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2019 was a big year for ADA Title III litigation, with more lawsuits filed to enforce its accommodation provisions by the end of November (10,206) than were filed in all of 2018 (10,163). The total number for the year is likely to be higher once data on all of December’s filings are collated and added to the total.
This is part of a larger trend toward accessibility as a standard feature of public accommodations over the past few years, especially in education. California is a leader in these lawsuits, with over 40% of the 2019 filings hitting its court system, but many of the precedents these cases set will have national implications, especially for educational institutions.
Online Access and ADA Lawsuits in 2019
A case filed in the Southern District of New York seeks to hold 50 schools nation-wide accountable for the accessibility features of their websites and online services. Launched by a visually challenged man from Brooklyn who depends on a screen reader to navigate the web, the suit argues that if colleges from across the country come to New York to recruit, then all New York residents should expect equal access to their resources. Because so much of a university’s initial impression, application materials, and discussion of campus features are now presented online to marketing to students, the suit’s plaintiff alleges that a lack of digital accessibility shuts people like himself out of access to the university at large.
This 2019 suit targeted mostly private colleges, including high-profile names like Oberlin College and Loyola University. The plaintiff, Jason Camacho, has also successfully sued other colleges and private corporations over similar access violations since 2017. Individual disability advocates often file dozens or hundreds of complaints to force organizations to comply with the ADA because it is the primary mechanism for legal recourse, but few successfully sue as many individual organizations as this plaintiff.
While most of the suits are settled out of court, the success of the plaintiff’s argument in the past points to more serious legal scrutiny over access to educational materials online. This affects not only universities but also academic publications, job training programs, and other public digital resources.
Digital Accessibility Take-Aways
Screen readers and other forms of digital access assistance are becoming more sophisticated, but avoiding costly litigation means getting your organization on the right page with modern best practices for web design and app development:
- Alternative text descriptions
- Accessible eBooks
- Accessible PDFS/PPT/Word
- Screen reader-compatible fonts and CMS packages
- Interoperability on all digital platforms
- Captions on video content and audio transcripts for hard-of-hearing patrons
- Seamless access integration that avoids placing an extra burden on those using assistance tech
Achieving digital accessibility can be easy when you work with forward-thinking service providers. Check out Amnet’s accessibility services today to stay ahead of the curve.Sources: