The Covid-19 era, for all the economic and societal disruption it has wrought, has been an undeniable boon to online marketers of products and services. Isolated or quarantined at home due to the pandemic, consumers in the U.S. and abroad have flocked to the internet to work, learn, shop, and play. Nine in 10 American adults say the web has been a vital resource during the pandemic, according to Pew Research Center. Likewise, four in 10 people report using the internet or digital technology in new or different ways since the pandemic began.
2021 Uptick in Website ADA Lawsuits
But a slew of U.S. civil lawsuits reveals that many websites are still not adhering to current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and that people with disabilities still find it cumbersome to use digital plug-ins, or access a website, mobile app or on-screen content.
According to UsableNet, federal lawsuits alleging limited ADA access to commercial, government and nonprofit websites were filed nationwide at the rate of more than 10 per day in 2021. And the numbers are rising. The more than 4,000 suits brought last year were 15 percent greater than the 2020 tally, UsableNet’s 2021 annual report states.
In contrast, in 2020 there were 3,503 digital ADA lawsuits filed, 2,890 in 2019, and 2,314 in 2018. And that doesn’t count access suits filed in state court, or cases quietly settled between parties.
Why are ADA Lawsuits Filed?
The reasons for these ADA lawsuits are varied:
People with physical disabilities who are unable to use a mouse or keyboard and rely on voice-activation or other tools to navigate
The blind or those with limited sight for whom digital screen readers and oversized type are invaluable
The deaf and the hard-of-hearing who rely on closed-captions and other visual aids
Those with a cognitive disability which may or may not also be combined with other impairments including dyslexia, ADD and even mental illness.
Notably, it’s not unusual for some ADA plaintiffs to be sued more than once, which can be expensive. Aside from legal expenses, fines for noncompliance can run to $20,000 or more.
So, what does all this mean? Beyond the obvious, web-accessibility experts say it’s an opportunity for site owners prioritize their ADA-conformance with their websites, mobile apps and other digital technology.
Take steps toward ADA digital conformance
ADA compliance usually conjures perceptions that it mostly applies to removing the physical barriers that people with disabilities regularly encounter: steps or narrow doorways that make access difficult for people in wheelchairs.
But when it comes to websites, the layout and content of your site may pose digital barriers to access for people with disabilities, so creating a conformant experience means creating a fair, inclusive experience for all.
Among the many steps to consider when designing or retrofitting your site for ADA accessibility are some of these examples:
Content should be organized in a logical hierarchy so that the sequence reads properly
Minimize distracting features like excessive animation, videos and sliders (or allow users to control these)
All video-only and audio-only content must have text transcripts;
Form controls (buttons, check boxes, drop-down menus, text fields) must be labeled
All functions on a website need to be accessible by keyboard only.
View a full list of current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Continually Monitor and Fix Your Site for ADA compliance
Ensuring your site’s ADA compliance requires constant monitoring and improvements to keep pace with new technologies as well as ongoing updates to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Certified experts in digital ADA compliance are also available to assist with performing site scans, and conducting manual and automated testing, to ensure your digital investment is barrier free and ADA compliant.
If you’re ready to assess your website for ADA conformance, contact the certified ADA conformance experts at ZAG Interactive.