House Bill 2296 and Senate Bill 1302 have been introduced in the 2019 Virginia General Assembly Session. These bills would require a person who is blind or vision impaired or deaf or hard of hearing who finds that a bank or other financial institution’s website is inaccessible to notify the bank about the inaccessible website and give them at least four months to comply with ADA before one could file a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or other disability rights law.
The bills place the burden of responsibility on the individual to take screen shots of the noncompliant websites and send this evidence by certified mail to the violating entity. Other words, an entity would have no reason to comply with the ADA to make their websites accessible until someone gave them evidence of what is not accessible and takes action to bring a civil action in court.
Like the bill introduced in last year (SB199), this bill seeks to weaken the right of people with disabilities to seek redress in the courts, a right guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We defeated SB 199 and we must act to defeat this attempt to diminish our civil rights, too.
This legislation appears to be part of a nationwide effort to challenge the ADA. That effort to weaken disability rights includes bills introduced in numerous state legislatures throughout the country and bills introduced in Congress that would weaken federal law.
Supporters of these bills have raised concerns about the misuse of disability rights by attorneys to leverage attorney fees. The courts and the State Bar can deal with those problems in better ways, without taking away the rights of people with disabilities. If websites were accessible, the need to bring legal action to compel accessibility would be moot.
If this new bill in Virginia isn’t withdrawn or defeated, it could lead to a new effort to adopt a bill like SB199 which required notification and a period of cure before a Virginian with a disability could commence a lawsuit to challenge violations of the accessibility requirements of any disability rights law in a Virginia court.
HB2296 and SB1302 fail to acknowledge the goodwill that people with disabilities and businesses have developed to expand access. The bills establish an adversarial process and will make it more difficult to work with businesses that need to make their websites accessible.
Action needed immediately. Contact the patrons of the bills.
Delegate James Leftwich, DelJLeftwich@house.virginia.gov, 804-698-1078, patron of House Bill 2296
Senator George Barker, firstname.lastname@example.org, 804-698-7539, patron of Senate Bill 1302
Let them know that HB2296/SB1302 will make it harder for people to access websites, why having access to websites of banks and credit unions is important, and the bills would eliminate any reason for financial institutions to make their websites accessible until someone took action against the institution.
DON’T LET IT HAPPEN! We MUST ACT NOW to protect our rights!
~ Virginia Association of Centers for Independent Living (VACIL)