Peter Blanck Comments on College Website Accessibility Lawsuits
(Inside Higher Ed | Dec. 10, 2018) 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.
Despite the court cases being filed in New York's Southern District, the institutions targeted are located all over the country. All are private colleges, universities or conservatories, and include large research universities such as Northeastern University and Drexel University. Both institutions said they do not comment on ongoing legal matters. Also being sued are Cornell University, Vanderbilt University, the California Institute of the Arts, Oberlin College, Loyola University New Orleans, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and many others.
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 ...
... 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.
Whether Camacho is a disability rights advocate or an opportunist is irrelevant, said Peter Blanck, University Professor of law at Syracuse University and chairman of the Burton Blatt Institute, which aims to advance the participation of people with disabilities in society.
“It’s beside the point whether there are 50 or 1,000 lawsuits,” said Blanck. “These cases are reflective of a larger systemic problem—that there is a lack of a strong commitment by many institutions to try to be as inclusive as possible.”
It’s been almost 30 years since the ADA was passed, and we should have made more progress, said Blanck. “Way back in the '90s I was asked to testify whether or not websites would be subject to the ADA,” he said. “There is no question that universities have been on notice for a long time.”