A Cautionary Tale for Small Businesses without ADA-Compliant websites
Fraud is just one example of what a small business could face if it has an inaccessible website. Floridian Andres Gomez has been involved in over 600 ADA-related lawsuits, accusing small businesses of being inaccessible to people with disabilities.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), websites must make accommodations for people with disabilities. An accessible website should include contrasting colors, alternative text, video captions, verbal notifications for pop-up windows, and form labels that are intelligible to a screen-reading device.
The hundreds of lawsuits Gomez has filed point to discrimination under the ADA.
One small business Gomez sued for inaccessibility was Fast Toys Inc., a race car company. Gomez claimed he couldn’t use screen reading software to use the website, therefore, he was denied full and equal access.
However, when Fast Toys Inc. hired Karlin Law Firm to investigate further, the firm alleged Gomez might not have the disability he claims to have.
On Wednesday, September 28, 2022, the Karlin Law Firm spoke to members of the press and released court filings and a video that was filed in Gomez v. Fast Toys Inc, which showed Gomez’s actions contradicted how he described his disability, according to Karlin attorneys.
This includes only using stairs with assistance and having difficulty reading. Surveillance footage provided by the firm showed Gomez walking upstairs without aid and “seemingly without difficulty” as well as “appearing to read the screen of his cell phone at arm’s length,” Karlin Law attorneys said.
The purpose of showing the video was for the business owner of Fast Toys Inc., Chris Carel, to recover his court fees and warn other business owners that Gomez may sue down the road.
Carel told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I’m happy if we can help bring this scammer down and make other companies not go through what I lived.”
The Karlin Law Firm has been able to have 17 different lawsuits brought by Gomez dismissed or withdrawn, the firm wrote in its press release.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Gomez’s attorney, Dennis Price of the law firm Potter Handy said the video was a “smear job.”
“It’s another form of discrimination when they’re told that their lived experiences don’t meet the standards of what people consider a disability,” Price added. Gomez has been diagnosed as legally blind by “multiple doctors,” the attorney told the publication.
Read our blog: How to Fight an ADA Website E-Commerce Lawsuit
Serial Lawsuits are Frequent in Disability Law
Boilerplate plaintiffs are common in disability law. Several law firms make their money as serial lawsuit filers, suing hundreds of companies monthly.
Potter Handy is well-known for filing serial plaintiffs and was sued in April 2022 by the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles for “unlawful business practice under California’s Unfair Competition Law,” according to the filing. The attorneys claimed Potter Handy filed fraudulent and deceitful cases under the ADA.
In 2021, Potter Handy filed 2,076 ADA lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, per a Bay City News analysis. The lawsuits represent 85% of all ADA filings in the district that year.
One of Fast Toys’ attorneys, Scott Karlin, believes 90% of ADA claims are filed by serial plaintiffs, wrote the San Francisco Chronicle.
According to UsableNet, over 4,000 ADA lawsuits were filed against inaccessible websites in 2021.
Don’t let your business become another target for law firms. Use EcomBack’s ADA compliance services and take the first step needed to prevent a digital accessibility lawsuit.
Also, please share this information with other business owners to increase awareness of the dangers of ADA non-compliance.
EcomBack Helps Business Owners Prevent Lawsuits
“Surf-by” lawsuits are increasing daily, and any website that doesn’t comply with ADA may be subject to legal penalties or class action lawsuits.
Many business owners don’t even know they are violating ADA and are shocked when they are fined or sued for having an inaccessible website. As a business owner, you have a responsibility to understand the Americans with Disabilities Act and ensure your website is accessible to everyone. This not only can prevent lawsuits but also provides a better user experience.
EcomBack can make websites ADA-compliant and WCAG-compliant with our Web Accessibility services. Our trained experts are well-versed in ADA and WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). The team has interacted with lawyers and clients to fully understand and know how to fix issues identified in ADA-related lawsuits.
We can design and develop an accessible website for your business, train your team to understand ADA, and provide testers with disabilities and an accessibility statement template.