A Brief Guide on the Current State of Web Accessibility Lawsuits

What is the Current State of the Litigation related to Web Accessibility

In early 2021, there was a noticeable increase in the number of cases involving issues with website accessibility. The number of cases filed in both federal and state courts has been on the rise recently. Despite the fact that data from state courts is unreliable due to reporting restrictions, all indicators point to a rise in state court filings in recent years, particularly in California and New York.

Since a demand letter is often the first step toward a lawsuit, its contents and any secret settlement terms are unknown but loom significant. In practice, this implies that disputes involving digital accessibility are typically resolved behind closed doors.

The majority of lawsuits filed in federal court in the United States involve Title III claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Unruh Act in California and the New York State/City Human Rights Law in New York are two examples of municipal anti-discrimination legislation that are used to bring claims in state court that are similar to the ADA.

To avoid getting into legal battles related to website accessibility, businesses must make their digital presence accessible to all users alike. If you want to make your website inclusive or are facing difficulties with respect to your website’s accessibility; feel free to get in touch with our experts at AEL Data.

Lawsuits In The U.S. Related To Web Accessibility

Visual representation of ADA based lawsuits filed from 2018 to 2022. The lawsuits are projected to reach 4455 in 2022

According to research by UsableNet, ADA-based digital lawsuits are estimated to reach almost 100 lawsuits per week by 2022.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that reversed a federal judge’s 2017 dismissal of a case against Domino’s Pizza has kept Ninth Circuit courts (i.e., California) as plaintiff-friendly venues. A blind user claimed that neither the website nor the mobile app of Domino’s were available to him.

The Eleventh Circuit ruled in the opposite manner in the Gil v. Winn-Dixie appeal in 2021, saying that the accessibility of a website does not normally constitute a probable ADA violation. The 11th Circuit (Florida, Georgia, and Alabama) rather than the Ninth (California) or Second (New York) Courts of Appeal heard this case, so its impact on the legal landscape is limited (New York).

In addition to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, web accessibility cases have been filed over time. Section 508 mandates that government departments and agencies guarantee that the ICT (information and communication technology) they employ is accessible. Due to Section 508 infractions, plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against both the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

Do You Think These Cases Are “Frivolous”?

You may have heard businesses or politicians refer to ADA lawsuit “abuse” or “drive-by” litigation, or assert that this type of litigation is “frivolous”. Some plaintiffs are habitual litigants, whilst others have legitimate claims.

San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, for instance, launched a lawsuit against payroll processing and human resources business ADP over its inaccessible website and mobile app.

There is a genuine demand for accessibility in the digital age, regardless of who initiates the lawsuits.

Whether it’s software, documents, websites, mobile applications, or other channels, persons with disabilities are badly affected if accessibility is neglected. The consequences can range from a subpar experience to complete prohibition or exclusion from use.

How to Reduce the Possibility of a Lawsuit Over Website Accessibility?

a. Comply with WCAG 2.1 AA requirements. If your digital assets conform to WCAG 2.1 AA, you will considerably lower your risk of digital accessibility lawsuits. Users with disabilities will not only find your website accessible, but they will also feel welcome.

b. It is recommended to assess the current accessibility level if you are unclear of your WCAG conformity. In the first step, you should check your site for accessibility problems. Around 30% of WCAG success criteria can be detected by automated scanners. Later, have a professional examine your website thoroughly. The results of a manual review, including reviews by individuals with disabilities, will be incorporated into this audit together with the significant findings from an automated scan. By conducting these tests, we can detect accessibility problems with the software (the remaining 70 percent of WCAG success criteria).

c. Consider taking care of the issues that have been identified. Focus on getting the most important pages up and running smoothly initially. For instance, you should concentrate on fixing the most important pages and user flows first, such as the home page and other important pages that receive the most traffic to drive your business. At AEL Data, we provide remediation roadmaps after the website audit to help customers plan on the next steps about how to fix the accessibility errors and in what sequence by identifying levels of severity. 

d. Develop a plan for continuous monitoring, assessing, and resolving. The information available on the Internet constantly evolves. Even if you do get around to meeting the WCAG requirements, you run the risk of creating new obstacles to access with each new piece of content. 

Having a reliable partner on hand helps you keep an eye on your accessibility status and quickly address any problems that crop up.

When choosing an accessibility vendor, you can count on our expertise. With AEL Data’s understanding of Web Technologies and Accessibility, we make the perfect partner.

Picture of Aditya Bikkani

Aditya Bikkani

Aditya is the COO of AELData, a growing technology company in the Digital Publishing and Education sectors. He is also an entrepreneur and founder of an accessibility tool called LERA. A W3C COGA (Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility) Community Member Aditya contributes to researching methodologies to improve web accessibility and usability for people with cognitive and learning disabilities.

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