What is Structured Negotiation & Tips from Lainey Feingold for Greater Online Accessibility

July 31, 2019 BY SOFIA ENAMORADO

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Structured negotiation is a practice coined by disability rights lawyer Lainey Feingold. It involves an agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant to settle outside court.

Lawsuits can be costly – financially and physically. Most companies would rather avoid a lawsuit.

Enter Lainey Feingold, the legal rebel. Since 1995, Lainey has been using structured negotiation to settle disability rights cases outside the courtroom.

Lainey works primarily with the blind community on technology, digital, and information access issues. She’s received California’s Lawyer of the Year Award multiple years and has written the handbook for structured negotiations.

Structured Negotiations Defined

Structured negotiation is an alternative path to the courtroom. If an organization is accused of violating disability rights law, they can choose to enter into structured negotiations with the plaintiff. Both parties then set terms to allow the organization to become compliant with disability rights law.

“People with disabilities are using the law every day to try to get things fixed. I always say, and I so believe this, that people with disabilities do not want to file lawsuits. They do not want to do structured negotiation, even though it’s more collaborative and client-centered. They want to be able to use technology like anyone else.”

Cases Settled Through Structured Negotiation

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If you visit Lainey’s website, you will see a long list of cases settled through structured negotiations, often featuring a well-known company.

Lainey used structured negotiations to convince Walgreens, CVS, and Caremark to create accessible prescription bottles for blind or low vision customers. She’s also worked with Major League Baseball, Anthem, and E-Trade to create strategies and guidelines for more accessible practices.

The National Federation of the Blind and lawyer Brown Goldstein used structured negotiation with Alameda Voting to ensure the county prioritizes the accessibility of their voting machines and website. Most notably about the Alameda case is that it was the first settlement to incorporate WCAG 2.1.

Structured negotiation is designed to be a win-win for both parties. The defendant avoids the high costs and publicity of a lawsuit, while the plaintiff achieves a victory for greater accessibility.

Lainey’s Tips for Creating a More Accessible Environment

In 2018, there were a reported 2,285 web accessibility lawsuits filled in America – an uptake of 181% since 2017.

The reality is, most companies are not making their content accessible. Most of the time it’s not because they don’t care, they just don’t know.

Lainey recommends companies should:

  • Have a web accessibility coordinator
  • Hire an independent consultant
  • Train all staff
  • Tell the world what you are doing for accessibility; put a statement online
  • Have an email or number people can call to ask questions about accessibility
  • Use testing tools

“They say to their clients, don’t say anything about accessibility, because you might get sued, because you’re not doing enough. My experience is the opposite. When somebody calls me about a company or a government, and they say, I can’t access this, the very first thing I go for is check the website. See if there’s an accessibility information page.”

The bottom line is, even if you are not accessible yet, make it known that you have plans in place to become accessible, then work towards that goal.

Learning Which Laws Apply to You & What You Should Do

Lainey is a powerhouse in the disability rights field and takes a collaborative and solution-driven approach to negotiations.

Hear Lainey speak more about the galaxy of accessibility laws on Oct. 3rd at ACCESS in Boston. You’ll have a chance to meet her and learn more about the structured negotiation approach, plus other organizations shes helped avoid costly lawsuits.


Register now for ACCESS at the early bird discount!

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This blog post is written for educational and general information purposes only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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