Want to get rich? There are lots of ways to make money in this world, and thousands of ways to make money online. But there’s one way that you’ve probably never heard of that thousands of people all over the country are doing…and they are getting more wealthy by the day because of it. What they do is look for websites that are not ADA Compliant. When they find them, they sue them. And they always win. So if you want to get rich, sue small businesses for Website Accessibility compliance like these people do.
Of course, we’re not really advocating that you make money this way, but some people see this as a legitimate way of earning a living, and it’s causing a lot of businesses all around the country to suffer.
Website Accessibility Professional Plaintiffs: Evil or Angel?
These people who sue small businesses for Website Accessibility compliance are “professional plaintiffs.” And there is a woman in Florida who is a particularly good one named Emily Fuller of Broward County, Florida. She was featured in a news story (and accompanying article) by her local TV station, WFLA that mentioned that Ms. Fuller sued over 175 small, medium and large businesses over website accessibility issues.
Many people view her as the most evil kind of predator, preying on businesses she can sue just to earn money for herself and her attorneys. And anyone who shares that belief wouldn’t be alone in their thoughts. She has sued large businesses like Home Depot and Sephora, but most of her lawsuits seem to focus on small businesses, such as “Sassy Pants,” a local clothing store, and “Island Comfort Footwear,” a brand new shoe store in her local mall.
Such small businesses just don’t have the budget to fight a lawsuit against an experienced plaintiff with high powered attorneys at her side. With good attorneys charging $400 to $800 an hour or more, the costs to fight such a lawsuit can run beyond $50,000, $100,000 or more. But there’s really no point in fighting. Almost all Website Compliance lawsuits end in favor of the plaintiff, including every one that was appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Florida.
From the article: “The attorneys are telling us, ‘You can’t fight this. There’s nothing you can do, just write them a check,’” said shoe store owner Ben Tundis.
On the Other Hand…
But not everyone believes that people who sue small businesses for Website Accessibility compliance issues are bad people. Some people think that what she is doing is a valuable service to society, and for disabled people in general. Two of those people are Fuller’s Attorneys, who say that Ms. Fuller is doing a good deed by helping to enforce the ADA and Website Compliance laws. One of her attorneys, Pelayo Duran, told WFLA that “clients like Fuller are providing a needed service for society to insure [sic] that websites are ADA compliant and accessible to all.”
And at the very least, lawsuits like those that Fuller has filed have helped to increase public awareness about website accessibility, and has caused many businesses to make their websites ADA compliant as a result. These lawsuits, which have increased from just over 50 in 2015 to 2,258 in 2018, get headlines. But in addition to inspiring some business owners to make their websites accessible (another word for “ADA Compliant”), some other people wonder if they can also be plaintiffs in similar lawsuits.
What Does The ADA Say About Website Accessibility?
Estimates are that between 10 million and 15 million Americans suffer from some sort of disability, which could include low vision, color blindness, total blindness, deafness, motor skills issue, cognitive issues, and more. And all of these disabilities are covered by the ADA.
In fact, the ADA Title III protects those with disabilities from discrimination by any “place of public accommodation,” which includes all commercial businesses. And while the ADA was enacted prior to the invention of the first website, the Department of Justice has issued opinions that the ADA applies to websites, too. The Supreme Court, and thousands of lower court cases, have all affirmed this opinion. As a result, it’s the law…and a sure winner for those who sue small businesses for Website Accessibility compliance.
What Are The Penalties For Website Accessibility Non-Compliance?
Interestingly, the ADA doesn’t provide for punitive damages. What people sue for is “Injunctive Relief,” which means that the business needs to fix the problem by making their website ADA Compliant, which could cost many thousands of dollars, to many tens of thousands of dollars. But the ADA also allows for the prevailing party to collect legal fees, and attorneys who sue small businesses for Website Accessibility compliance tend to be very expensive attorneys. That means that a $10,000 or $20,000 settlement might turn into a $100,000 or $200,000 legal bill…doubled again because if (when) you lose, you need to pay the other side’s legal costs, too.
In California, the Unruh Civil Rights Act actually allows for punitive damages, potentially adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of losing your case. That makes the cost of losing a website accessibility lawsuit in California higher than almost anywhere else in the country. New York has similar Civil Rights laws, and any business involved in Real Estate — including rentals, sales, leasing, mortgages, refinancing — all have to comply with the Federal Fair Housing Act, which also allows for punitive damages.
Add to that the cost of making your website compliant in a hurry, and it’s a very bad experience for the business owner from start to finish.
If Someone Wants To Sue Small Businesses For Website Accessibility Compliance…
If someone wants to sue small businesses for Website Accessibility compliance, then Let Someone Else Be The Target! (They are coming after someone…it may as well be someone else.) Web Compliance Pro makes websites ADA Compliant in days or weeks, not months, and for a fraction of what most web developers would charge. That’s because our Intelligent Accessibility Compliance System (IACS) includes our Artificial Intelligence technology to analyze and remediate your site continually, and allows those with disabilities the tools to customize how your website appears to them. Learn more about our Website ADA Compliance Service or see if you qualify for a free Website Accessibility Preliminary Assessment.