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Fraud Whistleblower Seeks Redress for Inaccessible Public Website that Cost California $66 Million

OAKLAND, May 20, 2019 — TRE Legal Practice alleges that Xerox Corp. and Conduent, Inc. defrauded taxpayers when the two companies built a $66 million state park reservation website that hundreds of thousands of Californians with disabilities cannot use. The suit seeks damages on behalf of the People of the State of California and injunctive relief on behalf of a blind representative plaintiff, Bryan Bashin.

Mr. Bashin, a longtime outdoor enthusiast, was excited to learn of the launch of a new system that promised to “provide more user-friendly web services and greater accessibility to more visitors for the highly sought-after camping and lodging locations” in California state parks. But, when Mr. Bashin sought to book a campsite soon after the system, ReserveCalifornia.com, launched on August 1, 2017, he could not do so. The website was, and remains, completely unusable to him as a blind person who routinely uses screen-reader software to navigate the Internet.

To develop the reservation website, the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) accepted the promises of Xerox and Conduent, the “world’s largest provider of diversified business process services,” that they would produce a website that met federal and California website accessibility standards.  Conduent, a spin-off of Xerox’s business services division, is a major, publicly traded corporation with nearly $5.4 billion in revenue in 2018, much of it from government contracting.

DPR wrote numerous disability access requirements into the $66-million-dollar contract for designing, testing, and maintaining ReserveCalifornia.com. The contract requires Xerox/Conduent to take specific steps to ensure that ReserveCalifornia.com complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Millions of government and commercial websites use these longstanding design standards, and the law explicitly requires them for the websites for public programs such as ReserveCalifornia.com. The standards ensure that people with disabilities who rely on assistive technology, such as screen-reader or magnification software used by the blind, voice control tools used by persons with manual dexterity impairments, and other similar technology used by people with disabilities, can still use a website.

Mr. Bashin’s Complaint, filed with the Superior Court of Alameda County, alleges that the defendants made numerous false claims to DPR about its compliance with the federal and state accessibility requirements. The Complaint further alleges that the defendants interfered with Mr. Bashin’s civil rights by building an inaccessible website. Even today, almost two years after launch, ReserveCalifornia.com grossly fails to comply with the WCAG standards that both statutory law and the state’s contract require.

“California’s taxpayers should be outraged that they’re paying big money for such a shoddy website. The disability access violations are on the level of a new multimillion-dollar public rec center built with stairs up to the front door and no wheelchair ramp,” said Timothy Elder, Principal Attorney at TRE Legal Practice.

“Like hundreds of thousands of other Californians with disabilities who love to use our state parks,” said Mr. Bashin, “I would mark my calendar to the hour when I could reserve a beloved campsite, only to find that the state’s new reservation system was so bungled that I couldn’t make a reservation. Even today, I and many other people with disabilities are still locked out of the system because of private contractors who bilked California out of millions of dollars.”

Mr. Bashin and TRE Legal Practice seek an order mandating that Conduent fix the access barriers it created in the website so that people with disabilities can independently enjoy the same reservation opportunities as everyone else. Mr. Bashin and TRE Legal Practice further seek to compel Xerox and Conduent to repay all public funds secured through fraud and false assurances that the ReserveCalifornia.com website is accessible to campers with disabilities.

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About TRE Legal Practice

TRE Legal Practice is a civil rights law firm focusing on the rights of the blind and other disabled people to access employment, education, government programs, public accommodations, accessible technology and all other aspects of society. Learn more at https://www.trelegal.com.

Contact

Timothy Elder, Principal Attorney
(415) 873-9199, extension 101
telder@trelegal.com