OC Business Owners Warned About ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits

OC Business Owners Warned About ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits

OC Business Owners Warned About ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits

At least three Orange County chambers of commerce have issued warnings to their membership about updating their company websites to comply with American with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

Attorney Steven Lieberman

Attorney Steven Lieberman – Artemis Defense Institute

The ADA includes statutory guidelines on website compliance, according to Lake Forest attorney Steven Lieberman, co-owner of Artemis Defense Institute.

Generally the websites need to be designed in such a way that people who are visually impaired can still access them,” Lieberman told OrangeCountyLawyers.com.

Website ADA Lawsuits Arrive Without Warning

The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce issued a warning after learning one of their retail members had been sued. “They were served with a lawsuit because their website is not accessible to blind people,” said Erin Slattery, president and CEO of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce. “There was no warning… just this lawsuit out of the blue.

For example, ABC 7 reported that the Manning Law firm sued the Sticky Rice restaurant in Echo Park in Los Angeles after the plaintiff, who is legally blind, allegedly had difficulty accessing their website.

Joe Manning, the attorney representing the plaintiff, did not immediately respond to requests for comment but told ABC 7, “The blind and visually impaired must have access to websites and apps to fully and equally participate in modern society – something nobody disputes.”

In Huntington Beach, the clothing retailer West of Camden has been sued twice over alleged ADA website violations. Owner Lindsay Lamoureux, however, did not respond to requests for comment.

Ironically, most of the law firms that bring these actions against small business owners have non compliant websites themselves,” Lieberman added.

Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce consists of 400 members however Slattery sent her letter to 10,000 individuals.

The Laguna Nigel Chamber of Commerce was among those who received Slattery’s warning.

I do know folks who are visually impaired who have alternatives,” said Scott Alevy, president and CEO of Laguna Nigel Chamber of Commerce.

“The concept of a website being a top source for an ADA complaint is a bit foreign to me but in California, no lawsuit ever surprises me.”

The Ladera Rancho Chamber of Commerce sent a similar warning to its membership three weeks ago.

We got word from a couple of our elected officials who gave us a heads up,” said Todd Stearns, executive director of Ladera Rancho Chamber of Commerce.

In the past five years, the Karlin Law Firm in Tustin has defended 2,500 ADA and Unruh Civil Rights Act claims against businesses and website owners, and consulted on another 1,500 for a total of more than 4,000 claims. About half of their cases are now website claims.

Dan T. Danet of Karlin Law Firm

Attorney Dan T. Danet of Karlin Law Firm

Orange County business owners who maintain a physical storefront and internet website are at risk,” said Karlin Law Firm attorney Dan T. Danet. “The majority of these lawsuits allege a claim under the Unruh Civil Rights Act since this statute permits the recovery of statutory damages starting at $4,000 per encounter.

Business owners often use website accessibility widgets, such as UserWay, EqualWeb, and AudioEye but their mere addition does not render a website compliant, according to Danet.

With the widgets installed a user can adjust a website’s text size, color contrast, and other settings.

There is no quick fix or substitute for manual testing and maintenance with respect to website accessibility,” Danet added. “It is simply one piece of the defense puzzle. At minimum, a business owner should consult with an attorney specializing in website accessibility matters.

Juliette Fairley
Juliette Fairley

Juliette Fairley covers legal topics for various publications including the Southern California Record, the Epoch Times and Pacer Monitor-News. Prior to discovering she had an ease and facility for law, Juliette lived in Orange County and Los Angeles where she pursued acting in television and film.

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