April 28, 2023
We urge you to immediately help stop California bill AB 950 by California Assemblyman Brian Maienschein from San Diego, which threatens unfair litigation against every business with a website by enforcing a set of voluntary guidelines created by the W3C called the WCAG 2.1 AA into law.
It will allow plaintiff attorneys in CA to sue businesses for even small technical glitches and cost businesses tens of thousands of dollars for things that may be completely unfeasible or out of their control.
Here is a letter we have prepared to help you spread the word and below it is an action plan we hope you can follow.
Help stop the bill, which currently has no opposition. If you do not act, this will become law and make small businesses a victim of predatory lawsuits.
We kindly request you to contact the following by email, call their offices to request a meeting about this bill, and tweet at them with hashtag #stopab950
- Contact friends and associates in San Diego and ask them to contact San Diego Assemblyman Brian Maienschein’s office: a76 official website Phone: (858) 675-0760
- Contact political contributors of Brian Maienschien. They are here on FollowTheMoney.com
- Email members of the Appropriations Committee of the Assembly where this bill is headed next to stop it
- firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Contact your CA Assembly member and CA State Senator: Find them here: Find your Rep Here
- Contact CA Governor Gavin Newsom – Official website
Help us spread the word with the actions below the letter, and share with your network in California.
Subject: Help stop AB 950 – a bill that threatens small business websites
Dear California legislators,
I am deeply concerned about Assembly Bill 950 by California Assemblyman Brian Maienschein from San Diego, which aims to address internet website accessibility in California.
While I fully support efforts to improve website accessibility, I firmly believe that this bill poses a significant threat of predatory to small businesses like mine, especially those that are run by people of color, immigrants, and people with disabilities, who rely heavily on the internet for their business.
The issues with AB 950 are numerous:
- It wrongly assumes that websites are a static thing and puts the entire burden and responsibility on millions of small businesses, rather than ensuring that the framework and eco-system of the internet that they use to create websites is accessible.
- It does not provide any safe harbor or notice to cure technical bugs or errors that are not intentional.
- It solely relies on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 AA) as a legal standard for website accessibility, which was never created to be a legal standard.
- For example, one of the criteria to pass WCAG 2.1 AA is the requirement of Audio Descriptions on all videos. The vast majority of video content does not contain a separate track for audio descriptions, which can be costly to create. This would result in websites having to remove all video content for fear of a lawsuit.
- There are no consistent testing standards to determine whether a website is fully, substantially, partially, or completely inaccessible, and using the most stringent requirements of the WCAG as the basis for statutory damages is inappropriate and could lead to unintended consequences.
- A website may fail some WCAG standards and still be accessible.
- It fails to recognize that developers, platforms, and businesses work collaboratively in a fast-paced world of technology and AI, but instead promotes a lawsuit culture. It would shift full responsibility for a website’s accessibility to a developer or platform for things that may not be in their own control or may change due to emerging technology.
- It would substantially increase the cost of entry for creating, maintaining, and insuring a website, which would harm entrepreneurs, especially those who are minorities, people of color, the disabled, the elderly, and those who are just starting out.
- It would further victimize small businesses, who are often targeted by serial plaintiffs in “click-by-lawsuits” for minor accessibility violations beyond their control, and demanded exorbitant sums of money by plaintiff attorneys to settle these claims, leading to secret settlements in the tens of thousands of dollars, which can be a significant financial strain on businesses.
- It does not provide any relief from abusive or frivolous claims of inaccessibility under the Unruh Act, which has statutory fines of $4000 per infraction
- It will have significant economic consequences and a chilling effect on the tech sector of California.
- It provides no economic assistance to businesses to comply with unachievable standards by a deadline of Jan 2024
- Lastly, this bill affects any business or service provider anywhere in the world which has a physical location and a website that is available to be viewed in California.
If this bill passes, there may be an organized effort to GEO block California by many out-of-state businesses, and many California-based businesses will opt to use third-party platforms to sell their goods and services instead of hosting their own websites.
The bill, in its current form, is ill-conceived and would only serve to benefit plaintiff attorneys who have a history of exploiting similar legislation. It feels like a Christmas gift to them, while small businesses and web developers are left to bear the burden of its consequences.
Therefore, I strongly urge you to vote no on AB 950 and work with stakeholders to develop effective solutions to improve web accessibility without further harming small businesses.
We need a solution that is fair and reasonable to all parties involved, and not just a one-sided litigious approach that is bound to have unintended and very harmful consequences.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
SPREAD THE WORD
We request you to contact the following:
- Call Disability Rights California which has the main supporter of the bill: 1-916-504-5800
- Your local Chamber of Commerce and ask them to get involved, spread the word to members, and issue public policy letters
- Write to: CA Chamber of Commerce – Jennifer Barrera – email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inform Business associations and industry groups
- Send to your customers in California
- Post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Facebook groups in your industry, Twitter, and other social media. Use hashtag: #stopab950
- Share with influencers in the business community
- Share with local news outlets about the devastating impact of accessibility lawsuits on small businesses
- Sign the Change.org petition
On May 2nd, 2023, there is a hearing for SB585 a competing bill by Senator Niello, related to accessibility lawsuits which we support. It allows for a notice-to-cure before a lawsuit can be filed. Because of the opposition to SB585, we think it’s important to make sure that everyone who supports its notice and cure provision to voice their support. The bill will be introduced to the Judiciary Committee on May 2, between 2-5pm.
During the bill’s “me too” portion, the Committee will allow anyone who wishes to support the bill to call in (or show up in person) and state their name, occupation and that they support the bill. Below is the information for calling in, in case you want to provide this to anyone to call in: public participation line for May 2 hearing is 877-226-8216, and the access code is 6217161.
On June 7th, there will be a legislative hearing by California Commission for Disability Access. Attend that virtually or in person. For details contact the CCDA and make your voice heard: https://www.dgs.ca.gov/CCDA/Meetings
Read the AB 950 bill here
Read the WCAG criteria here
Download our 2022 ADA Website Lawsuits Report