Website accessibility lawsuits tell us one thing for certain: no one is safe from litigation. Several years ago, these lawsuits were rare, but now failing to make your website accessible leaves you open to a host of liabilities.
Lawsuits against companies that fail to make their websites accessible are on the rise and the numbers are staggering. In 2017, there were 815 cases but that number nearly tripled by 2018 with 2,285, according to the National Law Review.
And you might not believe some of the large companies who have given little to no attention to the accessibility of their websites. Large public figures like Beyoncé are among those who have faced litigation. But retailers and service businesses are facing the same struggles. Within the last several years, Domino’s Pizza, Fox News and Winn-Dixie grocery stores have been among those who have had to pay the price for a lack of accessibility on their websites.
While the settlements of these cases are kept private, there’s no doubt that it could put an unpleasant dent in a company’s finances. If you’ve never taken the time to evaluate your company website for accessibility, now is the time. Recent court decisions prove that it’s much better to be proactive than reactive at this point.
The laws around website accessibility
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect in 1990 and sought to make public places accessible for those with disabilities. But for many years it was unclear whether or not websites qualified as public places.
But the law left the door open for people with disabilities to file lawsuits when a website lacks accessibility. And with that has come case law that further defines whether or not a website must be ADA compliant.
In October 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that blind individuals can sue retailers whose websites are not accessible. The ruling came when Domino’s appealed against a lawsuit from Guillermo Robles who was unable to order pizza from the company because its website and mobile app were not accessible for him because he is blind.
Domino’s claimed that because their stores were ADA compliant, the lawsuit had no grounds, but they lost. With the decision, the Supreme Court opened the door for others who are visually impaired to sue businesses who fail to focus on website accessibility.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. California and New York now have their own state laws regarding accessibility requirements and with so many lawsuits and pending litigation, it’s likely that the requirements for accessibility will continue to rise.
Lack of accessibility could mean more than just a lawsuit
A lack of accessibility could do more than make you face a lawsuit. It could mean you miss out on business from the one in four Americans who have a disability, according to the CDC. That number is staggering and should make you pause and think about who you’re turning away from your business because they can’t learn more about you.
And as far as costs go, facing a lawsuit for lack of accessibility on your website could mean paying out a settlement that’s 3 or 4 times the cost of making your website accessible. And in the course of the lawsuit, you’ll still need to make those updates for accessibility, which is almost like having to pay twice for the error.
The error of ignoring website accessibility is too costly. Take the proper steps toward ensuring the accessibility of your website now before the lawyers come calling.
Design Positive offers website accessibility evaluation and updates along with branding and annual report designs. If you’re interested in how to make your next website accessible, contact us.