Recently, the Supreme Court in the state of New Jersey entered a significant decision that could change the way the law is interpreted when it comes to disability discrimination. If employers fail to accommodate claims under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD), then the employer could be held responsible in a court of law. Employers are responsible for accommodating disabilities; however, this could be at odds with the current interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Therefore, this case could be far from over.
In this case, the plaintiff was a science teacher who taught at a local school. This is science teacher is a type 1 diabetic. She was looking for a change in her assigned lunch period to better accommodate her blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, the school refused to honor this request during one semester. Therefore, she was required to eat lunch at a later time. Because of this later lunch period, she suffered a hypoglycemic event. This means that her blood sugar levels dropped dangerously low, causing her to sustain a personal injury.
First, she obtained workers’ compensation benefits to help her cover some of the expenses related to her medical injury. After this, she filed a complaint with the New Jersey Superior Court. She sought damages related to her emotional distress, physical injuries, and pain and suffering. She stated that her employer did not accommodate her disability claim, which was to have her lunch slot moved to an earlier time to avoid this exact hypoglycemic event.
It is the prevailing interpretation of the law that employers are supposed to do what they can to accommodate the disabilities of their employees. At the same time, there is some debate surrounding what constitutes a “reasonable” request. In this case, the court decided that the request of the teacher was reasonable and that the school system did not accommodate her request.
On the other hand, the decision might break with the current interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Therefore, the school might decide to appeal the ruling and seek an interpretation that is more in line with this act. It will be interesting to see where the case goes from here. It could have an impact on similar cases in the future.
The American Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law protecting the disabled was put in force in 1990. The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Discrimination is not allowed in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places enjoyed by the public by providing the disabled “reasonable accommodations” irrespectively of disability. For example, in the area of employment, reasonable accommodations are any modifications that help a covered person under the ADA to satisfy the essential job functions.
The essential purpose of the ADA is to allow people who are physically disabled to enter public buildings (via ramps, wide doors, large bathroom stalls, etc.) and to provide auditory and visual aids for those with visual and auditory impairments, as well as modified educational programs for the learning disabled. Internet websites were not contemplated by the ADA, and in 1990 there were no ADA accessibility rules for websites. Websites offer content and have not been considered to require modifications to comply with the ADA.
However, there are both linguistic and nonlinguistic elements of content that add to an understanding of such through the development of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG is prepared by a worldwide group of individuals and organizations. Standard guidelines are developed to make content accessible and meet the needs of website development by individuals, organizations, and governments internationally to place websites within the sphere of disability regulations. The focus on ADA compliance is on the elements of content such as:
a) perceivable issues,
b) operable issues involve the ability to navigate the website,
c) understandable issues to comprehend website content and
d) robust issues that test the strength and adaptability of the website to meet the linguistic needs of the disabled.
ADA is under the control of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Modifications of the WCAG guidelines are continually being upgraded. For example, the final rule of the WCAG 2.0 guideline was adopted in January 2017 and again in 2019. Initially, the WCAG guidelines were modified to update Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. To be ADA compliant, you must adopt the final rules prepared by the WCAG and the DOJ enforces website accessibility. The fail-safe method to be compliant is to find sources that tutor one in how to analyze the complexities of website compliance or retain professionals that apply the technical ADA rules of website compliance.
The AT&T Inc. Subsidiary Cricket Wireless or simply Cricket was hit with a proposed civil rights class action lawsuit in the federal court of Florida on 29th November 2017. The suit claimed that their site violates the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating the blind and visually impaired users.
Andre Gomez, the complainant who is legally blind and a Miami County resident, surfs the net with the aid of screen-reading software. The software is capable of vocalizing the data or information on the screen of a computer, making it possible for a user to complete online activities such as shopping, banking, and business.
For the technology to operate effectively, the content on the site must be capable of being rendered into text. Thus, if a particular site can’t do this, then the visually impaired or the blind users will be unable to access the information.
Mr. Gomez filed this class action lawsuit claiming he was unable to navigate the Cricket Wireless site, thus barring him from previewing a cell phone and cell phone plan he intended to purchase. He also added that he had intents to get coupons and familiarize himself with awards available at the store.
The plaintiff went ahead to explain how he was denied access to the services and goods available at cricket wireless. There was no ADA button to help him switch the format of the site to what is compatible or readable to the screen-reading software. He further argued that there was no chat handler accessible to the visually impaired or blind, and the site was incapable of skipping the list of repetitive links that make the web experience annoying.
The ADA laws and regulations advocate on the rights of enjoying and having access to public accommodation by persons living with a disability. The class action lawsuit aims at bringing together all individuals who have been denied access to information, just like Gomez. In fact, the plaintiff is seeking a certificate to push the defendant to incorporate ADA policies and get compensation for the damages caused by Cricket Wireless.