The Legal Basis of Web Accessibility Lawsuits

Web Accessibility Laws

VOICE LISTINGS          October 2021              SHARE

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) had been around since 1990, but the clamor for compliance to this law intensified in recent years, with businesses being sued for poor website accessibility. A UsableNet survey said that digital accessibility lawsuits rose by 25% year-on-year, reaching 3,500 in 2020.  

Nature of Complaints

In the poll, claims against non-accessible desktop websites topped the list at 3,235 claims, followed by mobile apps at 296. Some of the common complaints included missing text alternatives for images and non-text content, wrong dollar values for purchases after the user picks the size or quantity, no voice-over for map searches and promo ads, missing labels, and missing page titles. 

Laws Related to Accessibility for the Disabled

accessible website for people with disabilities

The main legal grounds for web-accessible lawsuits are: 

  • ADA, Title III

Parts of ADA took effect at different times. Although it was signed in 1990, the law's Title III, which covers businesses and non-profits, came into force two years later. It prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities by public accommodation and commercial facilities 

Although not specifically named in the law, online services, including website operations, became considered as part of public spaces, with more people relying on the web for information, purchases, and services. 

  • Rehabilitation Act, Sections 504 and 508

This law says that any organization receiving federal funds or assistance, like federal agencies and contractors, should make their electronic or technology products and services accessible to employees and the general public with disabilities. Section 508 was later updated to include World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)-recommended guidelines.  

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

W3C's set of guidelines, which has become internationally recognized, has three compliance levels: 

○ Level A (low): navigable keyboard, no keyboard traps (users can both enter and exit parts of a webpage through keystrokes), video captions, text descriptions that can be read by a screen reader as alternative to images, audio, or video, not confining navigation options or descriptions to colors and sizes 

○ Level AA (mid-range): consistent navigation elements, accurate labels, high color contrast (font is easy to distinguish from the background), logically arranged headings, text alternatives to images, audio, and video 

○ Level AAA (high): higher color contrast, sign language interpretation for video and audio, context-sensitive support 

  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and Unruh Act

These laws cover all websites that California-based netizens can access, even if the website is run outside of the state. Courts advise adherence to the latest version of the WCAG. 

  • New York City Human Rights Law

Websites are legally recognized as public accommodation in New York, granting it ADA Title III protection.  

ADA Compliance Protects Your Business and Can Make It Grow

protect your business

An ADA-compliant website gives you the following benefits: 

1. It saves you from possible litigation expenses.

First-time violators can pay up to $75,000 in fines and $110,000 for subsequent violations. 

2. It boosts your market reach.

There are 61 million Americans with disabilities with an estimated annual spending power of $490 billion. 

3. It can improve your site's search ranking.

A navigable site with easy-to-read and understand content is attractive to search engines. This can increase traffic to your site, thereby improving your ranking and conversion rate in the long run.  

4. It makes you eligible to a tax credit.

Businesses can get a one-time tax credit of up to $5,000 for web accessibility efforts. 

Choose ADA Web Accessibility for Your Compliance Needs

You can build a better brand by ensuring your website gives a seamless experience to your prospects and clients with disabilities. Get in touch with ADA Web Accessibility today and turn your compliance goals into a reality. 

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