Nassau County sued over claims that website violates ADA

Complaints say electronic documents incompatible with screen reader devices

YULEE, Fla. – Two Floridians who are considered legally blind are suing Nassau County over complaints that the county’s website does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The city of Fernandina Beach received a similar complaint about its website from one of the men. In response, officials said they are taking the steps necessary to make sure their websites follow the law.

The city and county aren’t alone.

As the Orlando Sentinel reports, one of the men has filed almost 200 lawsuits nationwide over the lack of access to government websites for those who require screen readers.

It appears Nassau County first learned of the issue after receiving a Sept. 24 letter from Joel Price of Daytona Beach, who said documents kept on the website were incompatible with his screen reader.

“I am legally blind, so (I) depend on a screen reader to help me understand electronic documents. My screen reader would not work with your electronic documents,” the letter stated.

Price has since filed a lawsuit, alleging the website violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a civil rights law that makes it illegal to discriminate against those who have disabilities.

Price’s complaint was later joined by one from Juan Carlos Gil of Miami, who said he too had trouble accessing electronic documents on the county’s website. Gil made a similar complaint to the city.

Neither man could be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Nassau County Manager Mike Mullen, who also serves as the county’s attorney, said county staff have reached out to an attorney and are waiting to hear back to learn what steps need to be taken.

Dana Whicker, director of information technology for the city, attributed the problem to the city’s reliance on a third-party provider, but noted that efforts are being made to follow the law.

“The third-party provider is also looking into the situation as well, and we are working on a resolution,” Whicker said. “We were, perhaps, relying on our hosting provider a bit too much.”

The software to make the websites compatible with screen readers could cost thousands of dollars. For now, both governments are exploring taking their files offline until they’re accessible to everyone.

“We will get our website 100 percent compliant,” said Whicker. “There’s an immediate need…but a longer-term solution we’ll come up with.”

About the Author:

Lifetime Floridian anchors weekends and reports weekdays on issues in Nassau and Baker counties and beyond.