LAWYER NETWORK PUTS NEW SPIN ON EMPLOYING THE BLIND
by Bob Branco
January 11, 2019
When it comes to the blind population, finding a job is a job in itself. This is why when something tempting comes along, some of us can’t help giving it a try.
On that note, there is a network of attorneys and colleagues who decided to put a different spin on employing the blind. This network of law firms recruits blind people to evaluate websites for noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. As I understand it, when a complaint against a specific website is brought to these attorneys, it’s assigned to one of these blind site evaluators. The blind worker reviews the site and reports back to the network of lawyers.
On the surface, this sounds great. Blind people are working. Well, here’s the catch. When you work for these attorneys and their colleagues, you are forced to sign a retainer agreement, because you would be named as a plaintiff in any court case resulting from the website being noncompliant. If a settlement is reached, you would be compensated for your work in the form of a paycheck.
I used to work for these people, but when I was asked to sign a retainer agreement, I told them that I did not want to be part of any lawsuits against website designers, class action or otherwise. Upon hearing my response, I was courteously dismissed as an evaluator because I refused to comply with this policy.
Like anyone else, blind people want to be respectful when working closely with private industry when it comes to employment. If companies learn that we are plaintiffs in court cases after reporting problems with the way their websites are designed, they will look the other way when we come to them for jobs because we could be regarded as complainers. This is not what we want. Furthermore, this network of lawyers shouldn’t act so aggressively when they get reports of noncompliance. It’s quite possible that the business owners don’t understand compliance and need someone to work with them on what they should do to make their websites accessible to blind people. An inaccessible website is not designed on purpose, so why be dragged into court every time it happens? We live in a sighted world. Websites are usually designed exclusively for the sighted. They include pretty pictures because those are attractive to the human eye. If I want to show a businessman why a website should be blind friendly, I don’t need to drag him into court. Whatever happened to structured negotiation?
I brought this matter to the attention of both major consumer organizations of the blind in this country, hoping that a thorough investigation into these practices will take place. It is my understanding that representatives from the network of lawyers are aware of our concerns, but they are not listening. What these lawyers are doing may not be illegal, but it certainly appears to be immoral. It has already been speculated that these law firms are more interested in making money than caring how the reputations of blind people in the job market might be damaged if we are continuously told to be plaintiffs in law suits.
(Originally published in Consumer Vision Magazine)