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The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities. The ADA guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities/access as everyone else. When most people think about the ADA, they often think of things the allowance of service animals in restaurants and on planes and ensuring that persons with disabilities have access to public transit, gyms, office buildings, and so on. However, a commonly overlooked source of ADA based legal claims against companies are business websites.
If you are a fully able body person, you might be scratching your head about this one, but it makes sense if you think about the challenges you might face with using a website if you are:
THE BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE.
From a business sales perspective, it is important to think about ADA website compliance because:
While brick-and-mortar stores are still important, consumers are turning to the Internet, and the business websites, for information and to shop. You don’t want to lose out potential customers ... plus just being more inclusive is the right thing to do.
THE LEGAL PERSPECTIVE.
From a legal perspective, it is important to think about ADA website compliance because it is legally required of any business, and failure to comply with ADA may bring fines and lawsuits against businesses. Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has repeatedly reiterated its opinion that the law also applies to websites. Consequently, the number of ADA lawsuits citing alleged website accessibility issues has increased drastically. More than 4,000 lawsuits against websites, apps or video content were filed in 2021 which was 15% more than the previous year. That number grew by 12% in 2022. This likely doesn’t even cover claims that might be able to be brought under various state laws or paying out settlement demands to make the problem “go away”. Even more unfortunate is the reality that small businesses are disproportionately affected by legal action in the first place, and small businesses are often simply unaware of violations.
What do settlements and penalties look like? Let’s just say it can be ugly and can impact large and small companies alike. While the DOJ may be looking at bigger fish, ambitious plaintiff’s lawyers may be looking for a quick payday.
Generalized costs for dealing with these kinds of claims against you can look like the following same expenses:
Outside of the above, the maximum civil penalty for a first violation under Title III is $75,000, with a subsequent violation being capped at $150,000. What is needed to comply? The DOJ has essentially adopted the technical standards outlined in the World Wide Web Consortium’s (“W3C”) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) for website accessibility.
Not sure where to start or even if your website is compliant? We can help! Contact us to inquire about how we can help or consider having us prepare for you our multi-pointBusiness Website Risk Audit Report which includes a section on website ADA Compliance. It's better to let us tell you now where you can improve and limit your legal liability than waiting until you receive received a demand letter by some troll law firm looking to make a quick buck because they know you're stuck in between a rock and hard spot. Trust us, being proactive is a lot better than being reactive!
About one in four adults in the United States have some sort of disability. That's 25% of your potential customer base!
Beebe Law PLLC