Tactical Ops Brewing, a craft brewery in Clovis, California, is facing a lawsuit for alleged web accessibility issues. The case, Luis Licea vs. Tactical Ops Brewing, Inc., was filed in June 2022 and is currently pending.
The plaintiff, Luis Licea, resides in San Bernardino County. According to the complaint, Licea is blind and uses a screen reader to access the internet; the plaintiff also identifies as a “tester,” a person who accesses websites specifically to determine whether they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other non-discrimination laws.
The ADA requires businesses to make reasonable efforts to accommodate customers with disabilities in “places of public accommodation.” According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), websites qualify as places of public accommodation — and in recent years, California has been one of the top-filing states for web accessibility lawsuits.
Licea is requesting $19,500 in damages, citing alleged violations of Title III of the ADA and California’s Unruh Act.
The plaintiff’s law firm has targeted other California breweries
Pacific Trial Attorneys represents Licea in the lawsuit. According to an article written by civil litigator Stuart Tubis, the law firm has pursued a number of claims against craft breweries throughout California.
The firm usually sends a web accessibility demand letter before beginning litigation; the lawsuit proceeds if the business does not provide a satisfactory response.
While the exact details of ADA complaint letters vary, some complaints contain specific examples of accessibility barriers that affect users with disabilities. Common issues include:
- Low-contrast text, which may be unreadable for people with vision disabilities.
- Poor keyboard accessibility, which impacts users who navigate with a keyboard interface (with no mouse).
- Missing captions and transcripts for multimedia content.
- Missing alternative text (also called alt text or alt tags) for images, graphs, and other visual content.
- Keyboard traps, which can prevent keyboard users from regaining control of their computers.
Recent court decisions have established a precedent that the Unruh Act does not apply to online-only businesses. However, businesses that operate brick-and-mortar establishments — such as breweries and restaurants — must ensure that their websites and mobile apps are generally accessible.
Breweries and wineries have been frequent targets for litigation in recent years. In 2022, more than 70 digital accessibility lawsuits were filed in federal court against California wineries, nearly all of which were opened by one patient, Andres Gomez, who is legally blind.
Businesses should take web accessibility demand letters seriously
As we discussed in our round-up of 2022 accessibility lawsuits, most ADA claims are filed by a small number of law firms.
But that doesn’t mean that those cases are frivolous — for people with disabilities, lawsuits are one of the only legal tools available for enforcing ADA compliance.
And in many cases, businesses can avoid trials or settlements by addressing accessibility barriers within a reasonable timeframe. That means testing content against the Level A/AA success criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the international standards for digital accessibility.
When content meets those criteria, it’s generally considered accessible for people with disabilities. The federal government’s own Revised Section 508 standards are based on WCAG, and while the ADA doesn’t include technical criteria for compliance, many accessibility lawsuits reference WCAG as a reasonable standard.
A proactive approach provides the best protection from ADA claims
Until webmasters take digital compliance seriously, plaintiffs will continue sending ADA demand letters — and given the high potential costs of a lawsuit or settlement, every business has strong reasons to plan for accessibility.
However, it’s much easier to build accessible content than to remediate existing issues. An early focus on accessibility also enables businesses to enjoy the enormous practical benefits of inclusive design: enhanced brand sentiment, improved search engine optimization (SEO), and access to a much wider audience.
If you’ve received an ADA demand letter — or you’re looking for ways to reduce compliance risks — we’re here to help. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility provides training resources, WCAG conformance audits, and expert remediation strategies.