ADA Website Compliance Lawsuits – Our Clients’ Latest Epidemic

Over the years, we’ve had clients call us stating they received a letter from a law office threatening to sue because the client’s website is not “ADA compliant.” We used to count these instances on one hand. But recently, the frequency of these calls has become alarming!

If you skip the rest of this post, we beg you to at least heed this single piece of advice:

Contact your website provider now and discuss your website's ADA compliance with them.

They may tell you that attaining 100% ADA compliance on your website is akin to hunting a unicorn or a leprechaun (for reasons explained below) but you can certainly take steps to reduce the odds of your company receiving one of these threatening letters or lawsuits. If your website or IT vendor is unable to help, contact us.

Why is this such a big problem?

There is not a definitive line in the sand for complete “ADA Compliance” when it comes to websites. [1]

Originally, the Federal government stated they would be putting out clear objective standards so every website could be evaluated as to whether it met the minimum threshold of allowing persons with disabilities to get the same use and enjoyment out of websites. Instead, the Federal government elected to defer to the courts as to what that standard should be.

To assist in providing clarity on this standard, a consortium of international stakeholders proposed a set of guidelines. They’re known as WCAG version 2.1 and contain three levels, each more stringent than the previous. In the U.S., the courts have generally looked at WCAG’s Level AA as their guide, but the WCAG guidelines are not law, only recommendations.

To date, most of these lawsuits are settled between the parties, so there isn’t a robust body of case law to reference. This means the courts have not been able to provide a clear standard that must be met for a website to be “compliant.”

Without a clear line in the sand, our clients are left fearful when being threatened with a lawsuit of this type. They’re not confident they will be able to successfully prove their website is ADA compliant. They’re hesitant to go to court when the alternative is to settle the dispute privately, an option which may cost a few thousand dollars. With insurance deductibles often being much more than this, most clients determine they are best served by simply paying a settlement out-of-pocket and not contacting their insurance company at all. In the end, our clients are strong-armed into handing over a few thousand dollars and are left feeling like the victim of a “shakedown.”

All of this just perpetuates the situation we’re in today, where no one can confidently state that a website is or is not “ADA compliant.” But, as stated in our advice above, you can mitigate the odds of falling victim to this type of loss. Work now on making sure your website adheres to the WCAG guidelines. You’ll seem a less “easy target” for the law offices that are churning out these lawsuits like a mill. Let them pass by your website and move along to another with more obvious accessibility issues.

And be sure to contact LBW if you need help or have questions!

[1] The DOJ’s “New” ADA Guidance on Website Accessibility: Much Ado About Nothing
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