J. Courtney Cunningham Settles Website Accessibility Lawsuit Against City of Miami

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Suit guarantees closed captioning for all videos on the city's website.

The city of Miami and local disability advocate Eddie Sierra have entered into a federal Consent Decree that guarantees the deaf and hard of hearing have equal access to video content on city’s website. According to court documents, the Consent Decree resolves Eddie Sierra v. City of Miami, Case Number 17-CV-20823, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Previously, video content was inaccessible to those with hearing disabilities because there were no closed captions. Court documents show that under the consent decree, the city agreed to adopt the video success criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, an international standard for website accessibility. The city also agreed to adhere to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, according to court documents.

The city of Miami will provide real-time closed captioning for its City Commission and Planning and Zoning Appeals Board meetings. Within six months of the settlement it will close caption archived City Commission, and Planning and Zoning Appeals Board meetings that have occurred since January 2016. This includes all videos created during that time and posted on social media as well. Within eighteen months of the settlement, the city will close caption all video content created since January 2015. The city will also adopt the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standard for all third-party websites and applications using video, according to court documents.

“Neither Mr. Sierra nor others who are hard of hearing, could access video recordings of the city’s government doing its business,” said J. Courtney Cunningham, Esq., who represented Mr. Sierra. “After getting past the early motions in the case, we worked with the city of Miami in a cooperative and collegial fashion. This litigation resolved some complex issues regarding website accessibility under federal civil rights laws. We are pleased the city resolved this matter quickly.”

Sierra is deaf and a resident of the city of Miami. He is interested in public policy and is an advocate for persons with disabilities. He wanted to be able to view and understand the video content on the city of Miami website. He also wanted to watch live streamed city commission meetings on his computer or go back and watch them later. Since he could not hear the audio portion of the video, he could not use them.

“I’m happy we were able to settle this litigation on positive terms for me and people with hearing disabilities,” said Sierra. “The law guarantees that we have an equal opportunity to participate in all government programs, services and activities. People don’t understand how tough it is for deaf people. I’m proud to help bring about this positive change. This puts my community on equal footing with people who hear perfectly. This is a great outcome for people with hearing disabilities who don’t use sign language. My attorney and I appreciate working with the city to reach a conclusion that improves accessibility and inclusiveness.”

Mr. Cunningham is a civil rights discrimination litigator. His practice focuses exclusively on representing victims of digital discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. He has successfully settled digital discrimination cases for his clients without resorting to litigation. He has also represented clients in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, where he has litigated cases to force defendants to end discriminatory practices. Mr. Cunningham graduated from the University of Florida, College of Law in 1986. He has been a member of the Florida Bar for 30 years.

He served in the administration of President George H. W. Bush in the United States Department of Labor. Mr. Cunningham handled day-to-day legislative and regulatory affairs for three agencies within the Department including the Wage and Hour Administration and the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The OFCCP ensures that companies doing business with the federal government comply with federal anti-discrimination laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Wage and Hour Administration enforces federal minimum wage and overtime regulations. Mr. Cunningham was a member of the team at the Department of Labor that worked with the Congress in drafting the ADA.

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