Is your website a litigation risk?
There has been a dramatic increase in legal cases regarding lack of ADA compliance on websites. In 2018, 2,285 ADA web accessibility related lawsuits were filed —up 181% over 2017 which had 814, according to UsableNet. It appears the courts are denying most Motions for Summary Judgment and Motions to Dismiss in cases where ADA compliance on websites is an issue.
When you look at the headquarter locations of the companies in litigation, it is clear the effect is nationwide and international. The top ten states where these lawsuits are occurring are New York, California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Connecticut. Additionally, 11% of companies sued are headquartered internationally.
What is website accessibility?
The web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. When the web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.
Thus, the impact of disability is radically changed on the web because the web removes barriers to communication and interaction that many people face in the physical world. However, when websites, applications, technologies, or tools are poorly designed, they can create barriers that exclude people from using the web.
Who needs to be compliant?
In 2015 the Department of Justice (DOJ) made it clear that the ADA’s expansive nondiscrimination mandate reaches the goods and services provided by public accommodations using Internet websites. The US Attorney General signed the ADA Amendments Act Final Rule on July 15, 2016, that broadened the definition of “disability” making compliance regulations for websites even more stringent.
Thus, it is crucial that any and all companies with an online presence comply with Title II and Title III of the ADA on their websites.
Lessons from three cases
Overall, ADA compliance on websites has become an issue that is being tried more often which can be seen by the number of suits filed within the last few years. Additionally, settlement agreements range greatly.
- National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corporation
Nat’l Fed’n of the Blind v. Scribd Inc., 97 F. Supp. 3d 565 (D. Vt. 2015)
Target argued that the website was not a place of public accommodation and lost.
A settlement agreement was handed down for $6,020,000
- National Federation of the Blind v. HRB Digital L.L.C.
National Fed’n of the Blind v. HRB Digital L.L.C., 2014 WL 10319389
The complaint alleged that H&R Block failed to code its website in a manner that would make it accessible to individuals who have vision, hearing and physical disabilities. A settlement was handed down for $100,000.
- Frazier v. HCA Holdings, Inc
Frazier v. HCA Holdings, Inc., filed 1/25/17.
HCA Holdings is a healthcare services provider that owns more than 100 hospitals across the United States. Liza Frazier, the plaintiff, is legally blind and uses screen reader software to access the Internet. This case is still pending.
Five reasons why your website should be accessible:
Not being sued is a good reason to ensure your website is accessible. However, there are even more benefits of a compliant website.
1) ADA Compliance Increases Your Target Audience by 19%
57 million, nearly 1 in 5, people in the U.S. have disabilities ranging from sight and hearing to physical and cognitive. By offering a website that can be navigated by people with disabilities, you not only show your company is committed to diversifying, but also open up a new demographic.
2) ADA Compliance Improves Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Efforts
SEO is the practice of optimizing your website to get found by as many people as possible by appearing at the top of search results. SEO and accessibility go hand-in-hand. Websites that are inaccessible to disabled visitors are also inaccessible to search engines
3) ADA Compliance May Help Your Reputation
The fact that an ADA compliant website can increase your target audience by millions is just one reason to make your site more accessible. Another benefit is that not only will you get more customers, but those customers will also know how valuable they are to your business.
4) ADA Compliance Means Overall Better Website Usability
Making your web pages easier to comprehend will allow everyone – disabled or non – to find what they’re looking for quickly. If you decide to follow the guidelines, your website will likely convert more leads across the board because users will trust that they can always easily find the content they need.
5) You Can Avoid Penalties
If you are a successful business owner it is not hard to imagine a compliance letter from a local law firm coming across your desk. Many esteemed brands have been hit with significant lawsuits in recent years, before the guidelines were even set in stone. Businesses including Target, Fordham University, Foot Locker, Brooks Brothers, and even Kylie Jenner have been sued for the lack of ADA compliant websites.
The Gold Standard: WCAG 2.0 AA Compliance
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a series of guidelines that are recognized by the DOJ and internationally as the adopted standard of website accessibility. These guidelines are organized into three levels (A, AA, AAA) with similar types of accessibility features addressed in each, but AA having more and AAA having the highest criteria standards.
For most organizations, the objective is to satisfy Level AA guidelines. However, some government agencies and nonprofits who serve a larger impaired audience, may work toward satisfying the majority of Level AAA guidelines.
The WCAG states that it is likely not possible to conform to all AAA guidelines.
The principles of WCAG 2.0 are:
- You must give alternatives if a user cannot use one of their senses.
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content
- Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia
- Create content that can be presented in different ways
- Include assistive technologies without losing meaning
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content
- Web designers must make the user interface components and navigation elements in a way that everyone can “operate” with it.
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard
- Give users enough time to read and use content
- Do not use content that causes seizures
- Help users navigate and find content
If your user doesn’t understand what you are talking about, or you make them feel lost, you have an accessibility problem. You must design your website, including the information and the user interface, in a friendly way.
Why does it matter?
The area that organizations focus on most in this section is readability. Specifically, as it pertains to color contrast. For some individuals, particularly those with some degree of color blindness, text is simply unreadable in certain background color combinations.
This is the most technology dependent principle of all. You must be aware of the evolution of these technologies to adapt your website to their new capabilities.
Why does it matter?
Assistive technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, and your site needs to adapt in step with new hardware and software tools.
What should I do today?
“Everyone is a watchdog or whistleblower these days thanks to pervasive social media and deep searches on the internet. Companies can no longer hide their worst traits and habits —and this is a good thing.”
The events of the past 12 months have tested companies in a number of ways and changed mainstream discourse about the role corporations should play in advancing and addressing social and global challenges. There’s no turning back. In 2018 and beyond, the expectation is that companies will continue to expand their activism on, and investment in, the issues that matter to their employees, customers and communities.
TAG recommends you take a proactive stance to website accessibility. Our role as your most valuable business partner is to arm you with the facts you need to make informed decisions and mitigate your liability.
Compliance and Marketing Website Audit:
Our responsibility as our clients’ most valued business partner is offering professional recommendations guided by decades of experience. If you’re not sure if your marketing efforts are making the biggest impact, we can help you figure out exactly what’s working and what may need adjustments.
TAG can provide you with a website audit that not only provides you with detailed information on compliance but on your website’s marketing performance as well.
You own this data. As a business owner or manager, you enjoy oversight that reveals issues. On an operational level, your IT department receives a comprehensive set of specific, technical improvements ready for immediate application.
For more information visit us at: https://tagteam.agency/services/wcag-2.0-compliance/
Compliance Mitigation to New Design & Development:
Finding out what is wrong with your website is only half the battle. You need a marketing and development partner to make recommendations based on your brand and goals. TAG can provide a wide range of recommendations based on the technical audits. TAG can create a finely tuned web strategy that is truly tailored to your ideal customers.
For more information visit us at: https://tagteam.agency/services/website-design-and-development/