LAWSUIT DE JOUR: ADA WEBSITE COMPLIANCE VIOLATIONS
In CALSAGA’s Annual Conference last October, we warned about the rise in lawsuits based on persons claiming they were denied equal access to the websites of various businesses. As we discussed, the failure to comply with state and federal laws allowing for disabled persons to have equal access to business websites – based on such factors as keyboard navigation, text size, compatibility with screen reader software, etc. – could potentially expose private security companies to state and federal fines, not to mention individual or class action lawsuits.
Just last month, the California Court of Appeal made a decision in one of these cases. In Martinez v. San Diego County Credit Union, the Court aimed to help more people with disabilities have access to online businesses and services on their own. In 2017, Mr. Martinez – who is blind – sued his credit union because its official website was not compatible with software allowing him to “read” online content.
Mr. Martinez’ software was designed to read special codes on websites and translate their contents into audible speech which could be played on his computer. Mr. Martinez explained that this kind of screen-reading software was “the only method by which a blind person may independently access the internet.”
Mr. Martinez claimed that the Credit Union violated Civil Code Section 51, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act (“UCRA”). The Act requires that all disabled persons be given “equal access” to “public accommodations.” Because other, non-blind customers could arrange for in-person appointments or learn more about banking options through the website, Mr. Martinez claimed he was denied equal access to all of the services that the Credit Union had to offer.
The Court agreed with Mr. Martinez, and decided that the Credit Union website was covered by the state’s Civil Rights Act. Although the Act is over 30 years old – far older than websites – the Court accepted that “websites have become central to American life.”
In making this decision, the Court also said something we already knew – that “during the current pandemic, the Internet and websites have become even more critical.” As more and more of us depend on the internet to shop for groceries, order prescriptions, or just carry out our daily business, it is more important than ever for security companies to take steps to make their websites compliant with the ADA and the UCRA. This need for “equal access” applies to job applicants, employees, clients, and even prospective clients alike.
One way of improving your website’s “equal access” compliance can be obtained through UNeedADA.com. With this service, security companies can minimize their potential exposure and have continuous, 24-hour monitoring of their website to maintain proper compliance. A special discounted rate is available for CALSAGA members.
If you have any questions about how the Martinez case and other rulings on disabled-person access can affect your business, contact Barry Bradley, Esq. or Jaimee Wellerstein, Esq. for a consultation.
If you have any questions as to how this ruling might affect your business, feel free to contact Bradley & Gmelich so we can help you with your specific needs.
Barry A. Bradley is the Managing Partner of Bradley & Gmelich LLP located in Glendale, California, where he heads up the firm’s Private Security Team and oversees the Employment and Business Departments at the firm. A former Deputy District Attorney, Barry’s practice concentrates on representing business owners in employment, business and licensing issues, as well as defending litigated cases involving negligent security, employment and business related issues. The firm acts as general counsel for many security companies in California. Barry is the Legal Advisor to CALSAGA.
He has been conferred an AV-Preeminent Peer Rating by Martindale Hubbell, the highest rating attainable, and has been named a Southern California Super Lawyer for the past 14 consecutive years in the area of Business Litigation. Barry is also the recipient of CALSAGA’s Security Professional Lifetime Achievement Award. email@example.com 818-243-5200.
Mark Melo is Special Counsel in Bradley & Gmelich’s Law and Motion Department, with particular emphasis in premises liability, products liability, general civil litigation, and business litigation matters. Mark coordinates pre-trial motions for our trial teams and has successfully argued before the California Court of Appeals. Mark also trains and mentors attorneys and law clerks employed by the Firm. firstname.lastname@example.org