Via Inside Higher Ed:
Jason Camacho, a blind resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., is suing 50 colleges over the accessibility of their websites.
The 50 lawsuits, filed in November, say the colleges are in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, as their websites are not accessible to people with disabilities. Camacho uses a screen reader and said he experienced barriers when trying to access the colleges’ websites.
The lawsuits, which all appear to have similar wording, argue that because the colleges recruit students in New York, the colleges can be sued in New York. All the colleges recently took part in a college fair in New York City for prospective students interested in performing and visual arts, which Camacho says he attended.
While there are disability advocates who have single-handedly filed thousands of ADA complaints against colleges and universities to U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, there are few individuals who have taken so many colleges to court, said Chris Danielsen, director of public relations at the National Federation of the Blind. That group has sued many colleges and reached settlements with others over issues similar to those raised in the new round of lawsuits.
Filing a lawsuit as a first move “puts universities on the defensive and is automatically adversarial,” said Danielsen. But he added “it’s not necessarily a bad thing that someone who isn’t attending a university yet is doing some advocacy.”
The trend of somebody finding an accessibility issue on a website, “however big or small,” and filing a lawsuit is not unique to college and universities, said Danielsen. “There are plaintiffs and lawyers who just take a category of business, like wineries for example, and just sue a bunch of them all at once.”
Filing large numbers of similarly worded ADA lawsuits against one type of business is sometimes referred to as “drive-by” litigation. This activity is widely seen as a means to get a quick settlement, rather than improve accessibility.