Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) Magazine raises awareness of ADA accessibility suits with May article covering the "steep increase in litigation in the hospitality industry brought under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)."
Writer Michelle Anderson, a partner at Fisher Phillips explains the current legal ADA accessibility landscape and alleges, "plaintiffs’ lawyers have found a lucrative niche with this litigation, engaging the services of 'testers' who are private citizens that go from business to business looking for ADA violations. Restaurants are frequent targets of these efforts."
The report cites UsableNet's data in explaining the current and historic legal landscape for ADA-based Website Accessibility lawsuits. We've included an excerpt from the article or you can read the article in full here.
"The law does not require that businesses be notified of any alleged violations in advance of being served with a lawsuit. Hence, most businesses are caught off guard and end up spending thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees to resolve these cases, when the cost of actual compliance is very low. Often, there are no damages for the actual plaintiff in the case. Rather, the plaintiff’s lawyers capitalize on the fact that no advance notice is required because the statute provides for their attorneys’ fees and costs.
For the past few years, a new twist has been on the rise. Businesses are being sued under this same section of the ADA for websites that are allegedly inaccessible to people with disabilities, meaning that these testers are not necessarily visiting the brick-and-mortar establishment, but rather surfing on the internet looking for those businesses that have websites that are not accessible for people with disabilities.
In 2018, ADA website litigation increased 181 percent over 2017. According to UsableNet, more than 2,200 lawsuits were filed in federal courts nationwide in 2018, and 11 percent of the lawsuits were food service establishments. The most cases were filed in New York and Florida. This is not because companies in those states are committing more infractions; it’s more a symptom of the active plaintiffs’ bars in those states where the same attorneys are filing multiple suits. Indeed, many companies that are sued operate in multiple states and even internationally."
The lawsuit culture that surrounds website accessibility has grown steadily and continues to intensify in 2019. Industries like retail, healthcare, hospitality, food service—have historically found themselves the target of legal action. It's encouraging to start to see industry publications raising awareness.
In 2019, the business case for web accessibility couldn’t be stronger. In addition to avoiding costly litigation cited in the article companies that take steps for accessibility will reap the rewards including, brand integrity, optimized SEO, financial rewards and enhanced innovation.