In today’s global landscape, more than 1 billion individuals worldwide confront substantial disabilities, and within the United States alone, around 60 million people fall into this category. As a result, the need for digital spaces to be both accessible and legally compliant with web accessibility standards has become critical.
With only 3% of the internet being accessible to people with disabilities and a noteworthy rise in accessibility-related lawsuits due to non-compliance, businesses are recognizing the pressing need to prioritize web accessibility to ensure inclusivity for all individuals, regardless of their abilities..
ADA and WCAG: The Duo of Digital Accessibility
When it comes to ensuring websites are legally compliant in our ever-expanding digital landscape, two standards stand out as the recognized and influential benchmarks: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
These frameworks provide essential guidelines and requirements that shape the world of digital accessibility.
While there are other regional and industry-specific regulations, the ADA and the WCAG stand out as the cornerstones of digital accessibility, setting the bar for compliance and best practices in creating inclusive online experiences.
Despite there being a growing awareness of web accessibility and the importance of digital content being legally compliant, in 2020 alone, an alarming figure of over 3,500 accessibility-related lawsuits was filed against company websites. But, with more than 250,000 websites being launched daily and a constant influx of new content, why are we witnessing a rise in accessibility-related lawsuits?
5 Reasons for the Rise of Web Accessibility Lawsuits
The rise in web accessibility lawsuits can be attributed to several reasons:
1. Increasing Awareness: There is a growing awareness and understanding of digital accessibility rights among individuals with disabilities. As more people rely on digital platforms for different aspects of their lives, the need for equal access has become more apparent. This heightened awareness has led to an increase in the number of individuals advocating for their rights and filing lawsuits to address inaccessible websites and digital content.
2. Legal Precedents: Several landmark legal cases have set precedents and established the legal obligations of businesses to provide accessible digital experiences. These precedents have created a framework for individuals to pursue legal action if they encounter barriers or discrimination due to inaccessible websites. The success of these cases has emboldened others to take legal action, contributing to the uptick in accessibility-related lawsuits.
3. Regulatory Framework: Many countries have enacted or strengthened accessibility laws and regulations, reinforcing the importance of web accessibility. As an illustration, in the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been interpreted to encompass websites as establishments offering public accommodation. This legal framework, coupled with clearer guidelines such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), provides individuals with a basis to file lawsuits against non-compliant websites.
4. Digital Dependency: With the increasing reliance on digital platforms for essential services, such as online shopping, banking, and communication, inaccessible websites can create significant barriers for individuals with disabilities. As a result, more people are encountering inaccessible websites and digital content, leading to a higher likelihood of legal action being taken to address these issues.
5. Financial Incentives: In some cases, individuals and advocacy groups may pursue web accessibility lawsuits as a means to prompt businesses into settlement agreements. These agreements often involve financial compensation and commitments from the businesses to improve their accessibility efforts. This financial incentive, along with the potential impact on a company’s reputation, can motivate individuals and organizations to initiate legal proceedings.
It’s evident that businesses need to proactively work towards becoming legally compliant to mitigate the risk of legal action and ensure equal access for all users. But what should businesses do if they find themselves facing a legal claim, complaint or lawsuit?
How to Navigate Legal Compliance Challenges
Receiving a legal threat or lawsuit related to web accessibility can be an overwhelming experience for businesses. However, it’s important to note that not all claims may be founded on legitimate grounds. To navigate this complex situation, it is highly recommended to partner with digital accessibility experts who can provide the necessary expertise and guidance.
When confronted with a web accessibility legal challenge, seek the assistance of experts who possess a deep understanding of web accessibility as well as the legal landscape.
By engaging the services of professionals experienced in digital accessibility and litigation, businesses can gain a comprehensive understanding of the status and legitimacy of the claim.
These experts can review the specifics of the case and issue an advisory based on their knowledge and previous experiences with similar cases. Their insights and guidance can empower you to make informed decisions, mitigate potential risks, and ensure that your business remains on a solid legal footing throughout the proceedings.
With the support of experienced legal minds in web accessibility compliance, businesses can navigate the legal landscape with confidence and with peace of mind.
UserWay: Become Legally Compliant with our Attorney-Led Team
UserWay’s Legal Support Program is attorney-led, providing businesses with a unique blend of legal and technical expertise, offering the highest levels of legal protection. We foster a holistic approach to digital accessibility, affording you legal coverage across all aspects of accessibility, technology and legal regulations. This winning formula provides you with water-tight protection against lawsuits, with digital accessibility experts in your corner.
Learn more about how to make your websites legally compliant today.
What are the legal obligations for web accessibility?
The legal obligations for web accessibility vary depending on the jurisdiction, but a common requirement is compliance with laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Various countries have enacted their own accessibility laws or adopted international guidelines like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as a benchmark for compliance.
What are the potential consequences of non-compliance with web accessibility laws?
Non-compliance with web accessibility laws can lead to legal consequences, including the possibility of lawsuits, monetary damages, and legal settlements.
How can businesses ensure web accessibility and legal compliance?
Businesses can ensure web accessibility and legal compliance by following recognized accessibility standards and law such as ADA and the WCAG. Conducting regular accessibility audits and engaging the expertise of web accessibility professionals can also provide invaluable support.