Advocacy: The Americans with Disabilities Act and The boutique Avanti Hotel

I wonder if our Accessible Canada Act will allow for this level of action?  The article pasted below can be found at this link:

 

Nov. 11–The boutique Avanti Hotel is known for its poolside, dog-friendly rooms. Yet its website uses the valuable opening page not to highlight the Palm

Springs inn’s amenities, but to explain, in stark black letters on a plain white background, that the Avanti violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

Like thousands of other businesses in the United States, the 10-room hotel on East Stevens Road has been sued because it hasn’t fully complied with the

1990 law that requires public places — hotels, restaurants and shops — to be accessible to people with disabilities.

 

But Avanti isn’t being accused of failing to build a wheelchair ramp or install handrails — common charges in the scores of ADA lawsuits in years past.

Instead, the lawsuit contends that the hotel’s website can’t be used by people who have problems seeing or hearing.

 

Avanti Hotel and others have been caught up in a recent wave of ADA lawsuits targeting websites across the country. The Trump administration’s decision

to stop drafting rules for website ADA compliance is widely seen as opening the floodgates to legal action.

 

Nearly 5,000 ADA lawsuits were filed in federal court for alleged website violations in the first six months of 2018, according to an analysis by Seyfarth

Shaw, a law firm that specializes in defending such cases. The firm predicted that the number of lawsuits will climb to nearly 10,000 by the end of the

year, a 30% increase from 2017.

 

With online sales, reservations and job postings now a huge part of modern commerce, advocates for the disabled say websites need to be as accessible to

everyone, just as brick-and-mortar stores, restaurants and schools are.

 

“We have been dealing with website issues for a long time,” said Jim Thom, past president and government affairs director for the California Council of

the Blind. “We want compliance. It is a serious problem, no question about it.”

 

For a website to be accessible to disabled people, the content must be coded so that screen-reading software can convert the words to an audio translation.

Video that appears on a website must include descriptions for the deaf. Also, all interactive functions must be operable through keyboard commands for

people who can’t use a mouse.

 

No formal government standards exist for private businesses to follow to ensure their websites comply with the ADA, although a consortium of web innovators

has created guidelines, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, to make websites more accessible to disabled people. Government websites already

follow those guidelines, but private business websites, which are typically loaded with images and video, tend to be more difficult to overhaul to meet

the guidelines, experts say.

 

The cost of making sites accessible ranges from several thousand dollars to a few million dollars, depending on the complexity of the site, according to

trade groups and business owners.

 

ADA lawsuits, filed in federal and state courts, have targeted the websites of retailers (including Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. supermarkets), restaurants (including

Domino’s Pizza Inc.) and universities (including Harvard and MIT).

 

The Hooters restaurant chain was sued last year, even after the chain agreed to fix its website as part of a settlement of a previous lawsuit. A federal

appeals court ruled that Hooters remained vulnerable to lawsuits until it fixed the website under the previous lawsuit settlement.

 

Earlier this month, the American Council of the Blind announced that it had reached a settlement with the streaming service Hulu to make Hulu’s website

and software app more accessible to blind users.

 

The cost of defending such lawsuits can be burdensome for small businesses such as the Avanti Hotel.

 

Fixing the site would cost about $3,000, which hotel manager Jim Rutledge said he is willing to pay. But the lawsuit demands the hotel also pay damages

to the plaintiff, and Rutledge said his lawyers advise him that he may have to settle for between $8,000 and $13,000.

 

“I would really like to fight it, but it just comes down to finances,” he said, estimating that he could be forced to pay up to $25,000 in damages, plus

lawyer fees, if he fights the suit and loses. In the meantime, several pages of the hotel’s website have been replaced with plain type because “no access

is equal access for everyone, per the ADA requirements,” the site notes.

 

Some trade groups say the lawyers and plaintiffs who file many of these lawsuits are only interested in using the law to pocket hefty court-imposed damages.

 

“Simply put, for those who are abusing the system, it’s about money, not about expanding access,” said Peter Clerkin, a spokesman for the Asian American

Hotel Owners Assn., which is advising its members to make websites ADA-compliant and not wait to get sued.

