The State of ADA Website Compliance in California

Let’s take a look at the state of ADA website compliance in California. So I’m going to work through a document. I have a number of bullet points, starting with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA. So this is one of the primary laws in play.

The other primary law in play is the Unruh Civil Rights Act, commonly referred to as the Unruh Act. Now, with the ADA, the remedies are injunctive relief, so the defendant would have to make the website accessible and attorneys fees. But plaintiffs lawyers prefer the Unruh Act because it can make a claim much more lucrative, as there is a $4,000 statutory minimum in damages per violation.

And what’s important to know is that the Unruh Act runs in parallel with the ADA. So that is to say that a violation of the ADA is going to result in a violation of the Unruh Act. The Unruh act is more expansive than the ADA. It covers a broader range of demographics, so it could be sex, religion, etc. But the Unruh Act also includes provisions for discrimination against disability. So the Unruh Act is going to run in parallel with the Ada there.

Now, what is very important is that recently there was a court decision which sealed that online only businesses can no longer be effectively sued. And this is both in federal and state court. So if you have an online business, an online only business really should not be there should not be any litigation forthcoming in the State of California for website accessibility. If you are a private entity, but if you have a physical location, then you become susceptible. And so that’s where we see any ADA website compliance claims. What we’re seeing is that there is a physical location along with the website.

So what happens in California, and this happens elsewhere, but we’ve seen it in California, is there are industries that are affected in quick succession. And when I say in quick succession, I mean the different businesses within those industries. So, for example, you might see a series of dentist office sued for ADA website compliance. The same thing has happened with plastic surgeons, restaurants, bike shops, breweries, cannabis shops, and the list goes on.

So what’s important to know here is that once an industry is targeted, it is very likely that other businesses within the industry will also be targeted. But it happens in quick succession, so that’s important to keep in mind.

The bad thing about ADA website compliance is many businesses are unaware that they can even be sued for a lack of website accessibility until it happens. So that’s part of what this channel is. I want people to be more aware that this is a possibility before it happens. But the reality is, most times people only contact me after they have been sued.

But in California, we do see industries targeted, but it can happen randomly too. There can also just be a company or even a small business that is sued randomly. And these don’t have to be large businesses. In fact, some of these smaller businesses that have been sued have actually had to shut down as a result of litigation. So this can be the smallest of businesses and it happens again and again, particularly with restaurants.

We see these small small businesses or small, small restaurants that are being sued because their website is inaccessible and the plaintiffs law firms involved. Over the years, I have seen several law firms, including Pacific Trial Attorneys, manning Law, Potter Handy. They may also have a division called the center for Disability Access. There’s been the Wilshire Law Firm mainly recently. I’ve only seen Pacific Trial Attorneys and Manning Law. Also in 2023 I saw the Hill Law Firm and I had not seen them previously. And of course there are other law firms that have been involved in this space, but we’ve also seen some exit this space. And I say exit in the sense that I haven’t seen any litigation or demand letters from these other law firms. And so they may have ceased with Ada website compliance litigation.

But these five sub bullet points of plaintiffs law firms, this is just to say, at some point in time I have seen them, but most recently active. I’ve definitely seen Pacific Trial Attorneys, I’ve definitely seen Manning Law and the Hill Law Firm recently. So this is generally what’s happening in the state of California. The best course of action is to be preventative.

This definitely can happen to you if you are looking for an exception within the state of California. Again, online only businesses can no longer be successfully sued. This doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be the target of litigation, but it does mean that you should, in theory be able to get that case dismissed. Of course, each case has its own specifics.

But what’s also important to remember is that Ada website compliance litigation is not limited to the State of California. So just because a California plaintiffs law firm might not file suit, it doesn’t mean that a law firm in another state wouldn’t file suit or send a demand letter. So that’s important to keep in mind. But this is a good general rundown either way.

You want to be proactive and make your website accessible now versus waiting into the future. So I have a course called the ADA Compliance Course that will help with this. And it really the course is designed as an SOP or step by step instructions to help your web team find and fix the most commonly claimed issues in litigation. So I have looked at all of the plaintiffs law firms who are active in this space and I have identified the issues, the accessibility issues that they are commonly claiming in litigation.

And this course, the lessons in this course are comprised of those issues. Specific, specific instructions for your web team on how to find and fix those issues. But California is an extremely litigious state. If you are lucky, you will get advanced notice if your industry is being targeted. But most people are not that lucky.