ADA in the News April 14, 2021

Federal Appeals Court Limits ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits

A federal appeals court has just provided some much-needed relief to businesses facing a barrage of website accessibility lawsuits alleging that their sites do not comply with the nation’s main disability discrimination statute. These lawsuits typically involve a prospective plaintiff, or their counsel, merely accessing a company’s website and testing various screen reading software, filing suit if any portion of the website is not compatible with any of the assistive technologies.

In the April 7 Gil v. Winn-Dixie decision, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck a blow to these lawsuits by holding that a website is not a place of public accommodation subject to the Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and setting a high bar for website accessibility issues to rise to the level of a statutory violation. While Wednesday’s decision itself only directly impacts businesses in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, it adds to a split among the various circuit courts and could result in the issue ultimately being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.


District Government Sued for Not Providing Education to Incarcerated Young People with Disabilities

Today, two incarcerated students with disabilities, on behalf of themselves and a class of other students, are suing the District of Columbia for its failure to provide special education instruction and services during the pandemic. Over a year ago, on March 13, 2020, DC Public Schools (DCPS) stopped in-person classes for all students due to the public health emergency. Although DCPS resumed virtual education for most students in the community, for the approximately 44 students enrolled in DCPS at the DC Jail complex, all of whom have disabilities and special education needs, DCPS has never resumed classes. Instead, students have only received inaccessible, inadequate, and inconsistently delivered work packets in lieu of classes taught by qualified teachers either in-person or virtually.


Golf Cart Ordinance Revisited

Libby City Council is looking into allowing golf carts on local streets in some fashion for a third time in recent memory. Residents who favor the measure say it will help a disabled local man more easily navigate the city. While Oliver Orak struggles to use an off highway vehicle, which are legal on Montana’s roadways if properly outfitted and registered, a golf cart better suits his needs, supporters said. They returned to City Hall on April 5, with Orak notifying city councilors that he planned to drive his specially outfitted golf cart with or without official sanction.

“We’ve gone over and over the thing, it’s been about a year,” Orak said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “I’m tired of coming before you. I made [my] mind up that I will be driving my golf cart whether or not you choose to continue on in this vein.” Orak cited the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability, as giving him the legal basis for operating the golf cart.


Justice Department Moves to Intervene in Disability Discrimination Suit Against City of Chicago Regarding Pedestrians with Visual Disabilities

The Justice Department today moved to intervene in a disability discrimination lawsuit that private plaintiffs with visual disabilities brought against the City of Chicago under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). The department’s proposed complaint alleges that the city fails to provide people who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf-blind with equal access to pedestrian signal information at intersections.

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