People who are visually impaired file lawsuits over ADA compliance

Right now, lawsuits are pending across the country, as companies are being repeatedly sued for not having websites accessible to the blind.

Southwest Florida is no exception.

But when you think about Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, what comes into mind? For most, it is handicap parking, ramps, railings — all physical entities — and not websites.

For the visually impaired, like Sandy Burke, they know website accessibility is not always easy.

“There are some websites that you go on and it’s not always user-friendly,” Sandy Burke said.

Many with disabilities have taken the lack of website accessibility to court. Last year, three lawsuits a day were filed for the first six months of the year, according to the Bureau of Internet Accessibility.

Last week, a Miami Dade man filed suit against Charlotte County for lack of access to PDF documents. The county has not responded to the lawsuit. But keep in mind, the growth of the internet took off long after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law.

“Few people use telephone books or other means of ways of finding information that we used to use prior to the last 10 or 15 years,” Dotty St. Amand said.

St. Amand, director of Lighthouse of Southwest Florida, said the group teaches the visually impaired, like Burke, to work with assistive technology.

“Like all of us sighted or not, it’s important for us to be able to access technology and live in the society that we want to function in,” St. Amand said.

But accessibility does not stop there as many have been advocating on the use of closed caption for the hearing impaired when watching videos.

“Think about a hurricane,” said Alicia Miller, executive director of Death and Hard Hearing Center. “If everybody on the news is explaining what to do where to go, the protocol for the hurricane — how are they going to understand if there’s not close captioning.”

Reporter:Brea Hollingsworth
Writer:Michael Mora
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