NOTE: This was originally posted on 7/20/20 under the title Legal Notifications About Website Non-Compliance, but includes some updates and clarifications as of 7/29/20.
It has come to our attention that many Massachusetts-based independent insurance agents have received an email and/or fax from Portell Law Group out of Washington, DC, with a demand letter and draft complaint saying that the agency’s website is not in compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility standards for customers with disabilities.
If your agency has received such a notice, don’t panic. It is our understanding that this demand/suit has not been filed, but is rather a notification of intent. We have also been told that this firm will follow up with you via email, fax, and phone on a consistent basis, and will request a payment in order to help you solve this problem.
We have had some members submit a claim for this to their carriers as you may want to do for all such carriers. However, it is questionable what, if any, policy will apply due to the legal requirements surrounding this ADA compliance.
What You Should Do About It
While we are neither in a position nor qualified to give legal advice, we have asked counsel of the steps you should take.
- The most important action you should take is to contact your website provider and have them ensure your site is in compliance with accessibility standards as soon as possible. While there are no definitive, formal regulations for compliance and accessibility, the generally recognized industry standard is known as Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) 2.1. Website accessibility suits are happening with greater frequency. Websites that meet WCAG 2.1 guidelines may be able to avoid being targeted by such complaints.
- It was recommended that you do not respond to the Portell Law Group, and do not send money.
- The decision on whether to engage an attorney is of course up to you, however since the letters are a notification, not an actual suit, we don’t believe that there is a need to contact a lawyer at this time. However, if you have indeed been sued and served on this, then it is recommended that you contact your lawyer immediately.
Website and Legal Resources
Website Compliance: If your website vendor is not able to assist you, there are a number of vendors you can find online that do this and could help you. One that has been recommended to us and has helped others in similar situations is Lighthouse Works. The contact is Ramzy Spencer at email@example.com or (407) 898-2483 ext. 254.
Legal Advice: If you decide that you would like to contact a lawyer and don’t have one, Pat Cerundolo of Foley Hoag, firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-832 1252 may be able to assist you.
Site Audit: If you are unsure whether your site is compliant, or you would like a comprehensive report on what needs to be done, you can have a site audit done. DIF Design has been recommended to us for this type of audit. They can also complete the fixes as well, if you wish. The contact is Peter Ellis, email@example.com or 413-788-0654.
Note: These resources may require MAIA or Big “I” member login. All MAIA members are Big “I” members, so if you don’t already have a login, you can set one up.
- Agents’ Council for Technology (ACT) ADA & Accessibility Resource Page(including list of service providers)
- ADA & Website Accessibility: What Agencies Need to Know, from MAIA’s Mass Agent newsletter, 6/9/20
- IIABA’s Legal Advocacy FAQ on websites and the ADA
- Special software can help the blind access the internet, but not every website supports it. A wave of lawsuits is pushing to change that, Abdel Jimenez, Chicago Tribune, 12/20/19
- Is Your Agency at Risk for a Website Accessibility Lawsuit?, Laura Pearce, IA Magazine, 12/12/17
If you have any questions regarding this issue, please contact Nick Fyntrilakis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-634-7352.