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The ADA lawsuits are coming, is your site compliant?

Cillian McGillycuddy 14 May 2019 • Features, News

Blind and visually impaired people depend on specially-designed software called screen readers, which allow them to browse the web and shop online. Websites are often not optimized for use with this software, disrupting its function in reading the site text out loud, and rendering these sites non-ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

We say the lawsuits are coming, but like winter in the Seven Kingdoms, for many it is already here, and the battle is already being fought. According to US law firm Seyfarth Shaw, the number of website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal court increased in 2018 by almost 200% year-on-year.

Lawsuits were seen across 14 states, with over 1,500 businesses hit with ADA-related cases in 2018. Making your website or online store accessible for everyone is now of paramount concern for those looking to avoid being sued.

It’s not just the lawsuits which are increasing either. The amount of the population with afflicted vision is significant and expanding. 3.4 million Americans currently have visual impairment, which accounts for 3% of the total number of people in the over 40s bracket. This number is expected to grow to 6.95 million by 2050. Therefore, by not catering for the visually impaired with your online store, you are failing to connect with millions of potential customers and leaving a huge untapped revenue source on the table.

How do I check if my site is ADA compliant?

To see if your site complies ADA standards, go to WAVE and enter your web address to see a report. You will be presented with errors and alerts that indicate where your site is inaccessible to the visually impaired, and which could potentially lead to a case being brought against your company.

What’s the risk?

Making your WebStore ADA compliant is not mandatory. However, the cost of not doing so could be significant. The law has been written to favor the plaintiff and allows large payouts, with no grace period or second chances for businesses to fix their sites. The much-cited ADA lawsuit against the Avanti Hotel is a case in point. The lawsuit demanded the hotel also pay damages to the plaintiff, and the hotel’s lawyers advised they would have to settle for between $8,000 and $13,000.

In another case, an airline had to pay $200,000 because it made a separate website for disabled people. Separate is not equal. The judge decreed that the main website should have worked for everyone.

Finally, in 2008, a settlement by the National Federation of the Blind with Target resulted in class damages of $6 million, plaintiff legal fees of over $3 million, undisclosed defense legal fees, and court oversight of the Target website for several years.

What’s the upside?

According to a recent study, only 2.2% of web pages had no accessibility failures – automatically detectable errors that make sites inaccessible to a sizable audience. Joining this select group of accessible sites not only protects you from lawsuits; it also means you get to sell to a further 3.4 million customers (6.95 million by 2050), who cannot use your website if it is not compliant.

What can I do to become ADA compliant?

As things stand today, It’s impossible for anyone or any organization to certify a site as “ADA compliant”. The only real test that matters can only happen in a court of law. At its core, this is a risk mitigation issue. Our ADA offering includes making your WebStore “complaint in relation to international and US industry norms, tests like WAVE, and global accessibility standards. In this sense, the NitroSell CMS and our core templates are all ADA compliant. And we can teach you how to use our tools to make any content you create compliant too.

If you can stand up in court and demonstrate your WebStore passing WAVE and other accessibility tests, then its going to be very difficult for a court to convict you of being non-compliant.

Contact our Customer Success Team today to discuss how to make your site compliant, and we will work with you to create and execute a compliance plan.


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