oasis in the middle of a desertDomino’s Pizza, Amazon, Target, Hooters. What do these companies have in common? They’ve all been hit with lawsuits for failing to conform to web accessibility standards.

In fact, many plaintiff law firms are jumping on the bandwagon, suing companies for lack of web accessibility on their sites. These lawsuits are targeting companies of all sizes, from small businesses to major corporations. As a business owner, it’s crucial to understand the importance of making your website accessible for folks with disabilities – and taking proactive measures to protect your business from any potential legal action.

 

What is Web Accessibility?

It’s the practice of designing websites to be usable by as many people as possible, regardless of any physical or cognitive limitations they may have. It encompasses all disabilities that could affect access to the web:

    • Auditory
    • Cognitive
    • Neurological
    • Physical
    • Speech
    • Visual impairments

 

Web Accessibility = Business Opportunities

In the United States, up to one in four adults is living with some form of disability. That’s a substantial number by any measure. And it’s a vast pool of potential customers, many of whom are increasingly reliant on the internet to get things done.

Making sure your website is accessible to everyone isn’t just the considerate thing to do – it’s a savvy business move that could significantly increase your customer base and, ultimately, your profits.

 

The Consequences of Inaction

And then there’s the flipside of the coin – the consequences of failing to update your web accessibility for everyone.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities, which has led to important innovations like ramps, elevators, and curb cuts.

Recently, courts have ruled that websites are “places of accommodation akin to brick-and-mortar establishments.” Which is to say, websites (like any public space) need to comply with the ADA.

And this has led to something of an onslaught of lawsuits, the number of which has grown steeply over the past several years.

 

a gavel resting on a laptop keyboard

 

Lawsuits on the Rise

In 2022, there were 3,255 web accessibility lawsuits filed in federal court. In 2023, that number shot up to a thundering 4,605 lawsuits. The rising tide of lawsuits doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.

The stark fact is: If your business website isn’t already accessible to people with disabilities, you’re running the risk of being targeted.

And the size of the company doesn’t appear to matter.

Though major companies, like Target and Domino’s Pizza, have been hit with accessibility lawsuits, many smaller companies are getting hit as well – often by serial plaintiffs abusing the ADA for profit.

And the costs can be steep. Businesses are subject to a fine up to $75,000 for a single ADA violation. For further violations, that fine can increase to $150,000.

 

What You Can Do to Protect Your Business from Lawsuits

First of all, you’ll want to include a statement on your website regarding your commitment to accessibility. You’ll also want to highlight a clear path for people to contact your company if they encounter any issues with accessibility.

And, most importantly, you’re going to want to make sure your website complies with latest WCAG guidelines.

 

What is the WCAG?

Created by the World Wide Web Consortium, the WCAG (or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) are recognized by many federal courts as the acceptable standard for making websites accessible to people with disabilities.

The WCAG is built around 4 main principles:

    • Perceivable: Content must be presented in a way that allows people to recognize it through touch, sight, and sound
    • Operable: The site must have a user-friendly interface that people can comfortably navigate, without any areas that are inaccessible
    • Understandable: Content must be clear and readable, and easily (and predictably) present how to navigate the website and use its features
    • Robust: Content needs to be comprehended by a wide range of users with different disabilities, and be easy-to-use no matter how technology evolves

 

Levels of Compliance

The WCAG has three levels of compliance – Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA. Generally speaking, if you’re at a Level AA, you’re probably safe from litigation.

Steps required to reach compliance include:

    • Website is compatible with screen reader technology
    • Captions for audio and video content
    • Audio descriptions for video content
    • Alternative text for meaningful images
    • Clear headings to organize content
    • Easy-to-use forms and controls
    • Text can be resized up to 200%

 

Detroit skyline

 

Upgrade Your Website Today

Don’t risk potential lawsuits – and don’t miss out on an untapped customer base. Upgrade your web accessibility to WCAG compliance now.

Unsure of the technical aspects? Don’t worry. With Smart Link Solutions at your side, this process can be a breeze, paving the way to a more inclusive and legally secure future for your business.

To see our web accessibility subscription service in action, look for this icon on our website and give it a click: web accessibility logo

For more information, contact us today!

 

Disclaimer: This guide is provided for informational purposes only and is intended to help business owners understand the basics of web accessibility. While the information is described in reader-friendly terms, it does not serve as legal advice and does not hold any legal authority. As such, it should not be used as a primary resource in the event of legal disputes or litigation.

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