OUR FOCUS, YOUR GOALS. The lawyers in Ogletree Deakins’ Disability Access Practice Group have extensive experience helping their clients face the multiple challenges presented by Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability access laws. From defending class actions, to ensuring compliance with federal and state building standards-thereby eliminating the conditions that lead to litigation-to navigating the complicated regulations covering service animals, hotel reservations, ticketing, and Segways, our work is comprehensive. Clients of the firm include businesses and organizations in a wide range of industries-stadiums and arenas, hotels, sports franchises, amusement parks, hospitals and other health care providers, national retailers, and local governments. The representative examples of our work, provided below, demonstrate the breadth and diversity of our practice. While an important part of our practice concerns typical compliance matters and litigation related to architectural barriers across the country, a significant portion of our practice reaches beyond those more basic ADA issues to include complex class actions and ADA cases with challenges varied and difficult. As time has passed, there has been a marked increase in new types of claims and areas of compliance, and our attorneys have substantial experience with more novel Title III issues involving website accessibility, pool lifts, point-of-sale devices, reasonable modification of policies, practices and procedures, and the provision of auxiliary aids and services for blind and deaf customers and guests. Our attorneys also work closely with clients to keep them informed of new legal developments and trends, from rising numbers of Title III class action cases to new and proposed federal and state regulations.
BUSINESS-ORIENTED COMPLIANCE SOLUTIONS. The Disability Access Practice Group is experienced in guiding clients through compliance challenges. In providing advice and counsel, we focus on finding practical, business-oriented solutions for cost-effective compliance. Some of the most common access issues and questions facing clients include the following:
- how to avoid the most common triggers for architectural barrier litigation;
- whether a website should be modified to allow access to the blind through screen-reading software, and to the deaf through captioning;
- how to establish a customer loyalty program that is accessible to disabled and non-disabled patrons;
- how to craft policies on issues ranging from Segway-usage and service animals to effective communication with deaf, blind, and mentally-disabled customers; and
- how to oversee national accessibility surveys and remediation plans.
To meet our clients’ compliance needs in this area, we have extensive experience providing advice and counsel to our clients’ businesses in the following areas:
- Architectural Audits: Clients commonly seek one of three approaches to evaluating and achieving architectural barrier compliance to best position their businesses to defend potential litigation.
- Comprehensive Audits: Clients often ask our attorneys to oversee a comprehensive review of their facilities to understand what steps would be necessary to achieve compliance and to help design a remediation plan that is highly defensible in the event of litigation. By having our attorneys work with outside experts, we provide attorney-client and work product privilege protections to these audits that will help protect businesses facing litigation regarding their compliance efforts.
- Basic Compliance Audits: Some clients ask us to help their businesses identify and eliminate the barriers that most commonly lead to architectural barrier litigation and develop a plan to achieve basic compliance to enhance the likelihood of avoiding the highest volume of architectural barrier litigation.
- Multi-Location Audits: Many retail, restaurant, and hospitality clients seek our advice in fashioning audit and remediation plans that tackle multiple locations, either on a national or regional basis, or in jurisdictions (such as Florida, California, and Texas) where access litigation is most common.
- Sports and Entertainment Ticketing Compliance: Since 2012, new federal regulations impose extensive obligations on businesses that host or promote events for which they sell or give away tickets. We can help identify the need for modification of ticketing and sales practices, through direct box office sales, Internet marketing and sales, and third-party ticketing agencies. We also develop policies and procedures to receive and process ticket-buyer requests for accommodations in seating, parking, and other operational steps.
- Hotel Industry Compliance: The same set of new federal regulations also imposes extensive obligations on hoteliers in their reservations practices, including their Internet reservations. Hotel owners and operators also need policies and procedures to receive and process guests’ requests for accommodations during their stays, and often a distinct kind of architectural audit.
- Health Care Compliance: Hospitals and other health care providers are increasingly common targets of access and auxiliary aids and services litigation. We have extensive experience advising these businesses to develop compliance programs that will help ensure compliance and insulate them from this litigation trend.
