: “A partner of [Pittsburgh-based] Carlson Lynch Sweet Kilpela & Carpenter, which represents plaintiffs in such cases, tells the [Chicago] Tribune that it sent out about 25 demand letters to real estate companies in recent months.” [ABA Journal; Kenneth Harney; our 15+ years of coverage of the slow-motion legal disaster that is web accessibility]

Judge: private firm must pay damages over website not usable by blind

A number of court precedents suggest that private websites are generally not among the public accommodations and places of business subject to the handicap accessibility mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Disabled rights litigators, assisted by the Obama administration, have been battering away at these precedents for years, and in March they secured a significant win as a California Superior Court judge ordered a private company, Colorado Bag ‘N’ Baggage, to pay $4,000 to a blind customer and revise its website. Notably, the judge’s ruling came in response to a summary judgment motion by the plaintiff, implying that in his view the business’s defense was not strong enough to justify trial [Bob Dorigo Jones, Jacob Gershman/WSJ Law Blog, Amanda Robert/Legal NewsLine/Forbes] If the notion of legally obligatory web accessibility were accepted, quite a large share of existing websites would be far out of compliance, with likely consequences including the emergence of cash-seeking filing mills and pressure to take down countless existing websites used for business, community and nonprofit activity, journalism, and so forth. More at our web accessibility tag.

May 4 roundup

  • New gun store in Arlington, Va., just outside D.C., sues neighbors as well as officials who tried to block its opening [Washington Post]
  • Good: “Amendment Could Save the Vaping Industry From Prohibitive FDA Regulations” [Jacob Sullum]
  • N.J.: “Bergen County Father Jailed For Non-Payment Of Support For Kids Who Live With Him” [Bergen Dispatch via Hans Bader]
  • Outrage over state override of local regulatory options seems to depend a lot on whose ox is gored [Aaron Renn, Urbanophile]
  • That way, they could challenge it in court? Claim that businesses would be better off if DOJ went ahead and issued regulations commanding their websites to have ADA “accessibility” [Legal NewsLine, earlier]
  • “Washington Redskins Appeal To SCOTUS On Trademark And Seek To Tie Their Case To That Of The Slants” [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt, earlier]