Are Businesses Legally Required to Make their Website Accessible ?
Making websites accessible to all people is our mission & something we believe all businesses should willingly do, but is it legally requires? This is being decided in courts across the country. Since the 2019 Supreme Court ruling, tens of thousands of demand letters have been issued to businesses of all sizes for website accessibility violations.
Some Notable Cases
A blind man filed a lawsuit claiming that he was unable to order a customized pizza or take advantage of online-only discounts because the website and the app wouldn’t work with his screen reading tools. The court ruled…
“The alleged inaccessibility of Domino’s website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises – which are places of public accommodation,”…more
In 2019 the Supreme Court ruled “…the Americans With Disabilities Act protects access not just to brick-and-mortar public accommodations, but also to the websites and apps of those businesses.”
2 visually impaired persons living in CA informed Anthem that had difficulties accessing the website. No action was taken, and 3 years later they filed a lawsuit. The good thing is that Anthem acted quickly and settled for an undisclosed dollar amount and the promise to become compliant within 90 days.
According to a class-action lawsuit, Zillow’s website contains accessibility barriers that deny blind and hard-of-sight individuals full and qual access to real estate listings…more
Jaun Carlos Gil, a Florida resident who is legally blind, brought lawsuits to roughly 50 car dealerships in the state under the context of website non-compliance in 2019. Gil stated that he could not gain access to content on their websites because the sites did not work with his screen reading software. He has since filed over 175 lawsuits…more
1,000’s of Higher Education Establishments
Are Online Accessibility Lawsuits “Frivolous”?
Many plaintiffs are genuine in their claims. For example, San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired filed a lawsuit against payroll processing and HR company, ADP for a lack of accessibility in its website and mobile app.
On the other hand, many lawsuits are nothing more than corporate extortion by legal firms preying on business owners that have never thought about online accessibility and have no idea they are doing anything wrong. A boutique owner in FL was recently quoted as saying:
“The contractor for our physical location knew all about ADA compliance. We have a ramp and rails…my web contractor did not, and it cost me $27,000 in fines and fixes”
In most cases private businesses can’t be sued for damages, instead, businesses who agree to settlements or lose their cases must pay attorney fees and agree to become ADA compliant within a set amount of time. These lawsuits are typically settled for between $10,000 and $20,000 but could cost much more if defendants chose to fight in court. In addition, plaintiffs don’t usually receive money for damages, they receive money in exchange for keeping settlement details confidential.
Regardless of who files these lawsuits, the need for online accessibility is real.
What Should Businesses Do?
It’s your brand, your business, and your decision. Putting your business online was a business decision, so is making your website accessible to people living with disabilities.
The first step is to reach out to a company that specializes in online accessibility (preferably the amazing team at Net Clicks). We will install a compliance toolbar on your website today, that shows you care and are making a reasonable effort. We also put an accessibility statement on your website. Next we will audit your site and provide a full list of compliance issues. From there you decide how fast you want to remediate the remaining issues. If you have already received a demand letter, contact us today and our legal team will provide advice or work with you to provide advanced legal support.
Get a Free Accessibility Scan or a Custom Quote
Fully understanding Online Accessibility and Compliance is challenging, but not having a plan exposes you to costly issues. If you aren’t sure where to start, let us run a free accessibility scan to show you where you stand. We will turn this around the same business day. From there, let’s have a conversation about the level of accessibility and compliance that fit within your budget. Showing that you are making an effort before you are served a demand letter is crucial.