Protecting Against Website Accessibility Suits
June 18, 2018
In 2017, over 250 lawsuits (most of them class actions) were filed against companies for failing to maintain websites in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Websites were said to be inaccessible to screen-reading software commonly used by blind internet users. The legal issue is whether website operators are operating “a place of public accommodation.” Some courts take the position that the ADA applies to all commercial websites; others hold that only websites with a “nexus” or connection to a physical location are subject to the ADA.
The first case concerning website accessibility was tried in 2017. It resulted in a win for the plaintiff, largely based on his testimony that he intended to patronize the defendant’s physical stores once he could fully access the company’s website. According to the decision, a “causal connection” existed between the violation of the plaintiff’s rights and his troubles accessing defendant’s website.
One way to make a website compliant is to have a qualified web design agency perform an audit and make sure that the audit complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Although there is discussion that some guidance may come from the Department of Justice (DOJ) this year, no regulations providing specific guidelines to businesses exist. The most that businesses can do to protect themselves is conform their websites to the WCAG 2.0 standard, make sure that their third-party vendors are aware of the ADA, and train employees responsible for website and mobile app maintenance.
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