Testing the ADA

Over a dozen disability groups are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold disabled people’s right to sue under the Americans With Disabilities Act. 18 disability organizations argue in a “friend-of-the-court” brief filed this month that so-called testers — disabled people who actively seek out ADA violations and pursue legal action — are vital to ensuring that the nation’s fundamental disability rights law is followed.

Critics argue this is “a cottage industry of lawyers using the courts to extract thousands in settlement fees from hotels” according to USA Today.

Deborah Laufer examined many different websites looking for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act requirements requiring hotels to disclose information about their accessibility. Ms. Laufer, who lives in Florida, has filed more than 600 cases around the country over such violations, often seeking confirmation that the hotel had broken the law, an injunction directing it to comply — and legal fees.

Acheson Hotels, which operates the Coast Village Inn and Cottages in Wells, a small hamlet on Maine’s southern coast, was one of the corporations she sued. She claimed that its website did not identify accessible rooms, did not provide a booking option for accessible rooms, and did not provide enough information to evaluate whether the rooms and amenities of the hotel were accessible for Laufer who has multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a central nervous system (CNS) autoimmune disease marked by inflammation, demyelination, gliosis, and neuronal death. Pathologically, perivascular lymphocytic infiltrates and macrophages cause myelin sheaths that wrap neurons to degrade. Neurological symptoms can include vision impairment, numbness and tingling, focal weakness, bladder and bowel incontinence, and cognitive dysfunction. The symptoms differ depending on the location of the lesion. Clinical symptoms defined by abrupt relapses most commonly appear in young people. A gradually progressive course follows, resulting in lifelong disability in 10 to 15 years.

Laufer has filed over 600 lawsuits against various hotels. Testers don’t receive monetary damages for the lawsuits. However, lawyers do seek fees and reimbursement from the hotel.

Other laws, like those against racial discrimination in the housing business, have been enforced by testers. The Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that a Black woman posing as a possible renter could sue an apartment complex owner in Virginia because management told her there were no open units. Management told a White person that units were available at the same complex.

While testers may seem like they are causing unnecessary trouble, it is important to make sure laws are enforced. Disabled Americans have never stopped fighting for our rights. We have a long way to go before this country is truly inclusive for disabled Americans.


Diament, Michelle. “Disability Advocates Urge Supreme Court Not to Limit ADA Protections.” Disability Scoop, 15 Aug. 2023, http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2023/08/15/disability-advocates-urge-supreme-court-not-to-limit-ada-protections/30495/.

Fritze, John. ““Sleeping in My Car.’ This Supreme Court Case Could Change How Disabled Americans Book Hotel Rooms.” USA Today, 14 Aug. 2023, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2023/08/14/disability-testers-supreme-court-acheson-laufer-ada/70579122007/.

Liptak, Adam. “Supreme Court to Hear Dispute between Maine Hotel and Disability Activist.” The New York Times, 27 Mar. 2023, http://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/27/us/supreme-court-maine-disability.html.

Tafti, Dawood, et al. “Multiple Sclerosis.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 7 September 2022.

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