For decades, lawyers for the disabled have used the Americans With Disabilities Act to force businesses to make their spaces more physically accessible, by adding ramps, widening doorways or lowering countertops.
But the steady migration of commerce and culture to the internet has given rise to a new flood of litigation, over the accessibility of websites to the visually impaired. The number of such lawsuits nationwide nearly tripled in 2018 over the year before.
Depending on one’s perspective, the suits are either salvos for civil rights or a way for lawyers to scrape the internet for a quick paycheck.
Most lawsuits are quickly settled, with the visually impaired plaintiffs earning a few hundred dollars per lawsuit and their lawyers pocketing thousands in legal fees.
According to advocates, a website could make itself accessible by providing narrated descriptions of what is on the screen or by working with software that does so.