Laufer vs. Acheson Hotels, LLC

Published April 18, 2024

On October 5th, 2022, Deborah Laufer filed a lawsuit against Acheson Hotels, alleging that they violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) by not having any information on room accessibility or hotel accessibility on their website. This lawsuit joins the 2,387 digital accessibility lawsuits filed in 2022, with a twist – it has made it to the United States Supreme Court. 

What’s so special about this case? Why should we pay attention? And what does it mean for the future of digital accessibility?


The plaintiff in this case, Deborah Laufer, uses mobility aids and has a visual disability. While on the website for Acheson Hotels, headquartered in Maine, she noticed that accessibility information was not listed – information like parking, accessible rooms, and accessible bathrooms. This information was also not available through third-party sites like Expedia

However, Laufer had yet to make plans to book a room or travel to Maine. Laufer is a “tester” – in other words, a person with a disability who checks websites for accessibility. When she found accessibility issues with Acheson’s website, she filed a lawsuit on behalf of a person with disabilities who might want to book a room with their hotel. 

Initially, the lower court dismissed Laufer’s lawsuit. The court said that since Laufer had no intention of booking a room, she had no right to sue Acheson over accessibility issues. Laufer appealed the ruling to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned that verdict, saying that Acheson did violate the ADA. Acheson Hotels appealed that decision, and the case went up the chain until it reached the United States Supreme Court, which will hear it in October 2023. 

Though the hotel in question has since put a disclaimer on the website stating that their rooms are not ADA accessible, Laufer argues this does not settle the case. 

Why is this case important?

Unlike other lawsuits over digital accessibility, this lawsuit concerns the booming business of ADA testers. It is a small but growing population whose goal is to push for websites to become ADA-compliant and fully digitally accessible, even if the testers are not customers themselves. Testers spend their time checking multiple websites a day for accessibility issues and turning to litigation to force compliance. 

The issue of testers is a controversial one. Some argue that testers serve an important role in closing the accessibility gap, especially when it comes to websites. Testers can stand in for people who don’t have the means, either financially or physically, to fight for their access rights when threatened. Because of that, they should have the right to sue businesses for ADA violations, even if the accessibility issue does not directly impact them.

Others, however – even some individuals with disabilities – argue that the system is too open-ended and doesn’t have enough checks and balances. Deborah Laufer is actually mentioned by name in this person’s argument, having filed over 600 cases as a self-proclaimed tester. Policymakers can argue that this over-litigation muddies the waters and trivializes access concerns, turning ADA lawsuits into a joke.

This lawsuit seems to be the deciding factor – should these tester lawsuits be allowed to continue? It’s a question that has split courts, as seen by this case – one court dismissing it and another overturning that ruling. Now it has made its way to the highest court in the land, and we may get an answer to who is allowed to sue when accessibility issues arise.

The future of digital accessibility

No matter the ruling in Laufer vs. Acheson, the future of digital accessibility will change. Either tester lawsuits will be allowed to continue, and the meteoric rise in cases will likewise continue, or testers will no longer be allowed to sue on other people’s behalf, and we may see a dip in lawsuits. Certainly, this is a case to pay attention to, especially if you’ve had accessibility concerns with your website in the past. 

If the Supreme Court rules on behalf of Laufer, we may expect to see the rate of lawsuits increase. Those testers that saw their cases dismissed may refile now that they know the courts must rule in their favor, and we may see even more testers arise to join the growing cottage industry. Many companies may even see repeat lawsuits, especially if they change slowly. 

If the Supreme Court rules on behalf of Acheson Hotels, the rate of lawsuits may decrease. Testers will find themselves out of work – unable to file new lawsuits even if they still test the accessibility of websites and find them lacking. The ruling could restrict lawsuits to those that are actually affected by access issues – for example, someone actively trying to book a room at the hotel. 

It’s clear this is one of the most important cases in digital accessibility news and for a good reason. It could change the future of digital accessibility-related lawsuits as we know them. 


Laufer vs. Acheson Hotels, LLC is not just an accessibility lawsuit – it’s also a lawsuit regarding the rights of ADA testers to sue on behalf of other people with disabilities. Deborah Laufer is an ADA tester who has filed many lawsuits over digital accessibility, and this case will determine if she and others like her can continue to do so. Litigating over accessibility is changing no matter the outcome of this case.


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