 

Since it was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act has been cited thousands of times in lawsuits

filed against hotels, restaurants and shops to remove physical barriers for disabled people.

 

As early as 2009, the act was cited in lawsuits that targeted the websites of businesses and universities, saying the online portals must be just as accessible

to disabled people as the buildings that house businesses and schools.

 

In 2010, the Justice Department began to draft formal regulations for websites to meet ADA goals. But last December, the agency announced it was withdrawing

its “rulemaking process,” at a time when the Trump administration was calling for a rollback of federal regulations.

 

The department said it was killing the regulations because it was “evaluating whether promulgating regulations about the accessibility of web information

and services is necessary and appropriate.”

 

In a June 20 letter, 103 members of Congress — Republicans and Democrats — urged then-Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to adopt website regulations, saying the

absence of such regulations “only fuels the proliferations of these suits.”

 

Lawyers who defend ADA lawsuits say the Justice Department’s actions to pull the plug on adopting new regulations may have instigated the latest surge

in lawsuits.

 

Business owners who are sued under the ADA complain that the law allows plaintiffs to demand huge payouts in damages without first giving the business

owner the opportunity to fix the websites.

 

California leads other states by far in ADA lawsuits filed over website accessibility, according to the Seyfarth Shaw analysis. That may be because a California

law sets a minimum dollar amount for damages of $4,000 plus attorney’s fees for each ADA violation, a minimum not imposed in most other states. The minimum,

according to lawyers who defend such lawsuits, makes suing in California more lucrative.

 

The lawsuit against Rutledge’s hotel was filed by Manning Law in Newport Beach. The plaintiff was Kayla Reed, who is described as a resident of Montana.

Manning Law has filed 355 ADA cases, primarily in California, in the last 12 months, according to court records.

 

In an email, Joseph Manning, an attorney at Manning Law, declined to comment on the case against the Avanti Hotel, but rejected criticism that his lawsuits

are intended to enrich him and his clients.

 

“This case will not be resolved without addressing the accessibility concerns in the complaint, of that I can assure you,” he said.

 

Reed, who is described in the Avanti lawsuit as visually impaired, is listed as a plaintiff on more than three dozen lawsuits in federal court and in state

courts in Ventura and San Bernardino counties, court records show. The defendants in her lawsuits include Kmart, Hugo Boss, David’s Bridal and CVS Pharmacies.

 

The Los Angeles Times couldn’t locate Reed, and Manning said she would not comment on her lawsuits. But he said that money is the “least important issue

for her in these cases,” adding that “private enforcement of these laws is also the means devised by Congress to enforce these laws without burdening the

taxpayer.”

 

Manning was listed as Reed’s lawyer in a Ventura County Superior Court suit against CVS in 2017, according to court records. In the suit, she is described

as a resident of Ventura County who was seeking $75,000 in damages, saying that the CVS website was not accessible to blind people.

 

The case was eventually transferred to U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The case was dismissed Dec. 8, 2017, when the court was notified that a settlement

had been reached. The details of that settlement were not disclosed.

 

Manning declined to comment on the settlement.

 

Asked to comment, CVS issued a statement saying the company is “committed to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws and regulations

related to assisting individuals with disabilities.”

 

___

 

(c)2018 the Los Angeles Times

 

Visit the Los Angeles Times at

http://www.latimes.com

 

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

Re-Blog: Three blind Maryland residents and the National Federation of the Blind are suing Walmart, alleging that the company violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because its self-checkout kiosks are not fully accessible to blind customers.

Hi GTT Participants.  Have any of you tried to use Self-Help Checkout Kiosks? Is this something for the Accessible Canada Act?

Advisen Canada Front Page News

advisen.com

 

Advisen Canada Front Page News

4-5 minutes

——————————————————————————–

 

Oct. 29–Three blind Maryland residents and the National Federation of the Blind are suing Walmart, alleging that the company violates the Americans with

Disabilities Act because its self-checkout kiosks are not fully accessible to blind customers.

 

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, also claims that an employee at the Walmart in Owings Mills allegedly attempted to take money from

one of the plaintiffs while she was checking out at the store.

