The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in organizations arriving in court over issues of accessibility on their websites and mobile apps. According to the CDC, 26% of the U.S. adult population lives with a disability. This figure is increasing as the baby boomer generation ages. As the number of people with disabilities grows, the number of Website ADA Compliance Lawsuits is sure to grow. You need to know five things to avoid finding yourself in court.
#5 – Who is responsible?
Firstly, who is responsible for ADA non-compliance for websites and mobile apps? In the eyes of the Department of Justice, someone needs to be accountable, and that starts with YOU. Some organizations feel their websites don’t fall under the ADA. The U.S. Department of Justice has repeatedly confirmed that the ADA does apply to websites.
Most Website ADA Compliance Lawsuits are resolved early in the litigation process via settlements, even if your organization has a valid defense. But, in the end, you will have to fix your website and your brand reputation. In addition, you will have to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees and more if the plaintiff prevails.
As the web domain owner, you are responsible for making everything you display ADA compliant. This compliance includes third-party media like virtual tours and YouTube videos. If you need help ensuring your website is compliant, we have a fantastic company we can refer to you to while we can handle all of your third-party media.
#4 – Lawsuits are rising in multiples year over year and showing no signs of slowing down.
According to the analysis conducted by the American Bar Association, there were over 8,000 Website ADA Compliance Lawsuits filed between 2017 and 2020. They also found that since 2018, one-fifth of all ADA Title III filings have regarded website and mobile app accessibility. When you get a demand letter, waste no time. Reach out to an attorney specializing in ADA website defense.
It’s hard to defend, especially if you are not accessible. Defendants in ADA lawsuits typically pay the plaintiff’s legal fees and defense costs, plus their web accessibility auditing and remediation expenses. If you address the issues as soon as possible, you avoid these costs. The lesson here is that setting your website up correctly and promptly is key to avoiding a lawsuit.
#3 – There is no middle ground.
You are either accessible or not. There is no such thing as being partially compliant. Don’t be fooled by “accessibility checkers” touted by websites. A human audit will uncover surprises that these “accessibility checkers” failed to acknowledge when you get sued. Here’s the brutal truth: The Department of Justice historically gives you very little time to rectify your issues. They are not playing around. And if you think a partial fix is a solution, take heed. The DoJ will come back in a few months and attack you again. When making a website accessible, you need to focus on the technical aspect and communicating context.
#2 – Responsibility falls on you.
If you own the domain and CHOOSE to display valuable third-party media, the responsibility falls on you. Some organizations (unsuccessfully) try to kick the blame for third-party media back to the source. According to research firm Forrester Research Inc., companies are expected to spend $10 billion dollars this year on design vendors and service providers that provide accessible solutions (like us).
#1 – “Layovers” ARE NOT Accessible.
Simply having an intern attempt to solve your ADA compliance issues by conducting a quick Google search and finding a fast and cheap solution is insufficient. A solution that is only $50 a month and solved “with a simple line of code added to your website” won’t keep you safe from litigation. If you have already gone this route and have the little (usually blue) icon “overlay” on your website, you should pay attention to the following few sentences.
Silence on the overlaying topic is broken. LightHouse for the Blind VS. ADP (The Payroll Company) settled their case in Dec 2021 with this language in the settlement: “For this Agreement, “overlay” solutions such as those currently provided by companies such as AudioEye and AccessiBe will not suffice to achieve accessibility.” Even worse, attorneys are now using software to seek out lawsuit targets. They can run a technology search for any layover companies and get a handy list of websites using that technology.
Put quite simply, website ADA compliance lawsuits are about discrimination.
An excellent article on SearchEngineJournal.com summed up the use of accessibility overlays perfectly as “discrimination.” These lawsuits are all about discrimination, and they are tough to defend. “There is no such thing as a perfectly accessible website or application that will automatically work for everyone with a disability. The reality is that automatic accessibility overlays working in the background are a cheat based on false promises. Despite the clever marketing and video of the convincing guy insisting your days of worrying about owning an accessible website are miraculously over. Artificial intelligence cannot replace humans.”
So, where do you start in preventing a Website ADA Compliance Lawsuit?
Get in the know. Website ADA compliance lawsuits update monthly at Accessibility.com. The site also offers many great monthly webinars to help you learn more about this complicated topic. You can search cases by everything from business type to a specific term like “video” or “alt tags.” It’s sobering, and we can’t put more focus on the fact that adapting to accessibility now will save you mountains of cash. It’s the smart thing to do. It’s the right thing to do.
Contact us, and we will be happy to help. We can make your third-party media like virtual tours and YouTube videos accessible and ADA compliant. We can also refer you to an affordable and reputable company to assist with your website. Avoiding a Website ADA Compliance Lawsuit takes a little time and effort, but you can avoid spending time and money in court if you are proactive.