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What does it mean and why your business needs to be accessible?

There is increasing news about law firms issuing demand letters threatening litigation to businesses whose website(s) are not “accessible”. To clarify, providing equal access to online services is required by law. Even if you may have thought accessibility only referred to physical structures like ramps for wheelchairs. This is specifically addressed by The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

On the subject of litigation, the majority of household names have been sued due to the inaccessibility of their digital/online services. To demonstrate, this list includes Amazon, Reebok, Home Depot, Dominos, and a long list of others both large and small. In fact lawyers, with the support of the courts, defend those with disabilities to ensure they have equal access to digital services. Regardless of the law, it is important that your business is accessible to everyone, including users with disabilities. Specifically, over 13% of the US population have a disability that makes it difficult to participate in the digital world we all take for granted. (Source: https://disabilitycompendium.org). With this in mind, if your business is not accessible to those with disabilities you are ignoring a large part of your potential market!

 

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Lawsuits Continue to Rise

Graph showing that lawsuits have risen since 2018 to 2021 by double-digits

Source: Launey, K and Vu, Minh H, Federal Website Accessibility Lawsuits Increased in 2021 Despite Mid-Year Pandemic Lull, Seyfarth Shaw LLP (2022), YearPandeLauney, K and Vu, Minh H, Federal Website Accessibility Lawsuits Increased in 2021 Despite Mid-Year Pandemic Lull, Seyfarth Shaw LLP (2022), https://www.adatitleiii.com/2022/03/federal-website- accessibilitv-lawsuits-increased-in-2021-despite-mid-vear-pandemic-lull/ annual-report-global-economics.

So why do we put “accessibility” in quotes? First, because the Department of Justice has not defined in law what it means for a website to be accessible. As a result, you may not know what an “accessible” website must provide. Therefore courts largely choose to go by The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium. These guidelines provide a great framework to make your website more accessible to those with disabilities.

Key components of Accessibility

The main sections of WCAG include:

Perceivable:

  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
  • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
  • Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content.

Operable:

  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • Give users enough time to read and use the content.
  • Do not use content that causes seizures or physical reactions.
  • Help users navigate and find content.
  • Make it easier to use inputs other than the keyboard.

Understandable:

  • Make text readable and understandable.
  • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes.

Robust:

  • Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.

Source: https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/

Making your business accessible

So what can you do to help avoid being the next recipient of a demand letter or lawsuit? In other
words, how do you get your website “more compliant” so you make it easier for those with
disabilities to use your site? And as a side benefit get the target off your back?

We suggest the following steps.

  1. Get an audit done of your site. We can help with this using digital tools to evaluate your website against published guidelines to identify issues that need to be resolved. . Contact us – let’s talk!
  2. Check with your insurance carrier to see if you need added coverage to protect you from a claim.
  3. Decide how you want to make your website more accessible.
    1. Engage with us or another technology firm to rework your website so that it meets the minimum requirements in all the mentioned areas of accessibility. This can be a daunting project to take on yourself if you have a large website with a lot of pages, and you will need to make updates as you add pages and content. Contact us – let’s talk!
    2. Use our AI Tool to enable users to adjust your website presentation to make it more user-friendly to those with disabilities, and so more accessible. This will take little time and avoids having to continually update your site every time you add pages or content. . Contact us – let’s talk!
  4. Develop an Accessibility Policy, and an Accessibility Notice and add these to your website. (If you need help with this Contact us – let’s talk!
  5. Develop a continuity plan to maintain the level of accessibility of your website.
    . Contact us – let’s talk!

In summary, we hope you now understand the need to make your website more accessible. And by doing so you will increase your market. And of course, so you are not the low-hanging fruit when the lawyers come picking!