Beware of Web Accessibility Cases
February 19, 2016 | New year means new ACA reporting requirements
If you own a business and a website, you need to be aware of a substantial increase in claims by disabled plaintiffs and their attorneys regarding website accessibility. The plaintiffs argue that businesses that 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).
So what do you do if you receive a demand letter or lawsuit claiming that your website is not accessible to those with disabilities? First, do not delay in contacting your legal counsel. Make sure your lawyer is familiar with the claims and understands the issues. Many lawyers may be completely unfamiliar with the issues. You also may want to contact your insurer to determine if you have any insurance coverage. You will need to decide whether to fight the claims or to settle. In a very complex (and uncertain) area of the law, a settlement may be favored because it is less expensive and brings greater certainty to the situation.
There is another cost to consider: the potential black eye your business could receive if it is identified as a business that does not support access to disabled persons. Businesses such as Target Corp. have been hit by these lawsuits. Target set up a $6 million settlement fund after initially litigating the case. The case, filed by the National Federation of the Blind, was a public relations nightmare for the company.
But even if you are going to settle a case, there will be a price to pay to bring your website into compliance. You’ll need to work with experts who understand website accessibility for disabled persons. In our experience, many (even reputable) website developers do not understand these issues. These are not issues you want to leave to your ordinary website developer.