Over the last several years, there has been a spike in web accessibility lawsuits. Web accessibility refers to the accommodation and/or design of tools, websites and technologies in order for people with disabilities such as vision, hearing, cognitive and motor impairments to adequately use them.
In today’s society, many people with disabilities rely heavily on the Internet to connect with friends, purchase goods, complete research and for some individuals, to be independent. When website barriers interfere with the ability to access and use websites equally, that is when an ADA Complaint or lawsuit can occur, resulting from the inequality and discrimination they experienced.
ADA Complaint: Legal Trends in Web Accessibility
As these lawsuits continue to be filed, it is critical to have an in-depth understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act, in order to avoid litigation and secure the success of your organization. The 2010 American Disability Act (ADA) was enacted to provide a clear and comprehensive mandate for the elimination of national discrimination against disabled individuals. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act indicates that services must be available to all of the general public, including individuals diagnosed with disabilities.
As organizations begin to take appropriate steps to remediate their websites, people with disabilities will have the ability to access those websites, leading to a better overall experience. However, despite taking various appropriate measures, organizations can still be faced with the unpleasant and stressful process of receiving a letter of complaint or having a lawsuit filed.
If You’ve Received a Letter
If your organization has already received an ADA Complaint, the good news is that there are several straightforward steps that can be taken to reduce the severity and impact of the process, helping not only your own organization, but all individuals who want to utilize your services. By providing an accessible website, your organization’s goodwill with customers will improve, increasing customer loyalty and appreciation, which in turn can potentially increase revenue. By waiting to address issues of non-compliance with web accessibility standards, not only do your customers suffer, but your organization suffers as well.
We Got An ADA Complaint!
What Do We Do Next?
Letters of Complaint are increasing rapidly. It is important to respond quickly and to Create Your Strategy to address compliance issues.
If your organization received a letter of complaint, the good news is that no legal action has yet been taken. Typically, a letter of complaint is written to declare a problem when other attempts such as phone calls or e-mails have been taken and those attempts were unsuccessful in rectifying the situation.
A complaint letter is used to formalize the problem by putting it into writing and it is usually the last resort in search of a resolution before further legal action is taken. Once, or ideally before, the ADA Complaint is received, your organization can gain an advantage by partnering with a consulting firm to mitigate damages and prevent the situation from progressing further, thereby eliminating the need for a lawsuit.
The Letter is a Trigger to Find Experts
A consulting firm, such as AKEA Web Solutions, will assist your organization in implementing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1), which were developed to set a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of organizations, businesses and governments internationally. Among other things, these guidelines ensure website designers and developers use appropriate coding. In addition, the standards verify content is properly organized and is logical to both machines and humans on computers and mobile devices. They will also verify the accessibility of text alternatives, which must be provided for visual content, and the accessibility of extra attributes for assistive devices, such as screen readers, for individuals with visual impairments.
Consultants Will Assess and Audit
In order to implement Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a consulting firm will run a series of accessibility audits and tests to identify the issues present on your website and develop a recommendation on how to proceed. This complex analysis will provide detailed reporting and a corrective action plan to aid in various remediation services. This corrective action plan will also provide a thorough timeline for resolving the issues identified. By addressing these issues before a lawsuit is filed, your organization will be able to address them on a more flexible timeline.
The Best Course is to Take Preventative Measures
In delaying to take action, and if further legal action takes place, the timelines set by the Department of Justice (DOJ) can essentially be stressful, rushed and expensive. Despite the circumstances, a letter of complaint is not the worst case scenario. It is when a lawsuit crops up that your organization will be given short deadlines causing emergency technical work and potentially significant legal costs.
When Lawsuits Take Place
In the event that your organization is already facing a lawsuit, it is important to act quickly and efficiently to address it. Web Accessibility lawsuits arise as a result of website barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from easily accessing content. Examples of these barriers include inadequate navigation, use of fonts and color schemes that affect users with vision impairments, or links and buttons that are not keyboard accessible, affecting users who rely on similar types of assistive technology to navigate sites effectively.
Challenges Created by Lawsuits
Unfortunately, lawsuits can come with a long list of negative implications as well. They can ultimately leave a negative reputation on a business, which is why it is so important to consult with legal counsel immediately if you find yourself faced with a lawsuit. To ease the blow of a lawsuit as much as is possible, it’s critical that you have the right legal team behind you, including a strong consulting firm. You need a team that can quickly analyze legal risks and engage with your development teams to identify the issues and provide an assessment of what remediation actions are required to resolve the problems quickly and efficiently.
Was there Prior Knowledge of Compliance Issues?
Both your legal team and the DOJ will take into account whether or not organization knew there was an accessibility issue before the lawsuit was filed. They will also consider what steps were taken to address such obstacles and if the issues were ignored either by mistake or on purpose. All responses provided to the DOJ will play a large part in reducing the severity and seriousness of the litigation process. By providing evidence showing that issues were and are being addressed, you can have a significant positive impact on your case.
Accessibility is an Ongoing Pursuit
Not only is it important to address these accessibility obstacles as a result of the lawsuit, but your consulting firm partner can also educate your team throughout the process. It is important to understand that accessibility is not an event that only happens once. Essentially, it is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring to ensure that the website does not fall out of compliance in the future, which is always a possibility.
Continuous monitoring is crucial, due to the frequent fluctuations in web accessibility standards. A consulting firm can help you create and develop policies and procedures within your organization by teaming up with your web developers to confirm that continuous monitoring occurs. To put it simply, education is key to success.
We Can Help
If your organization has already received a letter of complaint, or a lawsuit has been filed, AKEA Web Solutions is here to help. Our leading experts, with over a decade of experience, can assist you with expediting the process of auditing and remediation services.
By providing you with our first-hand knowledge, up-to-date requirements, access to our functional testing and our trusted ability to make the right judgement calls for your business, we provide a comprehensive package that is worry-free, alleviating the stress and hassle of dealing with a letter of complaint or lawsuit.
No matter the situation, AKEA Web Solutions is here to help.
Contact AKEA for a Free Consultation
on your web design and accessibility initiative!