 

The suit claims that a staff member at the Owings Mills store on Reisterstown Road was assisting Cynthia Morales with a purchase at a self-checkout kiosk

in July 2017 when the employee selected an option for cash back from her debit card and took $40 without her knowledge.

 

“It’s important for blind people to be able to use the machines independently … so that people are not stealing from us,” Morales, a Parkville resident,

said in an interview. “We should be treated like everybody else — when we come into the store we would like to check out at the self-checkout quickly

just like everybody else, and I know that the technology is out there.”

 

In addition to Morales, other plaintiffs include Linwood Boyd, a Pikesville resident who was shopping with Morales when the alleged incident occurred;

Baltimore resident Melissa Sheeder; the National Federation of the Blind Inc. and the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.

 

The plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction that would require Walmart to make its self-service kiosks throughout the U.S. accessible to blind customers;

a declaration that Walmart has been violating the ADA; and court costs and attorneys’ fees.

 

According to the suit, Morales and Boyd were checking out at a self-service kiosk when Morales handed an employee her debit card and instructed the employee

to enter her pin number on the keypad. She expected to pay about $80 for her items, according to the suit. During the transaction, the screen prompted

the users to take money from the machine, the suit claims. When Morales and Boyd left the store, they asked a bystander to read the receipt and realized

Morales was charged about $120.

 

They re-entered the store and called police, and the $40 was ultimately returned, according to the complaint.

 

“Money was stolen from one of our members and certainly we deplore that,” said Chris Danielsen, a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind.

 

Danielsen said that even without the incident at Owings Mills, it’s “unacceptable” that sight-impaired patrons can’t serve themselves. “The technology

exists for Walmart and other entities that are using these kind of self-service kiosks,” he said.

 

Sheeder claims in the suit that she shops at Walmart at least once a week, and she and a friend attempted to use a self-checkout kiosk in July 2018. When

they were unable to operate it, they were directed to a full-service checkout lane, where they had to wait in line.

 

“We don’t tolerate discrimination, and we believe our checkout procedures comply with applicable law,” Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for Walmart, said in

an emailed statement late Friday. “When we learned of this specific situation with Ms. Morales, we looked into the matter and as a result, the associate

is no longer with the company. We take this matter seriously and will respond as appropriate with the court.”

 

Danielsen said he’s not aware of any large retailers that incorporate self-checkout kiosks that are fully accessible to blind people, but he pointed to

self-service software for machines such as ATMs, Amtrak ticket booths and taxicabs that allow blind people to operate the devices independently.

 

“We know that it’s possible to make a self-checkout kiosk accessible. It just has to be thought of at the design stage,” said Jessica P. Weber, an attorney

who is part of a team from the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy representing the plaintiffs. The lawsuit says the National Federation of the Blind

attempted to work with Walmart to address problems with the kiosks prior to filing suit.

 

“The civil rights of blind people can’t wait indefinitely and so we’re going to forge ahead,” Weber said.

 

smeehan@baltsun.com

 

twitter.com/sarahvmeehan

 

___

 

(c)2018 The Baltimore Sun

 

Visit The Baltimore Sun at

http://www.baltimoresun.com

 

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

 

CCB Press Release: Accessible Canada Act

CCB Press Release: Accessible Canada Act
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Canadian Council of the Blind Logo
Press Release re Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81):

As President of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB), it is a pleasure to send this message to inform you, about the proposed Accessible Canada Act. We
want to thank Minister Duncan for introducing the act, as well as Minister Qualtrough for the initial steps in the process. This Act has been through the
first reading and tabled until fall sitting.
Thank you to all of you who attended the consultations held in your communities over the past two years. We as an organization have had representation
in meetings with the Ministry of Disabilities, Sports and Science on this act as well. We are pleased with the bill once passed, and any amendments that
may come, will ensure that our shared spaces will be more accessible to all, job opportunities will increase and transportation improved.

Please read the letter from Government of Canada below for further details.

