The subject of ADA-compliant websites has become a topic of conversation recently after music star Beyoncé was sued earlier this year for a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A class action lawsuit was filed earlier this year with claims that visually-impaired users do not have equal access to her website’s products and services. To be web-accessible, there must be special coding with alt-texts so screen readers can speak the text for visually impaired users. The claim is that multiple photos on the website lack the proper alt-text information so visually-impaired users cannot view or make purchases.
Requirements Under Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that United States businesses that provide a service to the public provide equal accommodations and access to everyone. There is no differentiation between a physical structure or a digital website visit. This means a store is required to provide a ramp to allow for wheelchair access, and also that websites need to make the same accommodations to allow people with different disabilities to visit their store or website. According to TechCrunch, website accessibility lawsuits against private businesses more than doubled in 2018.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG)
Currently, there is a lack of extremely clear guidelines that pertain to websites in the ADA itself, but some courts have recognized the standards set forth by WCAG, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. These are global standards that all web designers should follow. Some of these requirements include on-screen captions in video for software that has screen readers for blind people and the descriptions for the hearing impaired. Sites need drop down menus that are accessible for those who use a keyboard instead of a mouse, and the website content itself needs to be coded for screen reader audio translation.
Ways to Verify You Are Compliant
If you haven’t built your website yet, start with finding a website developer who is proficient in ADA-compliant technology. If your business website is already live, you need to have your code audited. This is done using various tools that crawl your website and identify areas that are non-ADA compliant. Next, you have to determine the work involved to become ADA compliant. You can start by instituting small changes and you may need to hire website developers to make the more difficult changes.
Why Should My Business Care?
There were close to 2,300 ADA website lawsuits filed in 2018, which represents an increase of 181 percent from the year before. And, the majority of those lawsuits originated in Florida and New York. One plaintiff filed lawsuits against 175 Florida business owners, ranging from small local businesses to major international brands.
You should also consider having an attorney review all your content and determine if it is legally compliant and that there are no other pending issues that could bring about other lawsuits. If you need assistance with website compliance or other aspects of your company, let the experienced West Palm Beach commercial litigation lawyer at Pincus & Currier, LLP assist. We have over two decades of experience helping small- and medium-sized businesses with everything from commercial litigation to employment and labor compliance. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation.