Memorandum in Opposition to Senate Bill S7374
S7374 would inappropriately limit the rights of people with visual and hearing disabilities to enforce their rights to access websites and mobile applications at places of public accommodation, including resorts and amusement venues.
Notwithstanding the fact that the State has put all public accommodations on notice nearly half a century ago (in 1974) that they may not discriminate against persons with disabilities by denying access to any of their services, S7374 would actually reward public accommodations that have not eliminated disability barriers by forcing people with disabilities who wish to access those services to provide specific notice of an inaccessible website or mobile application, including details of each and every discriminatory feature of the websites and mobile applications. Moreover, S7374 would force the individual with disabilities who has been denied access to the website or mobile application to incur significant additional time and expense to provide the discriminating entity with such information via both “certified mail, return receipt requested and first class mail.”
Under no other circumstances does the State Human Rights Law require that an individual provide the discriminating entity with notice of discrimination that has already occurred, as well as the opportunity to cure the discrimination in the future.
S7374 removes any incentive for public accommodations to ensure that websites or mobile applications are actually accessible to people with disabilities. Why remove barriers today if you can sit around and wait for someone to potentially advise you of the barriers? And then you can still contemplate whether or not to remove them, assuming the complaining individual provided the extensive details required by S7374!
It should be noted that a similar amendment was proposed to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2017, but it was resoundingly rejected by the majority of Congress, which recognized the discriminatory impact the amendment would have had.
To the extent one could suggest that public accommodations lacked specific guidance on how to achieve website accessibility, it should be noted that the United States Department of Justice issued such guidance this year, while noting that “[p]eople with disabilities deserve to have an equal opportunity to access the services, goods and programs provided by government and businesses, including when offered or communicated through websites.”
For all of the foregoing reasons, S7374 must be unequivocally rejected.
May 5, 2022
For more information, please contact Ruth Lowenkron, Director, Disability Justice Program, at [email protected] or call (917) 804-8209.
NYLPI is a community-driven civil rights organization with a Disability Justice Program that works to advance the civil rights of New Yorkers with disabilities. NYLPI disability advocates have represented thousands of individuals and won campaigns improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Our landmark victories making government and public accommodations services accessible include reforms to the accommodation process of the New York Board of Law Examiners and other standardized test providers, mandating ramps for pharmacies across the city, requiring assisted listening systems in movie theaters across the city, and extensive removal of barriers to transportation city-wide. To learn more about NYLPI, please visit: http://www.nylpi.org.
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