Florida Keys

He’s filed dozens of lawsuits over inaccessible websites. Newest target: Islamorada

A screen shot shows the Village of Islamorada’s website. A Miami-Dade County man is suing Islamorada, arguing its website does not allow people with seeing and hearing disabilities to access all documents.
A screen shot shows the Village of Islamorada’s website. A Miami-Dade County man is suing Islamorada, arguing its website does not allow people with seeing and hearing disabilities to access all documents.

The Village of Islamorada is the latest target of a South Florida man who has filed dozens of Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits against companies and local governments arguing that their websites do not accommodate blind and deaf people.

Juan Carlos Gil and his attorneys have filed 44 similar lawsuits in the Southern District of Florida federal court system, 26 in the Middle District, and they just filed one against Panama City in the Panhandle.

Some of those suits have been confidentially settled. Judges dismissed others; still others remain pending. A lawsuit against Winn-Dixie netted Gil’s attorneys $99,879 in 2017, according to court documents.

Gil, who is legally blind and has cerebral palsy, sued Islamorada March 2 in federal court stating that PDF documents on the village’s municipal website do not “interface with screen reader software as used by blind and visually impaired individuals.” His 29-page complaint was filed by attorneys Scott R. Dinan and Juan Courtney Cunningham.

Because of this, Gil has “suffered injuries and shame, humiliation, isolation, segregation, experienced emotional suffering, pain and anguish and has been segregated and prohibited from enjoying the programs, services and activities offered by [Islamorada] to the public,” the complaint states.

Gil, from Miami-Dade County, was trying to access the village’s website because, “As an active and social South Florida resident [he] is interested in the quality of life, economic growth, tourism, preservation of natural environment, general preparedness for any natural disaster, among other issues,” his attorneys wrote.

Dinin and Cunningham could not immediately be reached for comment for this story. Roget Bryan, attorney for the Village of Islamorada, also did not respond to questions asking whether the village anticipated the lawsuit and if it is changing its website to make it more usable for people with seeing and hearing disabilities.

Gil is seeking litigation expenses and attorneys fees, as well as damages “in the amount to be determined at trial.”

This is not Gil’s first legal battle in the Keys. In December 2017, he reached a confidential settlement with Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key in the Middle Keys after filing a lawsuit containing similar language.

He’s also not the only person legally targeting Keys entities over ADA issues with their websites. Cheri Honeywell of Fort Lauderdale filed a lawsuit in federal court in January against the Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel and Resort in Key Colony Beach and Casa Morada in Islamorada.

Honeywell’s attorney, Jessica Kerr of the Advocacy Group in Fort Lauderdale, argued in the complaint that the hotel’s online reservation systems “fail to provide information about the accessible features of the hotel and its rooms to persons with disabilities.”

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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