Website accessibility is important for businesses, non-profits, and government agencies alike. An inaccessible website can:
- Expose your business to potential liability in the form of an ADA lawsuit
- Jeopardize funding for federal contracts and funding streams
- Cost you potential customers and sales
Reduce Exposure to Liability
Legal Trends in Website Accessibility
Law firms are increasingly filing class action suits on behalf of disabled individuals throughout the United States who use the Internet to facilitate their access to goods and services. These individuals have disabilities that include: blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, mobility impairments, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and various federal courts have concluded that businesses which offer goods and services to the public through websites are public accommodations that must comply with the general accessibility mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Beginning in 2006, private litigants and the U.S. Department of Justice began filing or threatening to file legal action based on allegedly inaccessible websites (and eventually also including mobile applications). Here are some notable legal decisions on website accessibility:
- June 2017 – A federal judge in Florida ruled that the inaccessibility of Winn Dixie’s website violated a Florida man’s rights under ADA Title III. Plaintiff Juan Carlos Gil sued on grounds that Winn Dixie’s website was not usable with a screen reader. The court ruled that Winn Dixie would have to update its website to ensure accessibility for assistive technology users, and mandated web accessibility training to all employees who perform work on its website.
- August 2008 – Target Corporation settled a class action lawsuit filed by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and agreed to pay class damages of $6 million. The FBA was awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and costs of $3,738,864.96. Targets’ own legal costs have not been published. The ruling set a landmark precedent encouraging online retailers to incorporate accessibility measures into their websites.
Achieve Compliance with Section 508
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that all federal agencies and companies doing business with the federal government provide equal access to information technology. Recent rule making by the access board (known as the ICT Refresh) requires organizations receiving federal funds to meet WCAG 2.0 priority level AA conformance.
Section 508 was originally enacted to:
- Eliminate barriers to information technology
- Create new opportunities for persons with disabilities
- Encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals
Reach a Wider Audience
When we publish content on the Web that is not accessible, we are excluding one or more groups of people with disabilities from accessing this content.
- If we publish videos without synchronized captions, we are excluding deaf people from accessing the audio track of our multimedia content.
- If we publish videos without audio description, we are excluding blind users and people with low vision.
- For websites that are not usable with a keyboard only, we are excluding blind users who require assistive technology devices (screen readers and braille displays), from accessing and navigating web pages.
- For images and graphics that do not include alternate text, we are excluding blind users who need alternate text to understand the context and meaning of images.
By creating content that is accessible, we ensure that the greatest number of people can access and use it. For businesses and communities, this means a more inclusive world where people (regardless of ability) can access goods and services, supports, and any other benefits of society.
Accessibility by the Numbers
|Number of Americans living with some type of disability (18.7% of the U.S. population)
|Number of Americans living with a severe disability (12.6% of the U.S. population)
|Number of ADA Title III lawsuits filed in federal court in 2016.
What can you do to protect your business?
- Ensure that all pages on your website conform with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
- Post an accessibility policy on your website to ensure that users with disabilities know that you’ve taken steps to create a site that works with assistive technology devices
- Have a plan to maintain accessibility conformance levels as your site grows
Aurora can help you navigate the process of accessibility conformance evaluation, repair, disclosure and maintenance so that you can focus on other things (like your business).
Aurora Accessibility Compliance Solutions
Work with a proven leader in website accessibility compliance solutions, and get on the fast track to achieving your conformance goals.