Companies Can Be Sued for Poor Website Accessibility

Companies Can Be Sued for Poor Website Accessibility

Did you know that your company can be sued for having poor accessibility on your website? Much like the rules that govern accessibility in public facilities, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) also contains rules that pertain to public websites. Over the last few years, lawsuits for website ADA violations have been on the rise and carry the potential to bankrupt companies.

In both 2018 and 2019, there were over 2,200 lawsuits filed in federal courts pertaining to website accessibility, according to authors with the New York Law Journal and marketing technology industry publication MarTech. These lawsuits were filed against companies of all industries and sizes, but a majority of them were against small and medium businesses.


No Company is Exempt

There have been numerous notable ADA lawsuits that show virtually every type of company is at risk for being sued for a poorly accessible site.

In one case, Grammy-winning performer Beyoncé’s company Parkwood Entertainment was sued because its website did not follow rules for visually-impaired users. It was argued the absence of alt text on images made the website unusable for visually-impaired individuals to make purchases or even browse the site.

In another class action lawsuit, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were sued for not having captions on their online content – including student courses. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) successfully argued a lack of captions made the content inaccessible to hearing-impaired users.


Violations Can Be Expensive

What does all this cost? It varies widely by case, but it’s almost never cheap. At the collegiate level, for example, violations can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement fees. For small businesses that get sued, they might wind up having to pay for things like legal fees for themselves and the plaintiff, relevant statutory damages, and for needed changes to their website.


How to Evaluate

There are several important steps you should take to make sure your site is accessible to everyone. For starters, check out the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) online. On their fully-accessible website (as one would expect), the initiative provides comprehensive guidelines that you can use to evaluate your own site.

These are called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and they were developed to provide site owners with a single shared standard for accessibility. In broad terms, there are a few key accessibility categories to consider:

  • This includes things like captions, audio descriptions, sign language, use of color, and more.
  • The user interface needs to be operable through a variety of means, like keyboard accessibility and other input modes.
  • Content needs to be readable and understandable, including the language, written descriptions of errors, etc.
  • Content should be able to be interpreted by user agents and assistive technologies.


Top 7 Recommendations

The ADA and additional ADA experts with eSSENTIAL Accessibility, an accessibility-as-a-service platform, provide descriptions of the most common website accessibility problems and solutions that companies should take to fix them. Companies of any size and any budget will be able to achieve these:

  • Add “alt text” to convey the meaning every image.
  • Provide documents in alternative text-based formats (HTML or RTF in addition to PDF).
  • Videos should have audio descriptions and text captions.
  • Design sites so they can be viewed with colors and font sizes as set by users’ systems.
  • Use descriptive anchor text for links.
  • Program form fields so they can be read by screen readers.
  • Structure headings so they are correctly nested, this helps screen readers.


Go Get Accessible

Companies are strongly advised to take a look at their websites and make sure they are as ADA compliant as possible. So much is riding on it and failing to be compliant could be devastating for some firms. Nobody wants to lose their business because of an ADA violation, especially when it can be prevented with just a few basic steps. Protect your company and update your site today.



Industries Most Likely to be Sued for Website ADA Complaints

  • Real Estate
  • Healthcare and Dental
  • Automotive
  • Education
  • Finance
  • Food and Restaurants
  • Ecommerce

Source: MarTech


Category Features, IT & Tech