What Are Accessibility Lawsuits? Things You Need To Know

  • 18.04.2022

Industry leading brands are facing legal penalties under Title III of the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act). Title III concerns are related to public businesses and the regulatory guidance lacks clarity in terms of websites and the internet. It won’t be an understatement to say that businesses with a digital presence are all at risk in an uncertain landscape due to this ambiguity.

To attain ADA website compliance, commercial entities have to follow the framework provided by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The first ever roadmap to accessibility was published in the year 1998 as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The original standards were preliminary at best and therefore have been constantly revised and evolved.

Serial litigants are making the most out of the under-developed website accessibility laws and guidelines. Every few years, W3C comes up with a new draft for WCAG. The ever-evolving success criteria and recommendations make it difficult for businesses to understand the current regulatory landscape. Consequently, we see a massive increase in the number of website accessibility lawsuits.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) pushed the rulemaking in the year 2010 to include ADA requirements related to websites and technology. Even though, complying with WCAG has become a legal requirement, there is still a great deal of confusion. The lawsuit explosion between the period of 2017 and 2019 increased the complexities for organizations with commercial websites. More than 10,000 Title III fillings are reported since 2018. In most of the filings, the plaintiffs were dealing with sight or hearing difficulties.

The question arises, if we have non-discrimination policies deeply rooted in our jurisdiction then businesses are facing legal recourse. Why can’t they find a remedy?

Considering the fact that technology is constantly evolving and so do the compliance guidelines for digital accessibility, it becomes difficult for businesses to find a quick fix to meet the legal requirements. If you don’t want to add up to the number of website accessibility lawsuits, there are two basic things that you need to know:

Number one, what would happen when you face a website accessibility lawsuit and second, you need to know how to attain a proactive approach to steer clear of the risk of legal penalties. Some of the lawsuit claims are genuine, while most businesses claim that they are dealing with reputational loss due to serial litigants.  Lack of legal compliance is harmful to your brand and so you need to be able to address the real need for digital accessibility.

Website accessibility lawsuits can affect your business

Despite the government’s rulemaking efforts and raising awareness, a 23% increase was reported last year in the number of website accessibility lawsuits. The current climate depicts that companies are not prioritizing digital accessibility. Moreover, plaintiff firms (also known as serial litigants) are reaping the benefits of the scenario. Primarily the complaints were made on easily detectable issues like incompatible screen reader functionality.

More than 90% of the demand letters are sent to businesses in California, New York and Florida.  Facing legal recourse is bad for your finances and it also affects your reputation. In fact, website accessibility should be the primary goal for digital-first businesses. The rising trend for online shopping indicates the significance of digital accessibility in ecommerce. A popular website for online shopping becomes an easy target for lawsuits. Regardless of your product niche, it is important to practice compliance with the accessibility laws because:

  • ADA compliance ensures that your business is protected from the risk of legal penalties
  • When you target digital accessibility, you are actually widening your product reach
  • Disabled users who were unable to access your products earlier can now turn into leads
  • Increased lead generation offers the benefit of increased sales and profitability
  • Users like to spend more time on easily accessible websites
  • The increased view time of your website helps you increase your SEO rankings
  • Improved rank on the search page drives organic traffic and offers maximum ROI

More than one-fourth of the US population is dealing with disabilities. When a business aims for digital accessibility, they eventually open up the path for success. With increased visibility, comes the benefits of increased sales and brand awareness. You can also become a preferred vendor if you practice accountability and aim for ADA compliance.

How to scale up for digital accessibility goals?

Your digital presence can amplify your growth strategies. However, with increased exposure comes the responsibility to be accessible to everyone on the web. Leading through anxiety, companies with commercial websites have started using ADA widgets and plugins. Despite their popularity, these widgets are not helpful to prevent you from the risk of lawsuits. In fact, in 2021 there were 400 lawsuits directly targeting the use of such widgets.

You may begin with an automated scan to find easy targets like broken links or screen reader malfunction. A software code can be implemented to identify problem areas in the most-frequented pages. Although automated tests miss a lot of accessibility issues related to users with cognitive disabilities. Reports say that an automated ADA evaluation tool gives results with only 30% accuracy. Don’t worry, the inadequacy of software testing can be handled easily by accessibility specialists. The trained professionals perfect a series of tests and evaluations for the ADA site compliance manual audit.

Audit specialists are familiar with the current version of WCAG. They can efficiently prepare audit reports and suggest a suitable remediation plan. Conformance to the ever-evolving accessibility guidelines is somewhat challenging. However, you need to make sure that an experienced team is by your side to guide you on the journey of accessibility compliance. With our increasing reliance on digital platforms, one thing is certain, digital accessibility laws are going nowhere and it is best to take up a proactive approach to protect your digital assets from lawsuits.

A lot of planning, perseverance, dedication and auditing goes into ensuring that your website is protected from accessibility lawsuits. Are you in the process of making your website ADA compliant? If yes, then use our free accessibility testing tool to evaluate your website or discuss the proactive approach with our manual audit experts.

Click on this link to speak to our accessibility specialists.