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July 27, 2021

The ADA and Websites: Lawsuits Are Mounting

Business owners, have you heard? The American with Disabilities Act applies to websites, and noncompliance can result in costly lawsuits.

Although the ADA predates the rise of the internet, the U.S. Department of Justice has interpreted the ADA’s accessibility requirements as being applicable to websites. Since then, there have been some attempts to pass legislation that would clarify the accessibility requirements for businesses, including a bill that Representative Ted Budd says would provide “guidance to businesses on how to bring their websites into compliance.”

Some clarification would be nice. In the meantime, companies are being sued over their websites. As the number of lawsuits mounts, it’s clear that businesses need to act now.

A Flood of Website Accessibility Lawsuits

According to the National Law Review, the number of lawsuits claiming that websites are not compliant with the ADA or various state laws is rising. In 2018, about 2,000 cases were reported. In 2020, 3,500 cases were reported. That’s a 75% increase, and the lawsuits don’t seem to be slowing. According to Digital Commerce 360, an early analysis shows that the total number of website accessibility lawsuits could reach 4,195 in 2021.

A few individuals may be responsible for a large portion of these lawsuits. USA Today reports that one woman has filed hundreds of lawsuits in dozens of states over website accessibility issues.

Why Is Website Accessibility Important?

The internet has become an important part of daily life. Many people rely on the internet every day, and some of these people have visual impairments, hearing impairments, epilepsy, or other conditions that affect how they interact with the internet.

Brick and mortar businesses have already seen that small changes, such as installing handrails and ramps, can make their locations more accessible to people with disabilities. Similarly, small changes can make websites more accessible to people with disabilities.

By focusing on website accessibility, businesses can protect themselves from lawsuits alleging ADA noncompliance. This is a strong motivator, but it shouldn’t be the only reason for embracing accessibility. The CDC estimates that 61 million people have disabilities. If your website is not accessible, some of these people may have trouble using it. Even if they don’t decide to sue you, they might decide to take their business elsewhere. Creating an accessible website is the best way to reach as many customers as possible.

Is Your Website Accessible?

If your website was not designed with accessibility in mind, there may be many issues. For example:

  • Does your website have flashing lights or images that could trigger seizures?
  • Does your website use text that cannot be distinguished by people with color blindness?
  • Does your website have images without alt text or other items that cannot be read by a screen reader?
  • Does your website have audio content without captions or transcripts?
  • Is it difficult or impossible to navigate your website using a keyboard only?

These are just a few examples. Website accessibility is a complicated issue because different people have different needs. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the most commonly used standard, and it contains a long list of accessibility issues that need to be addressed.

For businesses looking for a shortcut to accessibility, accessiBe offers a smart and cost effective solution. The accessiBe widget can be installed on a website to bring it into compliance within 48 hours using an AI system. After that, the website is scanned every 24 hours to ensure that new content is also in compliance.

Businesses cannot afford to ignore website accessibility issues. To make sure our clients have access to this important service, Heffernan has negotiated preferred pricing, and we can offer a 20% discount on accessiBe.

 Contact Heffernan Insurance Brokers to learn more.

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