ADA Round-Up: Corporate Videos, Candidate Websites Lack Captions, Accessibility

Jul 23 2019 David Titmus
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Welcome to this month’s edition of “ADA in the News,” featuring recent news, updates, events, and rulings regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Lack of Captions on Orientation Videos Brings Lawsuit

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a suit against a Michigan-based management and maintenance services company, claiming that the company failed to accommodate an employee who is hard of hearing and fired her because of her disability.

According to the suit, Powerlink Facilities Management Services uses training videos during its orientation. These videos, however, are not captioned, making them inaccessible to many in the deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHOH) community.

The suit alleges that instead of providing reasonable accommodations, Powerlink did not allow the employee to receive orientation or start work for several months. Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Adding captions to all orientation and training videos not only helps satisfy ADA and Section 508 requirements, it also helps all employees retain more information. Captions also have been shown to keep an audience’s attention longer, effectively keeping them focused on the message. Adding captions to company videos enables employees to better focus and understand the presentations.

The EEOC is seeking compensation for the employee as well as an injunction prohibiting Powerlink from engaging in this type of conduct in the future.

Presidential Candidates’ Websites get Low Votes on Accessibility

A recent survey of the websites of the candidates in the race for the 2020 Presidential election found none to be fully accessible to voters with disabilities.

Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired reviewed the websites of the Democratic presidential candidates as well as those of President Donald Trump and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, and concluded that none of the campaign sites were fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The group assessed the candidates’ pages using 10 different criteria, such as whether the sites included logos and links with descriptive, alternative text that could be read by screen-reading software; options to change font size and color contrast; and forms that could easily be filled out.

The group scored each item on a scale of one to four, with one meaning not accessible, two meaning somewhat accessible, three meaning mostly accessible, and four representing fully accessible. The candidates, overall, averaged scores between two and three, with none scoring fours in all categories.

A source of continued confusion and debate before the courts, the are no specific regulations explaining what business entities must do to make their website accessible under the ADA’s Title III laws. Though rules are in place for government websites, some have questioned whether presidential campaign sites qualify as a government or private entity.

The number of ADA Title III lawsuits filed in federal court topped more than 10,000 in 2018, an increase of 34% from 2017 when the number was 7,663, according to a report by law firm Seyfarth Shaw.

Though the report counts many lawsuits regarding physical barriers among its numbers, one of the larger spikes came from federal cases alleging inaccessible websites. Seyfarth reports that the number of website accessibility suits filed in federal courts in 2018 rose to at least 2,258 – increasing by 177% from the 814 lawsuits fled in 2017.

Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is Florida’s largest and oldest organization serving the needs of blind and low-vision individuals.

EEOC Sues for Disability Discrimination

The EEOC filed a lawsuit against an Illinois-based limousine operator claiming that it refused to hire or provide accommodations for an applicant who is deaf.

The suit argues that M&M Limousine Service violated ADA laws after it refused to hire a man and failed to consider whether he could do the job, with or without reasonable accommodations. The EEOC said that M&M told the applicant that it could not hire him because he is deaf, despite the fact that he met the qualifications for the position.

The lawsuit seeks the court to issue an injunction against M&M prohibiting the company from engaging in employment practices that discriminate because of disability, and order M&M to carry out policies, practices, and programs that provide equal opportunities for people with disabilities.

The lawsuit also asks M&M to provide back pay and front pay as well as compensatory and punitive damages to the affected applicant.