Clicking Towards Disaster: The Cost of ADA Non-Compliant Websites

Litigation Practice Group

By Litigation Practice Group

website accessibilityIn today’s world, businesses increasingly rely on the internet, making websites invaluable tools for reaching and expanding a customer base. If you have an interactive website on which you conduct transactions with consumers, it must be accessible by anyone, including those with a hearing or vision impairment. A website that doesn’t adequately support the user experience (“UX”) for those with such impairments creates obstacles to its use and creates potential liability.

Unfortunately, the first notice a company receives about website accessibility issues may come via a lawsuit. Often filed in Federal Courts of states other than the company’s home state (New York and California being the most common), complaints alleging a company’s website is inaccessible or unusable by someone with a particular disability are proliferating. Discrimination in public accommodations is prohibited under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Federal Courts are split on whether stand-alone websites (i.e., where the owner of the website does not operate a store, restaurant, hotel, or other physical location) are places of public accommodation to which Title III’s accessibility standards apply.

Most companies would appreciate being notified of website deficiencies preventing a user from utilizing their site and be given the opportunity to correct any accessibility issues. Once a lawsuit is filed, it may be too late to prevent lengthy, expensive litigation over the issue, short of settling. Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief plus attorney’s fees, which may skyrocket if the case is not settled expeditiously. They often also seek compensatory damage awards with state anti-discrimination claims. While these lawsuits are multiplying, the law in this area is still developing , leading to difficulties obtaining a swift resolution as the interpretation of the law evolves, and often splits, among circuits.

Most of these lawsuits are filed by a handful of plaintiffs represented by a handful of law firms alleging that a website does not comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). While the exact criteria required to avoid running afoul of the ADA has not been determined, the WCAG addresses accessibility issues such as contrast for those with difficulties differentiating colors, subtitles, or compatibility with screen reader software for those with vision impairment.

So, what should you do? Continue reading »

New Family and Medical Leave Act Guidance for Families of Adult Children with Disabilities

Estate Planning Practice Group

By Estate Planning Practice Group

Families now have clarification on when parents may use leave to care for an adult child with a mental or physical disability.

On January 14, 2013, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor issued additional guidance to help employers determine eligibility of employees to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when the employee has an adult child with a mental or physical disability incapable of self-care due to a serious health condition.

Generally,  entitlement to FMLA leave ends when a child is 18 years old. “Incapable of self-care” means that the individual requires active assistance or supervision to provide daily self-care in three or more of the “activities of daily living” or “instrumental activities of daily living.” Continue reading »

Financial Exploitation of the Elderly and Disabled Crime Modified to Include Undue Influence

Estate Planning Practice Group

By Estate Planning Practice Group

Senior citizens and the disabled in Missouri will soon have additional protection from financial exploitation.

On July 11, 2012, Missouri SB 689 was signed by Governor Jay Nixon. SB 689 modifies the crime of financial exploitation of the elderly to include “undue influence.”

“Undue influence” is defined under the bill as:

“… influence by a person who has authority over the elderly or disabled person in order to take unfair advantage of the person’s vulnerable state of mind, neediness, pain, or agony. It includes improper use of various types of fiduciary authority.”

Under the bill, the Department of Social Services may now release the income and asset information of an individual in a licensed nursing home facility to the prosecuting attorney for purposes of investigation or prosecution of financial exploitation.

Continue reading »

Is Your Condominium Building Compliant With The Americans With Disabilities Act?

Jeffrey R. Schmitt

By Jeffrey R. Schmitt

An aging baby-boomer generation and the increasing choice by empty-nesters to lower maintenance responsibilities and move into multi-unit residential buildings pose an interesting question for property managers and condominium board members. As a building’s age demographic increases, does a condominium association have an obligation to make the units or common areas accessible to persons with disabilities? Condominiums and other multi-unit residential developments present unique issues, because the building includes both private dwellings and public places. Some developments even include public commercial spaces as well. Given this dichotomy, building management will have to consider if, and what parts, of the building need to be accessible.

