It’s never a good look for a company to possess a website that is, let’s say… behind the times, but did you know that businesses can actually be sued over their websites?
When most people think of the American’s with Disabilities Act, or ADA, chances are they don’t think of a website. However, as our society continues to shift into the digital age, more and more lawsuits filed under the guidelines of the ADA are targeting the very source of digital progression, the worldwide web.
The ADA and the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is in charge of enforcing the laws laid out by the ADA, are tasked with ensuring that American’s with disabilities are properly accommodated within public areas, so it makes sense that they also wish to properly accommodate these individuals in one of the most public places of all, the Internet.
Picking Up Speed:
Over the last 20 years, the DOJ has made significant strides towards protecting disabled website users under the ADA.
According to the article Website Accessibility and the Law: ADA Compliance and WCAG 2.0: In the early 2000’s the DOJ began to signal that Title III of the ADA could possibly be applied to websites, and in 2007 they released a short list of recommendations explaining how to make a website more accessible for those with disabilities. This progression continued into 2010 when the DOJ released a Notice of Advance Rulemaking stating that they were “considering revising the regulations implementing Title III of the ADA in order to establish requirements for making the goods, services… offered by public accommodations via the internet, specifically at sites on the Word Wide Web, accessible to individuals with disabilities”.
More recently however, the efforts by the DOJ have seemed to come to a screeching halt. The formal guidelines for the revisions to Title III of the ADA that were originally envisioned to go into affect in 2015, have since been pushed out to 2018.
In the meantime, litigation continues to rise as more lawsuits are being filed alleging that particular websites violate the protections of the ADA. According to the Law Firm Seyfarth & Shaw, ADA Title III Lawsuits increased by 37% in 2016.
In addition, Plaintiffs are beginning to win their suits. According to the article Judges Handling ADA Lawsuits Over Websites Not Waiting On DOJ regulations: “In the past year, an increasing number of companies have faced lawsuits from blind and deaf plaintiffs, and On March 21, a California judge, for what is believed to be the first time in any court, granted summary judgment to a blind plaintiff who sued luggage retailer Colorado Bag’n Baggage over its website.”
How To Minimize Your Risk:
As the lawsuits continue to mount moving forward, ADA compliance will become more of a norm in the business world, and eventual legal regulations appear to be inevitable. Due to the recent boom in online shopping, businesses that posses e-commerce websites are probably at the highest risk for litigation under the ADA. However, It would be a smart move for any company with a non-compliant website to begin making a shift toward compliance the next time they redesign or update their site. Plus, businesses that update their sites in favor of ADA compliance are opening the door to more potential customers.
The safest way to avoid litigation for your website is to follow the recommendations that the DOJ released in 2007. Some of the most basic and important recommendations include the following:
1.) Include Text with your images so that screen readers for the blind can distinguish if the image is a basic photo, logo, link to another part of the website, etc.
2.) Use text that has adjustable font sizes and colors so that text can become more visible if necessary.
3.) Add audio descriptions and text subtitles for videos and images on your site.
Here is the complete checklist of recommendations: https://www.ada.gov/pcatoolkit/chap5chklist.htm.
MJ Kretsinger has experience with helping companies create websites that are ADA compliant. If we can be of assistance with your next website redesign, or help you make your existing website more ADA compliant, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website at mjkretsinger.com.
Kennedy, Hallie. “Website Accessibility and the Law – ADA Compliance and WCAG 2.0.” New Media Campaigns. N.p., 4 May 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.
Newsline, Legal, and Amanda Robert. “Judges Handling ADA Lawsuits Over Websites Not Waiting On DOJ Regulations.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 29 Mar. 2016. Web. 12 July 2017.
Vu, Minh, Kristina M. Launey, and Susan Ryan. “ADA Title III Lawsuits Increase by 37 Percent in 2016.” ADA Title III. N.p., 23 Jan. 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.