New York websites are under fire for not complying to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Second only to California in ADA Title III lawsuits since 2013, New York State companies are starting to wake up to the reality that the ADA is a law and universal accessibility is more than just a good idea for an inclusivity best practice.
Title III opened up the Americans with Disabilities Act to any “public accommodation” including, but not limited to: places of lodging, establishments for serving food, places of exhibition or entertainment, places of public gathering, service establishments, places of recreation, places of education, social service centers, places of exercise, retail establishments and more.
While there is no specific mention of “websites” in the last revision of the law, the courtroom has been considering web pages public accommodations for the companies in these business sectors. Government entities are another segment included based on the contents of Title II (and Section 508 - https://www.section508.gov/).
For more information, be sure to check out our full write up concerning the ADA - https://coughlin.co/ada.
The growth in filed lawsuits concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act is alarming.
(Seyfarth Law was kind enough to grant permission to use their Data/Graph)
You may be wondering if these companies are being sued because there are citizens with disabilities that are looking for equal access or because law firms are finding this a particularly easy and lucrative law to take to court. Well, both. The plight of those with accessibility impediments should not be ignored. There are many, I am sure, that surf the internet and get frustrated and feel helpless. There are others, however, that rightly seek justice (It IS the law for sites to be accessible to all). Others yet, approach the subject from the side of the law and see a business opportunity. Whether or not you agree with the aggressive tactics of a few of the law firms that are targeting companies for failure to comply, nothing can stop them from doing it - except for us. If our websites are accessible to everyone, they are safe from suits and BETTER for it!
One challenge that many are facing is that the federal government has not published any website standards in regard to the ADA. But we do have indications based on the court rulings as to what guidelines the judges would like to see businesses follow. Companies or individuals can avoid legal trouble by updating their websites to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). AA-level compliance to WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 should keep your website/company safe as courts are holding companies accountable to this standard - https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/.
Government agencies are being held to another standard known as Section 508 - https://www.section508.gov/blog/do-section-508-accessibility-standards-apply-to-mywebsite. The section 508 standards are actually less robust than WCAG. WCAG 2.0 encompasses (and eclipses in some areas) all of the Section 508 standards.
Though no business has been directly fined for inaccessibility, businesses that lose the court case have generally been responsible to pay legal fees to represent themselves plus the legal fees of the claimant. It would be prudent to expect that there may be fines in the near future if court cases continue to multiply. In addition, they are given a window of time to make their site compliant (WCAG is often sited in this requirement). In the end, it is much less expensive to be intentional and it can certainly protect your reputation.
Need help or have questions? Ask Coughlin about ADA, WCAG and what we do to help our clients fulfill the requirements of the law.
Want to know if YOUR site is Accessible? Submit your website info in our form and we'll be glad to run a quick assessment for you – on the house!