Jason Camacho, a blind resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., is suing 50 colleges (including some in California) over the accessibility of their websites. The 50 lawsuits say the colleges are in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, (ADA) as their websites are not accessible to people with disabilities. Camacho uses a screen reader and said he experienced barriers when trying to access the colleges’ websites.
Despite the court cases being filed in New York’s Southern District, the institutions targeted are located all over the country. Almost all are private colleges, universities or conservatories, and include large research universities such as Northeastern University and Drexel University. Both institutions said they do not comment on ongoing legal matters. Also being sued are Cornell University, Vanderbilt University, the California Institute of the Arts, Oberlin College, Loyola University New Orleans, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and many others.
Camacho’s attorney, Jeffrey Gottlieb of Gottlieb and Associates, declined to comment, but has previously indicated that the intention of the lawsuits is to ensure accessibility for all. “If the website is not accessible, you’re shut out,” he told the Times Union of Albany, N.Y.
This is not the first time Camacho and Gottlieb have worked together to sue higher education institutions over website accessibility. New York University, Adelphi University, Monroe College, Lim College and the New York Code and Design Academy were all sued by Camacho earlier this year. The cases were settled out of court. A New York University spokesperson said the terms of its settlement with Camacho were confidential.
Camacho was also the lead plaintiff in several other ADA lawsuits filed in 2017, including against companies such as Peet’s Coffee and Aldi.
Chris Danielsen, director of public relations at the National Federation of the Blind does not advocate a litigation-first approach.
“We tend to worry a little bit when we see one individual filing a bunch of lawsuits at once like this, because it’s not usually the best way to get a good result and enter into a good dialogue with the institutions,” he said. “Our approach is usually to go to litigation only after all other approaches have failed.”
The trend of somebody finding an accessibility issue on a website, “however big or small,” and filing a lawsuit is not unique to college and universities, said Danielsen. “There are plaintiffs and lawyers who just take a category of business, like wineries for example, and just sue a bunch of them all at once.”
So America is still the “land of opportunity” for enterprising disabled plaintiffs like Camacho and his attorney Gottlieb who see the ADA as an ATM. Some people are just looking for disputes — and when they find YOU and these things affect your business especially nuisance ADA complaints, contracts or even collections, call in your good-guy litigator, Dean Sperling who will work to resolve YOUR matter with YOUR best interests in mind!
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