ADA web accessibility lawsuits have exponentially increased. In October 2018, more than 1200 lawsuits had been filed for the year. That number is bound to increase due to the lack of official regulation.
What are some reasons that you may receive the dreaded court summons? We will go through a handful of why the lawyers decide that they dislike you.
The ADA was initially meant for facilities that provide “public accommodation” and was passed before the Internet became a communication and commerce hub. Legislators meant that physical storefronts had to make sure that there were ramp options for wheelchairs and braille menus for restaurants.
In regards to websites, not all are for businesses. Some, like personal blogs or social media, exist to entertain. Others simply exist to provide information.
If you are a business, however, your website is another storefront. It just exists digitally. If it’s your storefront, then it’s open to the public.
Mind, not all businesses are technically open to the public. Some are quite exclusive, the way Facebook was in 2003 before it decided to open access to everyone internationally. Others are based on consumer requests for custom products, such as seamstresses that will make dresses to size. Even so, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
We technically don’t have official national guidelines on what exactly website compliance should constitute. This is a case where increasing regulation would decrease the number of suits and subpoenas filed. Instead, we are left to muddle through legal terminology.
The Department of Justice as of June 2019 has decided to let the courts decide on what is ADA compliance and what isn’t for the Internet. This indecision will probably not waver until we get some focus on competent leadership, so for the meantime, it’s best to keep up to date on all the court cases. Sometimes a judge will be sympathetic, and sometimes they won’t.
Many website accommodation cases go by the Web Content Access Guidelines (WCAG), a set of three tiers that define levels. The lowest tier, A, doesn’t meet the spirit of ADA requirements. AAA is the highest tier but also the most expensive and hardest to follow. Most websites are expected to follow the middle tier, AA.
Do your images have alt text or descriptions? You need those for visually impaired users. Many users with disabilities use a screen reader. If they can’t read it, they have reasonable grounds to file suit.
For others who are deaf and have trouble focusing on video or audio, it’s best to have accurate subtitles or a transcript available, so that a person can follow along. That way they can follow along and learn from your content.
This is one reason that sadly falls under the cynicism by which many of these lawsuits are filed. The lawyers that send letters demanding money in exchange for not suing you believe that you have the funds to pay or the credit for a loan. Since courts are more likely than not to side with the plaintiffs, these suits are considered an “easy” cash grab.
Is the solution to not appear profitable? No. That’s the fastest way to make a bad impression on potential investors and venture capitalists. More likely, you will have to proactively audit your website for disability accommodation, the way Kroger did, and show receipts that you can meet tier AA of the WCAG.
At Site Compliance, it’s in our best interest to ensure that you don’t have to receive the dreaded lawyer’s letter. We will help conduct an audit of your site and make recommendations to accommodate users with disabilities.
Contact us today to learn more about our services. We will be very happy to help you out.