Sincerely,

Louise Gillis, National President
The Canadian Council of the Blind
100-20 James St.
Ottawa, ON
K2P 0T6

Minister Duncan introduces the proposed Accessible Canada Act

From:
Employment and Social Development Canada

News release

Most significant progress for people with disabilities in over 30 years

June 20, 2018                    Gatineau, Quebec
Employment and Social Development Canada

Today, following the most inclusive and accessible consultation with Canadians with disabilities and with the disability community, the Honourable Kirsty
Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, introduced the proposed Accessible Canada Act to Parliament. This historic
legislation would enable the Government of Canada to take a proactive approach to end systemic discrimination of people with disabilities.

The goal of the legislation is to benefit all Canadians, especially Canadians with disabilities, through the progressive realization of a barrier-free
Canada. The act would establish a model to eliminate accessibility barriers and lead to more consistent accessibility in areas under federal jurisdiction
across Canada.

The bill outlines how the Government of Canada will require organizations under federal jurisdiction to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility,
including in:

list of 6 items
• the built environment (buildings and public spaces);
• employment (job opportunities and employment policies and practices);
• information and communication technologies (digital content and technologies used to access it);
• the procurement of goods and services;
• the delivery of programs and services; and
• transportation (by air as well as by rail, ferry and bus carriers that operate across provincial, territorial or international borders).
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The Government of Canada is providing funding of approximately $290 million over six years that will further the objectives of the new legislation.

The act would strengthen the existing rights and protections for people with disabilities, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian
Human Rights Act and Canada’s approval of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It will do this through the development,
implementation and enforcement of accessibility standards, as well as the monitoring of outcomes in priority areas. These requirements will be enforced
by the new powers and enforcement measures needed to ensure compliance, and overall implementation will be monitored. No longer will Canadians with disabilities
be expected to fix the system through human rights complaints, instead, new proactive compliance measures will ensure that organizations under federal
jurisdiction are held accountable to ensuring accessible practices.

As the Government of Canada moves forward with the implementation of the proposed act, continued and meaningful participation by Canadians with disabilities
will be crucial towards realizing a barrier-free Canada.

The Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO) will be Canada’s first-ever standards development organization exclusively dedicated
to accessibility issues and will be led by persons with disabilities.

In keeping with the objectives of the bill and respecting the Government’s approach to historic and modern treaties, we will also support the work of First
Nations leaders and communities to improve accessibility on reserve.

While this legislation is a significant first step in ensuring a barrier-free Canada for all Canadians, the Government of Canada will work collaboratively
with partners in both the public and private sectors to create opportunities for full participation by people with disabilities in their communities and
workplaces, and to help change the way society thinks, talks and acts about disability and accessibility.

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“Society benefits when all Canadians can fully participate. The proposed accessible Canada act represents the most important federal legislative advancement
of disability rights in Canada in over 30 years. Thank you to the many community leaders and advocates who have worked for years and decades to make this
happen. With the proposed act now in Parliament, we are one step closer to our goal: to have a truly inclusive and accessible Canada.”

– The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
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“Today’s announcement marks a significant milestone in improving accessibility for all Canadians. As a life-long advocate for disability rights and a person
living with a disability myself, I am proud to lead a portfolio tasked with enhancing accessibility in federal buildings and establishing an accessible
procurement resource centre. This important work will help ensure the goods and services purchased and offered by the Government of Canada are more accessible
for all Canadians.”

– The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement
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Quick facts
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• In 2012, approximately 14 percent of Canadians aged 15 years or older reported having a disability.

• Between 2011 and 2016, disability-related complaints represented just over half of all the discrimination complaints received by the Canadian Human Rights
Commission.

• The 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability indicates that there are approximately 412,000 people with disabilities who had the potential and willingness
to work, but who were unable to secure or retain employment.

• According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, 49 percent of people with disabilities aged 25 to 64 were employed, compared with 79 percent of
Canadians without disabilities.
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Related products
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• Summary of the accessible Canada act
• Backgrounder: Tabling the proposed Accessible Canada Act – Engagement
• Backgrounder: Accessible Government
• Backgrounder: Opportunities Fund enhancements support recruitment and retention of persons with disabilities
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Associated links
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• Accessible Canada
• What we learned report
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