Under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses are prohibited from discriminating against persons with disabilities in their physical stores or online sites. For almost a decade now, website accessibility lawsuits comprise the bulk of claims in U.S. federal court.
Here are the numbers:
- In 2013, 2,722 Title III lawsuits were filed.
- In 2019, the numbers shot up to 11,053 cases.
- In 2020, due to the pandemic, the number of cases dropped to 10,892.
- In 2021, there were 11,452 ADA Title III lawsuits filed in federal court.
The cases in 2021 were 4% higher than in 2020 and 320% higher than in 2013. Why are the lawsuits rising? What seems to be the issue?
The Problem with Inaccessible Websites
Title III of the ADA mandates public accommodations to offer equal access to people with disabilities to their goods, services, and facilities. Few businesses purposefully or actively discriminate against people with disabilities, but content restrictions occur when accessibility is not given top priority. These obstructions may violate ADA Title III, which applies to websites and mobile apps.
Many people with visual impairments, for instance, use screen readers to browse the web. Screen reader users won’t be able to see all a website’s content if the images don’t have alternative text and the navigation isn’t consistent. These can be a reason to file a web accessibility lawsuit.
Another example is when hotels break the ADA law by neglecting to provide enough information about accessible rooms on booking websites. This is another sound basis for filing a claim.
As a result, the significant surge of ADA Title III lawsuits is associated with a keen recognition of the value and legal need for website accessibility.
The Updated ADA Web Accessibility Guidelines
On March 18, the Department of Justice updated its web accessibility guidelines to create a better interaction between businesses and consumers with disabilities. The guidance covers a broad range of subjects, such as:
- The importance and function of web accessibility
- The challenges that inaccessible sites pose for users with disabilities
- The time and instances when the ADA mandate the site content be accessible
- Best practices for making web content more accessible for all
The agency also noted the following features of disability-inaccessible websites:
- Reliance on colors to provide information
- Missing alternative texts on images
- Substandard color contrast
- Lack of captions on videos
- Inaccessible digital forms
- Reliance on the mouse instead of the keyboard for navigation
Through the updated web accessibility guidelines, businesses in all sizes and industries can build an inclusive internet via ADA website compliance.
The Need for Accessible Websites
Web accessibility is vital to creating a more inclusive and equal community by removing barriers to physical and digital resources. That is why the ADA underscores the definition of inclusive physical and digital facilities accessible to people with disabilities. This guarantees that persons with disabilities have a fair chance of purchasing goods and services. This can also prevent businesses from losing potential customers. Hence, the importance of ADA compliance can’t be overlooked.
In a 2019 report, about 70% of eCommerce sites, news and information websites, and government portals have extensive accessibility issues for visually impaired users. These individuals depend on websites that have been coded specifically for their disability. They often use a screen-reading tool that reads the content aloud. Websites without these special tools make it difficult for them to check and buy products and services.
Alternatively, accessible websites use software and hardware assistive technology tools to help users with disabilities engage with their content. These tools include screen readers, alternative keyboards, screen magnifiers, and eye-tracking devices.
How to Avoid Web Accessibility Lawsuits
Businesses must conform to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to avoid website accessibility lawsuits. Another excellent option is to seek assistance from a web accessibility partner that can assess the site’s current state.
A partner such as ADA Web Accessibility can help conduct a full audit and help address the identified barriers of the site. If the website presents many accessibility issues, their artificial intelligence technology can make the website fully ADA compliant and certified within 48 hours. With this help, businesses can have a website accessible to people with disabilities and avoid unwanted lawsuits.
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