Did you know your company could be sued if your website does not meet with accessibility compliance? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has created suggestions for compliance and making your site ADA compliant is good to do, both in theory and practice.
What is the Law?
The ADA was enacted in 1990 as a civil rights statute and created for the purpose of limiting discriminatory practices towards individuals with disabilities. It was assumed that it applied only to brick-and-mortar structures.
Today, we no longer rely solely on brick-and-mortar places. we use a brick-and-mortar’s accompanying website or another website of similar offerings. As such, lawsuits once directed at brick-and-mortars now are being sent to websites.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), which enforces the ADA, initially reacted to this in 2010 by issuing a rulemaking proposal on the inclusion of website accessibility to the ADA, pending public input on what standards it should adopt. In 2016, the DOJ announced that it expects to publish its stance on website accessibility during the fiscal year of 2018, but also in this announcement, was not specific as to what guidelines it expects to adopt.
Over the past year and a half or so, law firms have been sending out demand letters, threatening to sue websites that fail to meet website accessibility. These demand letters typically seek a settlement agreement which includes an award of attorney’s fees, costs to plaintiffs and creation of a web accessibility compliance plan.
How Likely Are You To Be Sued?
The chances are pretty low. However, on June 12th, 2017, in what is considered to be the first ADA case dealing with website accessibility against a private company, Winn-Dixie, the plaintiff was awarded an “injunctive relief“. The terms of the injunction stated that Winn-Dixie will:
- Pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees
- Make their website accessible to individuals with disabilities
- Implement an Accessibility Policy to insure that its website meets WCAG 2.0 criteria
- Require usage of 3rd party vendors on their site meet WCAG 2.0 criteria
This aligns to many recently settled website accessibility cases relating to the ADA, which have required the defendant to conform to either WCAG 2.0 (Level A or AA criteria), Section 508, or a combination of both.
While we wait for an official stance from the DOJ on website accessibility, the general consensus is that it will adopt the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
What Should You Do?
Take action now. Be proactive and resolve any accessibility issues on your website as soon as possible. Fixing these now is better than waiting until a demand letter is presented to you.
Then after you fix your accessibility issues, continue to be proactive in monitoring your site. Every time you plan a site update, whether it’s a content update or added site functionality, make sure you keep accessibility in mind. Consider your users. Build with inclusivity in mind so you won’t have to pay for it later.
Most importantly, above all, fixing your site’s accessibility issues is the right thing to do. Currently, 1 in 5 people in the United States has a disability. If your site is not accessible, your site presents barriers to those with a disability, barriers that can prevent them from understanding the purpose of your site and/or interacting with you.
If you want to be certain your website is in compliance, Wakefly can help. We can perform an audit of your online properties to help identify any violations that may exist. If you would like more information about ADA compliance, WCAG, or Web Accessibility in general, contact us here to help.