Fox Business host Stuart Varney calls lawsuits to make websites accessible to Americans with disabilities "a legalized racket"
Varney: "This kind of thing in America drives me nuts. I just find it a legal money grab."
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From the July 24 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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STUART VARNEY (HOST): Businesses hit by a record wave of lawsuits in connection with Americans with Disabilities Act. In particular lawsuits that allege websites are not ADA compliant. One thousand such lawsuits actually filed this year alone, just so far this year, 2018, more this year than in all of 2017. One of the lawyers who crunched the numbers on this show joins us now. Minh Vu with Seyfarth Shaw. Minh welcome to the program. Good to see you.
MINH VU: Thank you.
VARNEY: First of all, in what way is a website non-ADA compliant?
VU: Well, so websites have to be designed and constructed in a way that is accessible to people with disabilities. So people who are blind, for example, use screen reader software. And that has to interact with the website. If the website is not designed to interact with it properly it is not going to work.
VARNEY: So a blind person could sue the website and say, you're not taking care of me under the terms of the act, I want you to make sure you get it right and pay me some money, is that how it works?
VU: Pretty much, yes.
VARNEY: OK. Supposing someone is deaf, can you insist that the website speaks to you, has an audio portion? That’s part of it?
VU: Well, actually if you're deaf then you would want to have closed-captioning on your online videos.
VARNEY: Yeah. OK. OK. I'm sorry --
VU: For the blind people, yes. The blind people would need -- the website doesn't have to speak to them. It’s the fact that the website has to be compatible with the screen reader software that then reads the content and functionality to the person who’s blind.
VARNEY: This kind of thing in America drives me nuts. I just find it a legal money grab. Am I going too far?
VU: Some of it’s a money grab. Some of it’s legitimate. Put it this way, everything is online now, right? And so it is very difficult to basically do anything without being to be on a website and be able to access it. So those are legitimate concerns. And there are lots of advocates who are legitimately concerned. The problem is that many of the plaintiffs’ lawyers have figured out that the vast majority of businesses are not -- don't have an accessible website, because everybody was kind of caught with their pants down. There are no regulations on this, and the courts have started to basically come out saying yes, your website has to be accessible. So everybody is caught kind of unaware. And these plaintiffs’ lawyers are taking advantage.
VARNEY: This could be wildly expensive. If every single website has to be ADA compliant, that’s wildly expensive, isn't it?
VU: It’s really expensive, absolutely. You think about how many millions of websites are out there? I don't even think there are enough consultants to help people. This is not something you and I can just figure out.
VARNEY: No, it’s not. OK, so the lawyer files the suit and says you're not compliant. What does the lawyer say? Make your website compliant and/or give me money, is that how it works?
VU: No, usually they ask for give me money and make the website compliant.
VARNEY: Give me money, and make it-- so punitively give me money. And does the lawyer collect --
VU: Well, it's more -- OK, the ADA allows lawyers to get their attorneys’ fees if they win. So as part of the settlement you’re going to have to pay their fees, but sometimes those fees don't necessarily have anything to do with actual time spent.
VARNEY: No, of course they don't.
VU: Because otherwise the alternative is to litigate the case, and that’s very expensive.
VARNEY: I'm sorry, but I do find that a racket. I’m just -- I find it a racket. A legalized racket. I'm sure you don't agree with me. I’ll give the last word to you.
VU: It’s -- put it this way, we do defense work, so obviously we're benefiting from this, but the situation is wrong. There should be regulations on this, there should a process, clear rules, and time for businesses to basically make their websites accessible.
VARNEY: All right, Minh Vu, you're not quite joining me in the outrage but --
VARNEY: Come back again and maybe you will.