(WFLA) — The disabled plaintiffs call themselves activists working to improve society for the disabled, one lawsuit at a time.

Critics call it “legal extortion,” now targeting small business owners who feel they are “sitting ducks” for Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits regarding their websites that are not accessible to some with disabilities. 

Last year, there were 2,285 ADA website lawsuits filed in federal courts across the nation, an increase of a 181 percent from 2017, according to website accessibility company UsableNet. The majority of lawsuits originate in Florida and New York.

“The attorneys are telling us, ‘You can’t fight this. There’s nothing you can do, just write them a check,'” says Ben Tundis, owner of Island Comfort Footwear in the Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater, Florida.

Tundis is one of 175 business owners sued by Emily Fuller, of Broward County, a visually-impaired woman holding businesses accountable if they have websites that are not ADA compliant. Fuller, in her lawsuit filed January 4, claims that she was not able to use the recently launched website of Tundis’ shoe store. 

Fuller uses a screenreader to use the Internet and claims the shoe store’s website lacked coding that would communicate with her software. This excluded her from shopping on the website, which is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the lawsuit.

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