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Lawsuits Are On The Rise… Is Your Website At Risk?

Oct 11, 2017

Have you recently received a legal demand letter related to website accessibility?

It’s rapidly becoming more common for US-based businesses to receive a letter of demand from the DOJ because of an inaccessible website. Web accessibility is a civil and human right, and helps prevent discrimination against impaired individuals.

The legal enforcement of the ADA has shifted focus to include not just brick-and-mortar establishments, but any business or organization that provides information or services via the internet.

Disability and Discrimination

If discrimination is against the law, why should your website be off limits? Shouldn’t websites be accessible to everyone? Hopefully - that last sentence was read as a rhetorical question.

When up to 20% of our population has a disability, website accessibility should be about making the internet a better place by including everyone, not driven solely by the fear of legal action.

The United Census Bureau claims, 1 in 5 Americans suffer with a disability. Consider the following, usually underreported, statistics:

  • 8.1 million people have difficulty seeing
  • 2.0 million are completely blind
  • 7.6 million have difficulty hearing
  • 19.9 million people find it difficult to grasp objects (Mouse, Keyboard)
  • 2.4 million suffer with Alzheimer’s disease, senility or dementia
  • 2.8 million suffer with epilepsy

A Hidden Revenue Opportunity - For Those Who Can See It

Unfortunately, many businesses still don’t consider whether their site can be used by a visually or hearing impaired population - despite the fact that it is estimated that this community controls over $175 billion in discretionary spending power.

Businesses rarely realize they are turning away 20% of the population and a potentially lucrative source of revenue. Beyond that, many organizations are unaware of their legal obligation to ensure their websites conform to WCAG 2.0 AA Guidelines and surprisingly, are often unaware of the  WCAG standards. The recent uptick in ADA-related legal action is changing that for many website operators.

While the WCAG Guidelines are very comprehensive, four of the most common web accessibility errors shown to attract lawsuits include:

  1. The failure to provide alternative text for non-text content. (graphics, images, and audio)
  2. Form fields that are improperly labelled. (text boxes, buttons, check boxes, etc)
  3. Inaccessible tables that fail to identify where the user is within the table. (column and row positioning must be identified)
  4. Inaccessible image maps void of alt tags.

Remediating a non-compliant website can be time-consuming and expensive, but not as expensive as the money spent on a lawsuit, the damage it brings to your brand’s reputation, and the associated remediation. And, as the aging baby boomer population grows, disabled consumers will increase along with web accessibility complaints and lawsuits.

According to the Population Reference Bureau Report, adults 65 and older are projected to double from 46 million to over 98 million by 2060.

Demand Letters And Lawsuits Are Growing - Recent Web Accessibility Cases

Five Guys Enterprises was in the process of redesigning  their website when they were hit with a class action lawsuit by Lucia Marett. The court wasn't influenced by the fact that Five Guys was updating their website, as they were able to convince the court that accessibility issues would be addressed.

Other notable companies recently hit with web accessibility litigation include:

  • Winn-Dixie
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Netflix
  • H & R Block
  • eBay

Surprisingly, we saw a surge of federal ADA Title lll lawsuits (6,601) increase by 37 percent In 2016. And even though these numbers are alarming, we should focus on prevention, not fear.

As Dr. Martin Luther King so famously declared: “Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Web Accessibility Is An Investment That Just Makes Sense

In short, adhering to web accessibility guidelines is good for several reasons:

  1. You can gain goodwill and distinguish your brand with the growing impaired community
  2. It will unlock a potentially lucrative source of new revenue for your business
  3. You can prevent a letter of demand from re-prioritizing your initiatives - and keep your money in your pocket

By conforming to the WCAG.2.0, you will increase the likeliness of meeting web accessibility requirements of countries and organizations around the world. The best way to prepare for an accessibility complaint is to prevent it in the first place.

How knowledgeable are you with the WCAG Standards? Is your website at risk?

Test your knowledge with this short quiz.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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