Website ADA Accessibility Lawsuits: A Growing Trend

I was on Twitter the other day and saw an individual's post about web accessibility. The shared article was great, but it was one of the comments that caught my attention:

At first I chuckled and thought who doesn't already know that?

Then I put myself in my place, remembered and realized that it's the responsibility of people like me in the web industry to help and communicate laws and regulations to those focused on their businesses in their own industries.

The fact is that you do need to address Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility with your website and you can be sued by a disabled individual who can't operate your website.

The ADA requires (Title 3) that places of "public accommodation" remove barriers to access for people with disabilities.

For a long time it has been understood that the law applies to brick-and-mortar businesses, however, it's also becoming apparent how much this law applies to public websites as well.

Increase in website accessibility lawsuits

Website-related ADA accessibility lawsuits have skyrocketed by nearly 300% since 2017:

bar chart rise of ada lawsuits

I wish I had more historical data on this but the fact is this is a newer type of regulation with a quickly-growing list of cases.

One thing to keep in mind with this is the more popular these cases become the larger the number of total lawsuits is expected to be.

Websited-related ADA lawsuits gaining popularity and clarity

In 2019, one such case made the headlines: Robles v. Domino's Pizza, LLC. Robles suffered from blindness and made the case that he could not properly access and function the Domino's website with his screen-reading software.

This case was first dismissed on the grounds that the suit violated due process rights, however, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed the application of the ADA regulation to websites which has certainly garnered the attention of website owners.

While this case is still ongoing, given the Ninth Circuit's decision the ADA Title 3 does, in fact, apply to websites, lawsuits filed in the future are likely to follow suit.

With over 7 new website-related lawsuits filed each and every day, we'll soon have many settlements to discuss as well.

A lot of people have a disability

... it's not something affecting just a tiny portion of the world.

According to the CDC:

... which accounts for 61 million people. Not all disabilities would affect an individuals ability to use your website, but, of those that do:

  • 10.8% of adults have a cognitive disability ~ 25.3 million people
  • 5.9% of adults have a hearing disability ~ 13.8 million people
  • 4.6% of adults have a vision disability ~ 10.8 million people

Whether you feel like your business markets to people with disabilities or not, you can safely assume that your website reaches people with disabilities.

In fact,

[featured-text="You should assume that at least 1 in 5 people who use your website have a type of disability that impacts how they access your website."]

What it will look like when you are sued for web accessibility

Unfortunately, you can't just assume that this will only ever happen to other people and not to you.

You owe it to yourself and your business to take all potential vulnerabilities seriously, so assume for a minute that you're being sued. You've just received a summons and a complaint in the mail.

In them, you learn that a Mike Smith tried to fill out and submit a form on your website where you tell potential customers to reach out to you and inquire about getting electrical work done in their homes.

Unfortunately, the form wasn't formatted properly and was therefore unable to be filled in properly and submitted by Mike who is blind.

He's disappointed because he had learned about a promotion offered by your business that would allow him to save money on electrical services. Now Mike feels like he is being discriminated against because he, as a blind person, is unable to take advantage of this promotion.

The next 2 years for you are likely to involve ...

  • Dropping everything you're doing to make this case priority #1 in your life
  • Hiring a lawyer to help you at a cost of $150 - $400 per hour
  • Evaluating your options which may include offering a settlement, filing a motion to dismiss or countersuing Mike
  • Filing your option
  • Sit through a period of discovery where the lawyers dig through the case
  • Prepare for trial
  • Trial

While you're participating in the above, you're also trying to keep your business afloat - paying bills, acquiring new customers, etc.

I need to say that I'm not a lawyer and don't consider the above as law advice or guidance. However, that's a heck of a nightmare. We're talking about something that would cripple your life - at least for a time period - and could very likely destroy your business.

This is real. This happens in real life. Business owners all over the country and the world are dealing with this today.

Why accessibility is important

I don't want to end on a negative note. I don't want to scare you into signing up for Gazeble. In fact, I want happy customers!

Let's think about Mike (from our previous example) for a second.

Mike's goal was to take advantage of your fantastic promotion on electrical services. He, disability of not, had the desire to fix or improve something in his home - something that, after fixing, would have a positive effect on his family.

We can all relate to that. We're thrown a lot of curveballs in life so when we have the opportunity to fix something and get it off our plate, we'd like to do that.

We can sympathize with Mike. We want to help him.

That is why I want you to sign up for Gazeble. I want you to sign up to make your website (and the internet) a better place for people like Mike. To put your foot forward and show care to the community and the world.

Yes, lawsuits are real and signing up for Gazeble is a great first step in getting your website ADA compliant, but sign up for Gazeble not out of fear but out of wanting to do it to make a positive impact for people like Mike.


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