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Key West will add closed-captioning to meetings. It will settle an ADA lawsuit.

Florida Keys Keynoter - 2/2/2019

Jan. 31--The city of Key West will add closed-captioning to its meetings and shell out $10,000 to end a lawsuit by a hearing-impaired Miami man over its compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The cost of captioning the meetings is $210 per hour, said city spokeswoman Alyson Crean. Key West broadcasts meetings of many boards and commissions live on its website and on Channel 77 on Comcast.

Eddie Sierra, an ADA activist, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on May 2, 2018. The case was settled that June with a Jan. 1, 2019, deadline for the city to comply with captioning its meetings, including when live-streaming. Sierra does not understand sign language, his suit said.

Key West meetings recorded before Jan. 1, 2019 -- the date set by the settlement agreement -- are all available to the public at City Hall, 1300 White St., in the city clerk's office.

"And they will be closed-captioned if necessary for the requester," Crean said. "When the lawsuit was filed, the city explored the cost of going back and closed-captioning past meetings, but the expense would prove onerous to the taxpayers with the potential of costing tens of thousands of dollars for a single past year.

The $10,000 will go to a trust account of Sierra's attorney, Juan Courtney Cunningham, also of Miami. Cunningham didn't respond to a request for comment.

ADA-related lawsuits typically aim to bring a city or business into compliance rather than seek damages.

Sierra has filed dozens of similar suits throughout Florida and in other states, including Texas and California. Last year he settled two suits in the Keys. He sued Monroe County in 2018 and also sued the school district which also complied.

"We started captioning about a week prior to the suit being filed," said county attorney Bob Shillinger.

A Fort Lauderdale woman and her attorney who have reached settlements with at least 20 hotels and motels in Florida over the businesses' websites not explaining how their properties meet the needs of people with disabilities recently set their sights on two Keys resorts.

Cheri Honeywell and her attorney, Jessica Kerr, of the Advocacy Group in Fort Lauderdale, filed lawsuits this month in federal court against the Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel and Resort in Key Colony Beach and Casa Morada in Islamorada.

The suits state that the hotels violated the Americans With Disabilities Act because their websites' reservations systems "fail to provide information about the accessible features of the hotel and its rooms to persons with disabilities."


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