What some claim is borderline abusive litigations, digital ADA lawsuits are sweeping through the United States. Small businesses are particularity vulnerable to have website ADA lawsuits brought against them.
The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, was signed into law to ensure that all people had access to public places. Traditionally, it has meant that businesses are required to make their stores and public places accessible to people with disabilities. It ensures that stores have accessible parking, ramps, handle heights, and appropriate bathroom access.
However, the concept of digital accessibility has recently become a growing concern. Lawyers exploit the nuances in digital ADA laws to create lawsuits in record numbers. The opinions on these lawsuits are divided: some view them as frivolous, while others see them as necessary for ensuring inclusion in a digital world.
Here’s what you need to know about the rise in website ADA lawsuits, and what you can do to protect yourself.
Digital Accessibility: The Catch-22 for Companies
Most people would agree that accessibility for everyone is essential in an inclusive society. However, what this means on a digital level adds a layer of complexity for many small businesses.
Recent rulings on the matter of digital inclusion have sided with disability advocates and judges have forced businesses to become accessible. It’s less clear, though, precisely what it means to have an accessible website. Currently, there are no official legal guidelines on how to make websites compliant to avoid lawsuits.
It potentially puts businesses in an awkward position: they could be slapped with a costly lawsuit, but there are no legal guidelines to lead them. Lawyers take advantage of this to create frivolous lawsuits.
There are law firms that file hundreds of these lawsuits to extort money from vulnerable companies. They recruit individuals with disabilities to represent instead of being approached by those who have been wronged.
Typically, these lawsuits don’t go to court. Businesses settle because the costs of a trial can be multiple times the thousands of dollars they pay. The average settlement for digital ADA lawsuits run from $3,500- $20,000, according to experts. The easy money encourages lawyers to keep churning out more lawsuits on unsuspecting businesses.
California houses most ADA lawsuits and accounted for 27% of the ADA filings in 2017. Small businesses that do not reside in California, though, are not exempt from these cases when it comes to digital accessibility. Residents can sue out-of-state companies when they try to access their website in California.
ADA lawsuits are inconvenient for large corporations, but they are detrimental to small businesses and startups. The thousands of dollars in lawyer and settlement fees can close their stores for good.
How to Protect Your Business
While there are no U.S. laws that lay out what digital accessibility looks like, there are guidelines that businesses can use. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, are a published series of guidelines by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium that put out international standards for accessibility. The two newest versions of the guidelines, WCAG 2.0 and 2.1, lay out what digital accessibility looks like.
The U.S. government, thanks to Section 508 amendment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is required to provide digitally accessible for people with disabilities. They use WCAG 2.0 success criteria to adhere to the law.
For businesses that don’t want to be the target of a lawsuit, WCAG could provide the guidelines that they need. However, they may not be sure where to start. An ADA website audit can provide them with the insight that they need to create an accessible website.
Adally offers an ADA free scan to help you pinpoint the ADA compliance weaknesses of your website. Our ADA website checker can get you on the path to an accessible site that won’t bring on lawsuits. Once you know the results of the audit, you can work with a professional to fix any issues that arise.
Unethical law firms are looking for businesses to bring suits against in mass. Don’t leave your business vulnerable. Get a free scan today to see what you need to do to make your website accessible for all.