The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public services, public accommodations and services operated by private entities and common carriers. However, according to a supplement issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, strictly residential facilities are not covered under Title III of the ADA. What may pose a dilemma for a condominium, though, is that certain common areas, which are located in residential facilities, are considered places of public accommodation in some circumstances. The ADA identifies 12 categories of places of public accommodation:

  1. Inns, hotels or places of lodging;
  2. Restaurants, bars or establishments serving food and drink;
  3. Movie theaters, concert halls or stadiums;
  4. Auditoriums, lecture halls or convention centers;
  5. Bakers, grocery stores or other sales or rental establishments;
  6. Laundromats, dry cleaners, banks, barber shops or other service establishments;
  7. Terminals, depots or public transportation stations;
  8. Museums, libraries or galleries;
  9. Parks, zoos or amusement parks;
  10. Nurseries and schools;
  11. Day care centers, senior centers or other social service establishments; and
  12. Gymnasiums, health spas or places of exercise or recreation.

Depending on the nature of the condominium building, some of these categories of places of public accommodation may be applicable. Property managers and the building’s board must consider the possibility that federal law imposes obligations to provide reasonable accommodations with persons with disabilities, whether residents or members of the general public. This is especially important if a building is considering renovations to common areas or commercial portions of a building.

Continue reading »

Back to School Time for Children with Special Needs

Estate Planning Practice Group

By Estate Planning Practice Group

The Illinois Suburban Journal has posted a great article on “Unique first day pressures face kids with special needs.”

Changes in routine can be upsetting for any child with special needs, especially a child with autism.

Prior to the first day of school, if you have a child with special needs, it’s probably a good idea to communicate with the school to set up a time for you and your child to meet the new teacher and see the classroom. The teacher should spend enough time with you and your child to walk through what the new routine will be this school year.

Spending time establishing a relationship with your child’s teacher will help you, your child, and the teacher understand better how to ease your child into that first day of school. If your child’s teacher learns about your child’s special triggers and sensitivities before the first day of school, it can make the transition much better. It can also help the teacher help prepare better for your child if special preparation needs to be made, such as extra visual charts for the class schedule, as suggested in the Journal article.

Once school is underway, your child’s special services will begin. When your special needs child attends public school and is receiving special educational services, the school is required to provide your child with an individualized education plan (IEP). An IEP must be updated yearly to ensure that a child is receiving the necessary services to achieve that child’s goals. It will be important to educate yourself about the IEP process and what can and should be included in your child’s plan.

When you have a child with special needs, you will have to continue to advocate for your child throughout his or her educational process. At times, it will feel like a never ending battle with the school to ensure that your child is receiving necessary services.

But in the end, it is up to you to stay on top of your child’s educational process. Consult the experts, attend seminars your school district provides, and be your child’s educational advocate.

Special Needs Kids: Autism Elopement

Estate Planning Practice Group

By Estate Planning Practice Group

CNN released an article today titled “‘Eye on the door’: Life with autism wandering” about children with autism who tend to wander off. Whether you are in public or at home, the thought of your child wandering off can be terrifying for any parent. Parents of a child with any diagnosis that causes the child to have more of a tendency to attempt to escape parental supervision should take extra precautions.  Here are a few ideas from the article:

  1. Make sure you have your child fingerprinted by your local law enforcement agency. Often the police department will have kits parents can obtain to fingerprint and list other vital information.
  2. Contact your local law enforcement agency and see if they have a registration program. Many municipalities are instituting programs for the elderly with dementia or Alzhemeir’s in the event they are found but cannot remember where they live. See if the municipality has a similar program or advocate for the implementation of such a program in your neighborhood.
  3. Educate your neighbors regarding your child’s diagnosis and tendency to run away. Let them know where you live and how to contact you in the event that see your child unsupervised.
  4. Be aware of dangers in your neighborhood. If the child has a strong interest in water, such as the child in the article, make sure you know who has swimming pools in the neighborhood and whether those pools have fences. If moving to a new neighborhood, make sure to check the code requirements for swimming pools and know whether the neighborhood required a proper fence.
  5. Install alarms on your windows and doors that alert you if a door is opened.
  6. Finally, GPS tracking devices are now sold in bracelet and necklace form. For a child that will tolerate wearing one, these can be an excellent device to locate a wandering child.

Whatever steps you take to secure your child from escaping parental supervision, make sure you educate yourself about the resources in the community and be aware of the potential dangers in your neighborhood.

Skip to content