According to the data, web accessibility lawsuits are at an all-time high. In 2021, there were a record-breaking 11,452 federal filings, which is a 320% increase from when records first began. But what is the reason for this? Are websites suddenly becoming more inaccessible, or are there other forces at play?
The simple answer is that there is simply more awareness around accessibility issues than ever before. Over the past few years, social justice matters have hit the mainstream, and people from all walks of life are shining the spotlight on inequality issues in the workplace and our society.
Furthermore, web accessibility was not seen as something of great importance for a long time. Unfortunately, this mindset still prevails today, made evident by the fact that 98% of the world’s top one million websites still don’t offer full accessibility. However, thanks to changes in the ways the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) is applied, websites are now well and truly deemed to be “places of public accommodation,” which means that Title III of the ADA is applicable in the digital realm. As a result, plaintiff law firms are finding more success in the courts, which has set a precedent that may put your company at risk.
Who is at risk of accessibility lawsuits?
Any business with a website is at risk, but one of the most at-risk is eCommerce stores, as they often have hundreds, if not thousands, of pages that change frequently. This makes it much harder for companies to keep on top of accessibility best practices across all of their content, making them prime candidates for lawsuits. With that said, plenty of other industries are coming under fire, too, including food services, healthcare, entertainment, travel, education, and digital media.
The size of your company doesn’t make much of a difference, either. While larger corporations were firmly in the crosshairs a few years ago, most of them have already established robust web accessibility practices, which means that they are much more compliant than their smaller competitors. On top of this, larger businesses have more capital to dedicate towards accessibility, which is a luxury not afforded to many SMEs. As a result, the number of companies being sued with less than $50m in revenue is increasing exponentially.
Facing a lawsuit? Here’s how accessiBe can help
For those unaware, accessiBe is a global leader in web accessibility solutions. The company’s flagship product is its automated web accessibility solution, which helps companies improve the accessibility, usability, and operability of their websites and content, so they can better serve their users and strive toward ADA and WCAG compliance. This is made possible through accessiBe’s powerful AI technology, which scans your website for accessibility errors on both new and existing content. This automaton mitigates the need to hire a full-time web developer or pay for your website to be manually remediated on an ad-hoc basis every time you upload new content.
With that said, it’s important to note that a claim can be brought against your company at any time (and by anybody), even if you have one of the most stringent and robust accessibility solutions in the world. In light of this, accessiBe offers its customers access to a Litigation Support Package, designed to support companies currently going through court proceedings. After all, web accessibility lawsuits can be complex beasts, and it’s always handy to have experts on your side helping you to fight your corner. Let’s take a look at the core features of the litigation support package:
- Complete documentation from the accessiBe R&D team – When you are taken to court, the plaintiff law firm will typically provide evidence for each of the accessibility guidelines (WCAG) that you have failed. In turn, this will be used to demonstrate how you have violated the ADA. Fortunately, the accessiBe team will run a comprehensive line-by-line assessment of your website and any of its issues. Once complete, you will receive a document with direct responses to each of the complaints, which you can use in your defense.
- Third-party audits – In addition to the line-by-line assessment, accessiBe will also conduct two independent third-party audits. This underlines any and all accessibility issues that your website possesses. When you receive these reports, you can address them and remediate your site. Not only will this protect you from further lawsuits, but it will also demonstrate that you are committed to your accessibility program and that you are willing to put measures in place to improve the usability and operability of your website.
- Support throughout the process – It’s highly likely that this will be your first time being on the receiving end of an accessibility lawsuit. If that’s the case, then you are going to want accessiBe’s expertise on your side. The team will be ready to support you throughout the process and offer guidance where needed. If anything, this will give you peace of mind knowing that you are handling the proceedings correctly.
With web accessibility lawsuits on the rise, it’s important to take steps to improve the usability of your site. With that said, even the most accessible websites can still come under fire from plaintiff law firms. In that case, it’s important that you take all the necessary steps to prepare for the case, so you can defend yourself appropriately. Fortunately, accessiBe’s Litigation Support Package will provide you with plenty of guidance and helpful documentation that will assist you so that you may stand a better chance of getting a favorable outcome.
Interesting Related Article: “7 Life-Changing Home Accessibility Technologies for Those With Mobility Impairments“