Two weeks ago, I published an article on this blog titled, “Stop The ADA Trolls,” in which I discussed the law firm of Carlson Lynch Sweet & Kilpela LLP and the unethical and counterproductive practices they are using to extort dollars from what appears to be hundreds if not thousands of US businesses with accessibility problems on their web sites. I will repeat here what I wrote there, I believe that all web sites should be fully compliant with WCAG 2.0 AA or better regarding accessibility; my objections are about the tactics Carlson/Lynch is using and you can read all about that in the original “Stop The ADA Trolls” article.
This article is a quick update describing something all US citizens with a vision impairment can do to help stop this trolling. Many other things have transpired since I published the original article and I will be writing about those events in another article I expect to publish next week.
The BrailleMonitor Article
I believe this is a first for this blog and BlindConfidential before it but I’m actually happy about something posted in the NFB publication BrailleMonitor. Specifically, I’m very glad that they published a piece titled “Class Action Lawsuit Against RedBox Has Proposed Settlement,” that includes instructions on how we, as the class of people with vision impairment can either object to or support a settlement agreement in a case on which Carlson/Lynch is the leading law firm. I suggest that all of my US based readers try to file an objection to this settlement agreement. Unfortunately, there is no way described in the BrailleMonitor article or that I could find elsewhere to file such an objection electronically so you will need to print out a letter, stick it in an envelope and use good old USPS to send in your statement.
If you are a person with vision impairment living in the US (excepting California) you have standing as, because none of us can predict the future, all of us might be RedBox customers in the years ahead and the class as described in the settlement includes “may use in the future.”
The BrailleMonitor article does include a link to send an email directly to the law firm of Carlson/Lynch et al. You might consider sending them an email stating in no uncertain terms that you object to their representation and to the in opposition to the settlement proposed in this and any other case in which they are claiming to represent the class of “all US citizens with a vision impairment.” Please do not spam Carlson with a bunch of separate emails but sending them a single one stating your objections is fair. Please also avoid using angry vocabulary, profanity or anything else that would sound hostile, we’re trying to stand together against ADA trolls, not just yell at a particularly nasty law firm.
Some Highlights Of The Settlement Agreement
As all of this is online and linked to in the BrailleMonitor, I’m not going to include an exhaustive review of the RedBox settlement but I do hope that my readers note some of these details:
- The settlement agreement asks for $2500 for each of the plaintiffs with vision impairment but also demands nearly $400,000 for the law firm of Carlson/Lynch, et al. That’s right folks, a total of $5000 for the people with vision impairment and ~$400K for the law firm. Is this suit really over the rights of the plaintiffs or is it a grab for cash by Carlson, et al? Even the personal injury lawyers who advertise on television rarely take more than 60% of the plaintiff’s settlement dollars, Carlson is demanding 8000% of the amount demanded by the plaintiffs, a bit excessive to say the least.
- RedBox sells games through kiosks. The settlement agreement requires that some of the RedBox kiosks add headphone jacks and permit people with vision impairment to speak to someone in a call center if they need help using the device. As Bank Of America and Wells Fargo (among others) have managed to solve this problem with software on their teller machines and Apple and others have shown us how it can be done with touch screens, why would people with vision impairment ask for a solution that requires them to speak aloud to a person in a call center, perhaps having to reveal personal information like their PIN code?
- When you read the BrailleMonitor piece, do take a look at the settlement that only applies in California. Instead of requiring one to talk to a human, it requires RedBox to add synthesized speech as a solution. Carlson is trying to require an entirely absurd alternative in the other 49 states. Come on guys, it’s 2016, we’ve had screen readers for decades, get with modern technology.
There’s lots more so please do read the BrailleMonitor piece and follow the links in it for more details.
My Letter To The Court
The following is the letter I sent today to the court objecting to the settlement agreement in the case discussed above. I removed some personal details (my address and phone number) but, otherwise, this is the entirety of my statement. As all information on this blog is covered under Creative Commons, feel free to crib from this letter if you’re planning on sending one yourself, something I urge you to do.
Christian D Hofstader
[Address and Phone Number Deleted]
Clerk of the Court, U.S. District Court
700 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Christian D. Hofstader, I am a blind person who uses DVDs and has been deterred from using RedBox kiosks because they are inaccessible. I object to the settlement and to the appointment of the law firm of Carlson Lynch Sweet & Kilpela, LLP as class representative for the case of Jahoda, et al. v. Redbox Automated Retail, LLC, Case No. 2:14-cv-01278-LPL (W.D. Pa.). I want to state with no uncertainty the Carlson/Lynch do not represent me or the majority of people with vision impairment.
Specifically, this settlement requires the defendants to modify at least one kiosk per installation to include a headphone jack on their devices and to allow people with vision impairment to converse with a live human, presumedly in a call center, if they need help using the defendant’s devices. This is an undue burden for the defendant and is entirely incompatible with settlements regarding kiosks in cases involving both Wells Fargo and Bank Of America. The kiosks can all be made accessible by including speech synthesis based instructions on the same devices in the same manner as has worked for both Wells Fargo and Bank Of America. This technology already exists and would both be a better solution for people with vision impairment and for the defendants moving forward.
In addition to there already being a proven, lower cost and more effective solution, the settlement in Jahoda, et al. v. Redbox Automated Retail, LLC, Case No. 2:14-cv-01278-LPL (W.D. Pa.). requires that the person with vision impairment be able to speak to a helper by voice. This raises serious concerns about the privacy of the user as they will be required to conduct transactions aloud, thus potentially be overheard by anyone standing near them and, in the event they are requested to provide any personal information (a PIN code for instance), they cannot be assured that others who might use such information maliciously will not overhear the conversation with the defendant’s call center employees. This privacy problem does not exist in the solution used by Wells Fargo, Bank Of America or other kiosks accessible today to people with vision impairment.
In summary, I object both to the appointment of Carlson Lynch Sweet & Kilpela, LLP as class representative, as well as to the settlement itself, which I object on both technical and privacy concerns. Please do not allow Carlson/Lynch et al to continue as class representative and please do not allow this settlement to be approved.
Christian D. Hofstader
The only way we can stop the ADA trolls is by standing together against Carlson and its unethical tactics. Please send a letter to the court to tell them that Carlson does not represent you and that you do not accept the proposed settlement agreement for any and/or all of the reasons I mention above or for any other reasons you may have after you’ve read the information BrailleMonitor includes and to which it links.
I’d like to thank the people at NFB and its BrailleMonitor editors for providing us with this valuable resource regarding this particular settlement agreement. By publishing it, they’ve given us a terrific resource and we should all be grateful to them for posting it.