Avoid a Web Accessibility Lawsuit By Being Proactive With Your Site::
If you have a website for your business, there is a recent wave of litigation that may be relevant to you. In the past couple of years, there has been a steady growing trend of predatory lawsuits against restaurants and other hospitality and service-oriented businesses for failing to provide ADA compliant websites.
In 2016 alone, there were hundreds of letters sent to businesses in a variety of industries, many focused on the hospitality and financial services sector. The restaurant industry is targeted specifically in many cases because they have paid out large settlements in the past. These predatory lawsuits generally seek damages or settlements on behalf of the visually impaired, as well as efforts to update their websites to meet these guidelines. These web accessibility lawsuits are not only being filed against big businesses with national notoriety, but also with small businesses who may lack the resources or understanding of web standards to correct their site.
How does the ADA Apply to a Website?
Although you are probably familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act that sets guidelines requiring owners to make all reasonable efforts to accommodate any individual with a disability, you may not understand how it would apply to a business’s website.
A person who is visually impaired may utilize software that delivers the information provided on a website in audio or braille formats. Although there have been recommendations from The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a unified international community whose mission is to develop Web standards, the vast majority of websites have been created without full consideration for the ability of screen reading software to interpret the information available within the code of the site.
The restaurant industry is an easy target for these lawsuits because their websites generally feature online ordering that components and these features are not compatible with most screen reading software. Their websites contain lots of changing imagery and non-html text that can’t be read through the software for visual and hearing impaired customers. Though the web was in its early years in the 1990’s, when the ADA was passed, as technology has changed, so has the scope of the ADA. Here the exact wording of the ADA to highlight the areas influenced:
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. (ADA.gov)
The legal representatives of the plaintiffs maintain that websites fall under Title III of the ADA as “places of public accommodation.” Some courts have ruled that websites with no brick and mortar stores are not considered a public accommodation, while others have stated that websites cannot be considered places of public accommodation.
Although there are not currently laws regarding the requirement of websites to be ADA compliant, the Department of Justice is expected to make a ruling on the requirements of businesses to provide compliant websites in late 2017 or early 2018, which could bring big changes to the legal landscape of website management and ADA compliance.
Many businesses, especially those in the service sector, have already begun the process of updates their sites to meet the standards set forth in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 by the Department of Justice.
How We Can Help You Avoid Web Accessibility Lawsuits
Royall Advertising can help any business with their ADA compliance issues. We have been ahead of the curve as many of our clients are currently or already have had their websites brought up to standards. If you would like an assessment of your own site’s accessibility and ADA compliance, please fill out our contact form HERE or give us a call at (407) 818-8643. In addition to ADA compliance service, we offer free consultation on conversion optimization, search engine optimization, online advertising, and much more. Speak with us today about how we can improve your site and protect your business.