A person who is blind navigating a sidewalk

ADA website lawsuits highlight the importance of compliance

Netflix, Dominoes, Beyoncé; leaders in their respective fields with websites that see traffic in the millions. What do they all have in common? Massive, damaging lawsuits filed on behalf of people with disabilities.  People who are blind, deaf, or disabled have increasingly found themselves unable to access some of the most popular sites on the internet, and they’re fighting back. 

These cases, big as they may be, are only the beginning. The number of ADA website lawsuits has been growing year after year, and will likely continue to do so until compliance catches on.

While the government struggles to catch up to the reality of the current landscape of litigation, there are proven guidelines that can move businesses toward compliance. 

ADA Website Lawsuits

ADA lawsuits can affect websites of all sizes and in all industries. 

According to the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, 2,258 website accessibility lawsuits were filled in 2018,  a 177 percent increase from 2017. This number is likely to increase in the years ahead.

The number of websites, and of people visiting them, continues to climb. When you consider the fact that 1 in 5 Americans are considered disabled, it’s no surprise that these lawsuits have become so prevalent. 

Domino’s Accessibility Lawsuits  

In October of 2019, an ADA lawsuit filed against Domino’s Pizza reached the supreme court. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, upholding a Ninth Circuit Court decision and granting precedence and nation-wide legitimacy to future ADA lawsuits.    

Why should these court decisions matter to your business?

Primarily, these decisions are a victory for accessibility advocates. When the higher courts issue such decisions, they set a precedent that is indicative of how future cases will be handled. This, in turn, signals that these lawsuits will become increasingly common in the years to come. It is becoming increasingly clear that all companies that have a website are at risk of an ADA website lawsuit.

What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990. It guarantees that people with disabilities have access to the same opportunities enjoyed by everyone else. Businesses and organizations must follow these regulations, covering everything from wheelchair ramps to restrooms. 

While federal accessibility guidelines do not yet exist, ADA regulations already apply to websites across the U.S.

State laws and regulations can differ. This can make things difficult, especially if your business operates in multiple states. Thankfully, most states still adhere to the World Wide Web Consortium’s web content accessibility guidelines 2.1, or to section 508 in the ADA.  

What is a compliant ADA website?

ADA compliant websites are sites that can be accessed by people with a wide range of abilities. 

Your website should:

  • Work with technologies that assist people with disabilities, such as screen readers 
  • Include fonts, text sizes, colors and animations that make the site more accessible for people with colorblindness and minor visual impairments
  • Ensure that your website is easily navigable using a keyboard only
  • Do not use content that can cause seizures or other physical reactions 

How to check if a website is ADA compliant

In general, a combination of automated and manual testing is the best way to ensure that your website is ADA compliant. 

Automatic tests are used to check your website’s coding and to make sure that all images feature alt text (written descriptions of the images).

Manual testing is best used to review design elements such as contrast ratios and background colors. 

How to make a website ADA compliant

The World Wide Web Consortium has a number of tools designed to assist those already familiar with web development. The Wave web accessibility tool is another option that can be used to test the accessibility of your web site.

If you’re not familiar with web development, reach out to a web developer who knows the ins and outs of building an ADA compliant website. Specifically, you’ll want to ensure you meet the following standards:

  • WCAG 2.1 at the AA level
  • The ADA, Section 508
  • EN 301549

Websites that comply with the above regulations meet the highest standards of accessibility. It is important to remember, however, that these laws are not yet clearly defined and there is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding liability. Compliance with these existing regulations is the best way for your business to avoid ADA lawsuits, and to ensure that all of your visitors are able to use your site. 

ADA compliance is a fairly straightforward, albeit lengthy, proposition. The larger the site, the longer it will take and the more it will cost. A simple 10-page site, for example, would most likely cost around $900

There are no shortcuts to ADA compliance, and the process isn’t cheap, but when compared to the potential cost of a lawsuit, the benefits of compliance are obvious. Most importantly, adhering to these standards will ensure that people of all abilities have equal access to your website. 

Is my website ADA compliant?

At Northwest media collective, we’ve made ADA compliance a priority. Our home page showcases how these features can be implemented in a modern, stylish way. We offer features to our users that meet all of the standards mentioned above. 

If you’re worried about your own website, NWMC offers a free tool to test accessibility. While updating a website to conform to these regulations may seem like a daunting task, we believe it is the right choice for businesses of all sizes. 

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