Don’t Turn A Blind Eye. You Can Get Sued If The Disabled Can’t Access Your Website

Almost every business has a website to market their information, goods or services.  But, there’s one type of marketing you don’t want your site to accomplish—getting you sued.

Websites have become a hotbed of litigation brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  Generally speaking, websites need to be as accessible to individuals with disabilities as a “brick and mortar” business.  Some lawyers and law firms specialize in sending cease and desist letter and filing class action and individual law suits against all manner of businesses with websites inaccessible to the disabled, often to extract quick and sometimes substantial settlements from those businesses, as well as to require them to make their sites accessible to disabled visitors.

But it’s not just private lawyers.  The U.S. Dept. of Justice and State attorneys general have filed suits against businesses ranging from small retailers to, banks and major hotel chains and retailers.  These cases ultimately settled, but only after those businesses paid damages and made their sites fully accessible to all visitors.

Just recently, a California court awarded a blind plaintiff thousands of dollars in damages and six figures in legal fees (in addition to what the plaintiff had to pay their lawyers), finding that the plaintiff couldn’t shop for the defendant luggage retailer’s products on its online store.  The court also required the defendant to take the necessary steps to make its website “readily accessible to and usable by visually impaired individuals.”  If it didn’t, the court said that the company would need to terminate its website, which would likely critically injure, if not kill its business.

So, how do you get your business out of the crosshairs?  You need to make your site ADA-compliant as soon as possible.  While there are currently no laws or regulations on website accessibility to follow, here are some suggested steps to take, from those lawsuits and government sources:

  • Make sure your site and its text are designed to work with screen-reader (devices that speak the text on a monitor) software, or a refreshable Braille display, so that blind people can access it.
  • Make sure your site is designed so it can be viewed with the colors and font sizes set in users’ web browsers and operating systems. This enables them to choose the text and background colors and font sizes needed to see its content.
  • Make sure your site pages are coded so that users can navigate by means of a keyboard or single-switch access device alone, instead of a mouse.
  • Use real-time captions and audio descriptions for videos and other images on your site.

A knowledgeable lawyer or law firm can help you assure your website substantially complies with existing web accessibility standards.

The takeaway?  Make sure your website is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Otherwise,  it could have a crippling effect on your business.

Just sayin’ . . .TM  

© 2016 Paul I. Menes


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