Each year, Accessibility.com releases an analysis of web accessibility lawsuits in the United States. The 2022 figures show a slight increase in the total number of lawsuits — but a deeper dive into the statistics reveals some interesting trends.
Below, we’ll outline four takeaways that could shape the legal landscape for digital compliance over the next few years.
1. 2022 was another record year for web accessibility lawsuits
The authors define “web accessibility lawsuit" narrowly: Cases were not counted towards the total if they included non-digital complaints. For instance, if a retail store faced a lawsuit for a missing wheelchair ramp, the case wasn’t included in the analysis — even if another part of the complaint alleged web accessibility issues.
Even with that conservative approach, the authors found a 1.5% increase in official filings from 2021 to 2022. The true number may be slightly higher; in the first half of 2020, the pandemic stalled processing for many digital accessibility cases, which led to an inflated number of lawsuits in 2021.
2. A small number of law firms are responsible for the majority of web accessibility lawsuits
More than 66% of all web accessibility lawsuits in 2022 were filed by five law firms — and one law firm was responsible for an astounding 372 lawsuits. Each five of the top-filing law firms was in the top-six in 2020, 2021, or both years.
We should note that this does not mean that the lawsuits have no grounds; many disability advocates see litigation as a valuable tool for enforcing compliance with the ADA.
With that said, if you receive an accessibility demand letter in 2023, you’re likely to face one of these five law firms:
Stein Saks, PLLC - Filed 372 lawsuits in 2022.
Mars Khaimov Law, PLLC - Filed 360 lawsuits.
Mizrahi Kroub LLP - Filed 345 lawsuits.
Manning Law, APC - Filed 260 lawsuits.
Pacific Trial Attorneys, APC - Filed 259 lawsuits.
As Accessibility.com notes, most lawsuits reference the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the international standards for digital accessibility.
The current version of WCAG is WCAG 2.1, but WCAG 2.2 is expected to become an official recommendation in 2023 — and future lawsuits may cite violations of WCAG 2.2 as evidence of ADA non-compliance.
3. Most lawsuits were filed in New York or California
Once again, New York was the top-filing state for web accessibility claims. Per the analysis:
New York - 1,660 lawsuits.
California - 649 lawsuits.
Florida - 58 lawsuits.
Pennsylvania - 19 lawsuits.
North Carolina - 1 lawsuit.
It’s important to note that many defendants were not based in the state where litigation was filed. Some states have legal climates that are more favorable for plaintiffs. California, for instance, has the Unruh Act, which enables plaintiffs to collect statutory damages for ADA violations — something that isn’t possible in other states.
Additionally, businesses can receive multiple ADA lawsuits at the same time. The 2022 analysis found a 143% year-over-year increase in the number of companies that received multiple lawsuits — and predicts a 200% increase in 2023.
4. Some industries are more frequent targets for accessibility lawsuits
Virtually every organization must comply with the ADA’s Title III (which applies to “places of public accommodation,” including private businesses) or Title II (which applies to organizations that receive government funding).
But in 2023, certain industries encountered a greater number of digital accessibility lawsuits:
Consumer Goods, Services & Retail - 1,378 lawsuits.
Apparel, Durables & Beauty - 247 lawsuits.
Food, Beverage & Tobacco - 234 lawsuits.
Health & Medical - 147 lawsuits.
Tech, Software & Internet Services - 112 lawsuits.
Why? For starters, consumer goods websites are more likely to feature eCommerce stores and other relatively complex content. Greater complexity means more opportunities for digital accessibility barriers — and those barriers may be easier to demonstrate in court.
Take a proactive approach to web accessibility in 2023
With the number of accessibility lawsuits rising every year, digital compliance needs to be a priority for organizations of every size.
Fortunately, this is an achievable goal: By following the latest version of WCAG, your business can provide every user with a better experience (and enjoy the full benefits of accessible design).