Top Plaintiff Firms Revealed As Federal ADA Website Lawsuits Tops 100
While most companies are being hit with demand letters claiming companies' websites violate title III of the ADA, the number of federal suits has topped 100 now according to Minh Vu of Seyfarth Shaw.
As the article states, "Website accessibility lawsuits and threatened claims have become big business for some aspects of the plaintiffs’ bar. More law firms are filing lawsuits or sending demand letters alleging individuals with disabilities are denied access to a business’s goods and services due to inaccessible websites than ever. "
Seyfarth Shaw reports that since the beginning of 2015, 106 federal suits have been filed as of September 21, 2016. Because demand letters are not filed, there is no way of knowing the number of demand letters that have been sent to businesses across the US. Its very likely well into the thousands, and its these demand letters that represent the most realistic threat to businesses. In addition to remediating their websites, they demand that businesses hire expensive web accessibility auditing firms, which the plaintiff firm must approve, or use their "recommended consultants". What is of course motivating plaintiff firms is that they can get the violating business to pay their legal fees in the process.... or get sued in Federal Court. This demand letter business model provides the easy money in this cottage industry.
The study reveals the sources of these suits. They boil down to three law firms and their respective states where these suits have been concentrated Pennsylvania, California, and New York.
Unfortunately businesses cannot expect any relief from this predatory practice as the DOJ has punted any definitive rules on the topic until 2018, and we can expect that to be delayed even further given the upcoming change in administration.
In fact, given the success of these companies and the transparency of their business models, businesses should brace for this to rapidly grow as copycatters jump on this. The money is too easy and the process too simple.
This only accelerates that which is way overdue. Regardless of whether its physical or digital, the Web is a space that has become intrinsic to modern life, and today the web is a place of public accommodation. Further, the "effective communication" requirement of ADA (title II and III) requires government, businesses and non-profits that serve the public to communicate effectively with people with communication disabilities. Whether through interpreters, braille or digital screen readers and such. To knowingly maintain barriers that block access to those with disabilities is a violation of their civil liberties. Its as simple as that.
So businesses have a simple choice of either now by their own accord or later. And the cost of designing new websites or remediating existing websites to meet WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines now, is going to be much less than the alternative that will soon proliferate.