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ADA Lawsuits – A Real Problem for Higher Education

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Most institutions of higher learning have been physically accessible to those with disabilities for many years. The legacy brick-and-mortar buildings have been retrofitted and all new construction must conform to accessibility laws. The digital realm is now playing catch up but the number of lawsuits filed under the ADA is increasing in education and across all industries.

A blind man is now taking dozens colleges to court, alleging that their websites are inaccessible to people with disabilities. These recently-filed lawsuits in New York’s Southern District, posit that the colleges are in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, as their websites are not accessible to people with disabilities. The plaintiff, Jason Camacho, uses a screen reader and said he experienced barriers when trying to access the colleges’ websites. The targeted institutions have locations all over the United States.

These many claims all appear to be worded in a similar manner, and they can possibly be viewed as an opportunity to “work the system” so to speak, in order to gain financially from businesses in the private and public sectors’ lag in conforming to ADA regulations. It has been indicated by the plaintiff’s attorneys that the intention of these lawsuits is to ensure accessibility for all. He has also settled other cases out of court, with the specific terms being confidential. The trend of somebody finding an accessibility issue on a website, regardless of how egregious or inconsequential and filing a lawsuit is not unique to college and universities by any means.

Filing large numbers of similarly worded ADA lawsuits against one type of business is sometimes referred to as “drive-by” litigation. This activity is widely seen as a means to get a quick settlement, rather than improve accessibility. It is not unheard of for someone to find a willing attorney, choose a particular category of business and sue many of them at once. This is not advocacy for the disabled. This is opportunism.

One can say that the many opportunities to file justified claims against businesses and various other institutions points to a systemic problem with compliance, and this is a valid point. The ADA has been around for decades, and technology is widespread and available. There is no longer any excuse to exclude anyone, regardless of ability or disability. Doing so is getting very expensive.