- Restaurant Compliance: Restaurants are frequently the targets of access litigation. In addition to the architectural audit and remediation work that is commonly needed in this industry, our attorneys help ensure basic parking, seating, and reservations policy compliance for members of the food and dining industry that will help eliminate the most common sources of their access litigation.
- Higher Education Compliance: Colleges and universities face a host of access compliance issues because, in addition to operating schools and educational programs in which students require architectural and educational accommodations and auxiliary aids, most such institutions operate stadiums and arenas, housing, temporary lodging, health care facilities, and restaurants, each of which have been common targets for disability access litigation. Our attorneys have the depth and breadth of experience to help colleges and universities through this broad range of compliance challenges.
- Fair Housing Compliance: Accessibility in private and public housing has also become a target for lawsuits. Our lawyers understand the unique challenges faced under federal and state fair housing laws, both in architectural compliance and policies and procedures to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled tenants and applicants.
- Reasonable Accommodation/Auxiliary Aid Practices: Although architectural barriers have traditionally been the most common source of ADA litigation, the trend is toward more challenges to the operational practices and policies of public accommodations. We have developed a refined set of policies and procedures that instruct guests and visitors on how reasonable accommodations and auxiliary aids and services may be sought, and that create effective practices for processing those requests.
- Training: Training is a critical component to ensure that the best policies and practices for disabled customers, patients, and guests are effectively implemented. We have extensive experience providing training for senior managers and the frontline employees who have direct customer and guest contact.
- Website Accessibility: Owing to the recent explosion of website accessibility litigation and threatened litigation, the Disability Access Practice Group has established a Website Accessibility Team whose members have collectively handled several dozens of these matters, often against the lawyers responsible for the highest volume of these matters. Hotels, retailers, schools, and entertainment companies have been the primary target of these lawsuits, but no industry whose business uses a website has been immune. Our lawyers are poised to help you assess your exposure, bring your website into compliance, and respond to opposing parties and their lawyers, who have turned this into a rapidly-expanding area of practice.Website Accessibility Team Members
In order to help clients provide these services in a manner customized to their business, and to achieve predictability in cost, we welcome the opportunity to design, on a complimentary basis, reasonable fee arrangements that meet our clients’ customized needs.
LITIGATION AND ADVOCACY As with most litigation, claims of accessibility violation are often presented in ways that allow resolution and remedy prior to the filing of a lawsuit. Our practice group attorneys have a practical understanding of threats made by customers, patrons, guests, or patients, and know how to help clients respond in ways that can often avoid litigation and reduce legal costs and accommodation retrofitting. When disputes turn into lawsuits or go to trial despite previous efforts to resolve them, our national network of practice group attorneys, experienced in successfully litigating the full range of Title III and other disability access legal claims, is available. Often, experts must be obtained to show compliance with laws and regulations, or to dispute claims of violation, so we have also established contact with leading experts in various disciplines. Our recent relevant litigation experience includes:
- website accessibility litigation brought by blind, visually-impaired, and manually-impaired Internet users;
- service animal litigation for national retailers and hoteliers;
- charges of failure to provide “reasonable modifications” by an autistic patron of a national book chain;
- multiple class action litigation matters, including:
- website accessibility litigation for members of the hospitality and amusement park industry;
- pool lift litigation in the hotel industry;
- claims of failure to provide “reasonable modifications” to autistic amusement park guests;
- claims of failure to provide transfer lifts and to remove architectural barriers for health care industry clients;
- claims of failure to provide “auxiliary aids and services” to blind and visually-impaired amusement park guests;
- inaccessibility claims regarding point-of-sale and automated teller machines (ATMs);
- national retailers’ architectural barrier litigation;
- the defense of large cities and other governments in challenges to the accessibility of sidewalks and curbs;
- defending hotels, stadiums, arenas, retail malls, big retailers, and other large venues in conventional architectural barrier litigation;
- defending major municipalities and other governmental units from sidewalk and curb litigation; and
- defending hospitals accused of failing to provide effective communication with hearing-impaired patients during their hospital stays and treatment.
Whatever the Title III needs a business faces, our team of experienced disability access lawyers across the country are available to help.