Website Accessibility Lawsuits – A Dramatic Rise
Businesses Large and Small Are Getting Sued
Most people are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was passed by the federal government in 1990 and helps to protect people who require physical accommodations such as ramps for wheelchairs. The law also prohibits discrimination against the disabled.
What you may not know is that ADA compliance now applies to websites as well as physical storefronts and facilities.
Even if you aren’t looking for a larger audience for your website and don’t want to boost your SEO or improve your website’s usability, you need an accessible website to comply with the law.
While a website would not be in violation of the ADA for not having an elevator or ramp it may be using inappropriate colors, file types, fonts and lack the back end coding that screen readers need to “read” the content of your website to the blind. Such hard-to-see colors and fonts can discriminate against people with color blindness, as can certain file types that don’t allow computers to read text out loud because they allow for access to people without disabilities while preventing access to those who suffer from them.
Since 2018 there has been a dramatic rise in website accessibility lawsuits in Federal Courts with the number of lawsuits against businesses nearly 3 times the previous year’s rate. Such lawsuits are filed against all kinds of businesses, large and small. From thirty eight wineries in New York State being sued for non-accessible websites, an ADA lawsuit against pop star Beyoncé for her website being inaccessible to handicap fans, a large grocery chain, Winn Dixie being forced to update its website for the blind, lawsuits against Hershey’s, Nike, Amazon, David’s Bridal, various moving and storage companies, restaurants, jewlery stores, banks, hotels, motels, Burger King and Dominos Pizza.
Some plaintiff’s sue as many as 20 or 30 companies at a time.
The amount of web accessibility lawsuits against all manner and sizes of businesses has been called a flood and an onslaught.
The COVID-19 Effect
Cases rose 50% after slowing during the initial COVID-19 lockdowns.
The lockdown of the court systems in states such as New York affected filing numbers during the initial lockdown period. After July, plaintiffs dramatically increased the rate of filing.
By the end of 2020, digital accessibility lawsuits nationwide increased by over 50% above the pre-pandemic rate of filing.
Having and accessible website is not only good for the community but can help your business avoid accessibility law suits.
Accessible Adirondack Tourism is committed to providing people with disabilities information on accessible tourism opportunities within the Adirondack region, and we hope you’ll do your part by having an accessible location, website and social media presence.
ADA Website Litigation Continues to Proliferate in 2021: “The vast majority of the cases have been filed in specific venues, particularly the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York …”
In 2019 alone 38 wineries in New York State were sued for their “ … failure to design, construct, maintain and operate its website to be fully accessible and independently usable by (Plaintiff) and other visually impaired people.”
From 2019-2020 more than 75 New York art galleries were sued for their websites violatiing the ADA.
Supermarket chain Winn Dixie lost an ADA website compliance lawsuit on the basis that those with visual impairments couldn’t access their website using their screen reading software.
Thousands of companies across all industries have been named as defendants in website accessibility lawsuits.
Small businesses are being called ‘sitting ducks’ for lawsuits because websites aren’t ADA compliant.