On December 16, 2021, the non-profit law office Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) announced an agreement with HR software giant ADP that will improve the accessibility of ADP’s products used by employees of the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind.
Originally filed as a lawsuit in September of 2020, the agreement states that
On January 27, 2021, ADP TotalSource and Plaintiffs (collectively “the Parties”) entered into a Structured Negotiations Agreement to provide a framework for the negotiations that have resulted in this Agreement. The Parties sought, and the Court granted, a stay of litigation pending outcome of the Structured Negotiations. ADP / San Francisco LightHouse agreement
[The second edition of Structured Negotiation, a Winning Alternative to Lawsuits includes other examples of filed cases in which the parties opted to pivot to Structured Negotiation. Using collaboration in the midst of a filed case offers an oasis of calm to resolve pending claims with less cost, friction, and reputational damage. Lainey congratulates DRA, the LightHouse, and ADP for recognizing the value of collaboration in resolving the plaintiffs’ claims instead of fighting in the filed case.]
Highlights of the ADP / LightHouse agreement include:
- a schedule to remediate web and mobile app barriers according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA
- adoption of new digital accessibility policies
- training and hiring of an accessibility consultant
Overlays Not Allowed
The agreement also includes a specific statement that
“For the purpose of this Agreement, “overlay” solutions such as those currently provided by companies such as
AudioEye and AccessiBe will not suffice to achieve Accessibility. ADP / San Francisco LightHouse settlement agreement
ADP was using the AudioEye overlay at the time the suit was filed. For more information about problems with web accessibility overlays visit the OverlayStatement website. It includes resources (including two articles I’ve written) and media coverage of the problems with overlays. The recent year end report on digital accessibility lawsuits from UsableNet reports that “Over 400 companies who have an accessibility widget or overlay on their website have been sued.”
For more about the AudioEye overlay aspect of the ADP lawsuit, read an article in Tech Times titled AudioEye’s Customer Sued By San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind for Web Accessibility Failures.
The parties’ press release embodies the Structured Negotiation principle of giving organizations the opportunity to proudly state their accessibility commitments. It reflects the collaboration of Structured Negotiation with quotes from both ADP and the San Francisco LightHouse:
At ADP we highly value digital inclusion and are committed to ensuring our solutions are accessible to our clients and their employees, including those who are blind or visually impaired. We have taken substantial measures to provide quality user experiences and we will continue to evolve our solutions to meet digital access needsBob Lockett, Chief Diversity and Talent Officer, ADP
I am pleased that this work will result in my having greater access to essential human resources and payroll functionality, and I am excited that many other blind and visually impaired users of ADP’s services will also benefit from these changes.Frank Welte, Senior Accessible Media and Braille Specialist at LightHouse
Importance of the ADP / LightHouse agreement
This agreement is a signal to companies that provide employee software that digital accessibility is a crucial aspect of today’s technology. HR and payroll software tools are designed to be used independently, assuring privacy and security of sensitive information. Accessibility makes independence, privacy and security a reality for employees and applicants with disabilities.
Quite simply, privacy and security are broken whenever a third party needs to be called in to help an employee perform tasks that are designed for independence but not designed for accessibility.
The ADP / LightHouse agreement is also a reminder to technology purchasers that accessibility must be a requirement throughout the procurement process — for both customers and employees. [New to the idea of accessible procurement? Check out Disability:IN’s Accessible Procurement Toolkit, a resource I helped with.]
This settlement is also another example of the failure of web accessibility overlays to protect site owners from lawsuits — and more importantly their failure to produce accessible websites that disabled employees can use.
And lastly, that the agreement was reached in Structured Negotiation within a filed case drives home the value of collaboration anytime and anywhere — even in the midst of a lawsuit! Collaboration with disabled employees about workplace technology needs and accessibility is always important: no need to wait for the law to come knocking!
This article is part of a Topic on this website about how other people not involved with the Law Office of Lainey Feingold have used Structured Negotiation to resolve legal claims with less conflict and cost. For Lainey’s Structured Negotiation cases, please visit the Settlements page of this website.
You can read more about Structured Negotiation, including other examples of Structured Negotiation being used as a strategy within a filed lawsuit, in the second edition of Lainey’s book, Structured Negotiation, A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits.