Four Inns Sued Over ADA Website Compliance Share Their Process

We are sharing an innkeeper’s first-hand experience.  In spite of the pain he’s gone through, he’s done a wonderful job of articulating a possible game plan for innkeepers. His hope is to give other innkeepers insight if they become a victim of an ADA lawsuit.

“I am writing regarding the issue of ADA compliance and innkeepers websites. I find your information valuable and insightful. However, there is one key ingredient that everyone is overlooking and you may be giving owners a false sense of security by not addressing it in your posts.  

  “My Bed & Breakfast, along with 3 other inns in our town, were sued this summer over   ADA compliance.  Here’s our story:

“First off, let me say that having a website ADA compliant is not only necessary but it is the right thing to do. Having said that however, most of these suits filed in Federal Court have more to do with making money than insuring your business website is ADA compliant. There are no judicial standards set in place as to what deems a website ADA compliant.

“We had been making a lot of changes to our sites, meta tags filled in, readable font, etc. but because our booking engines were also not ADA compliant we were sued. As our attorney informed us, it is our responsibility for the entire site including the reservation channel. Three of the four inns use the same reservation channel and an independent audit completed by a firm, recommended by our attorney that specializes in reviewing websites for ADA compliance noted more issues with the reservation channel than with our particular sites.

During a conference call going over the results of the audits with the firm that analyzed our sites, I asked the question:

“Are the issues that I have with my reservation platform going to be the same for other people using this same reservation platform?”

The response I received was – “Correct.”

I then asked a follow-up question:

“Then could anyone using this reservation platform be sued for ADA non-compliance?”  

The response I received was – “Correct.”

“If your reservation platform is not ADA compliant, you still run the risk of being sued no matter how ADA compliant the rest of your site is.  Once served, it is easier, and overall much less expensive, to settle out of court than to try to fight the suit.  

“Perhaps we B&B owners should be focusing as a group and approaching our booking platform partners to ask them how they are making their sites ADA compliant. Until that happens we are all still targets of lawsuits.

“Just wanted to pass along my first-hand experience on this matter.”

“ADA lawsuits are showing up everywhere and I think a lot of bed & breakfast inn owners are still in denial and don’t think it will happen to them.

A couple other ideas that helped the four of us fight this battle –

  1. Since the four inns are in the same town we joined together to seek the same legal representation against the class action suit. First off, your regular lawyer will probably not represent you in this type of suit because it is a class action suit and you need someone who specializes in that field.
  2. When you are served the class action paperwork it will state you have ten days to respond to the complaint.  Yet, from the time the class action suit is first filed in Federal Court, to the time the Sheriff’s Department shows up at your door to serve you the papers it could be over 2 months. So, find out ahead of time.

“How to find out ahead of time if you are being sued –

“Knowing this is going to happen in advance gives the owner time to find legal representation and formulate a game plan calmly and sensibly. Once served the paperwork, it states you have 10 days to respond placing a lot of stress on you at that time. It catches you off guard and now you’re stressed out after reading the complaint because you have probably never been sued before and aren’t sure of your next step and according to the complaint have little time to respond.

“You can discover if a lawsuit has been filed at any time by the following:

  1. Go to 
  2. Scroll down to “Cases by type of lawsuit”.
  3. Click on “Civil Rights”
  4. Click on “Americans with Disabilities – Other”.  
  5. Click on your home state. This brings up all the ADA lawsuits filed in your State.  
  6. Scroll through looking for your corporation name.  Hopefully, you will not find it. If you do, however, it shows when the suit was filed and the current action.  Legal firms are using this as a tool and actually may call you saying they are willing to represent you before you even know you are being sued.  

“It is how one of the B&B’s in town found out they were being sued even before they had been served any papers.  It is becoming a “cottage industry”.

“If more than one establishment in an area is being sued at the same time, consider joining forces.  We have a strong network of B&B’s in our community.  Several of us formed a non-profit organization year back that does a lot of charity work and fundraising in our community and we also help each other out. The saying is true – there is strength in numbers. The four B&B’s joined forces hiring the same attorney to represent us and negotiated our settlement before the cases were even scheduled to go to court. 

HINT on managing your website – “Be careful of placing additional widgets to your website to help “improve” your ADA compliance.  When our sites were professionally analyzed it was found that one of the sites using the widgets actually caused more non-compliance issues. Like I mentioned, unfortunately, these lawsuits are more about making money than they are about making sites ADA compliant. The cost of fighting them far outweighs the cost of just settling out of court and that is what they count on.  Having experienced this first hand, seeing and reading what people are being told, there is more to it.  I don’t want someone to believe that just because they have added good meta tags to all their pictures and if they attach a screen reader to their computer and it reads their website to them, as I did, they are in the clear. It is just not the case. There are things that should be done to help reduce our liability exposure and should be done because it is the right thing to do.  It all comes down to, as said by our attorney, if a disabled person cannot make a reservation on their own, navigating through your website and booking engine, without help from a sighted person, you stand the chance of being caught up in this issue.