We’re sure you’re aware that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires brick-and-mortar establishments (“places of public accommodation”) to remove any “access barriers” that would prevent individuals with disabilities from accessing their goods or services.
Most likely you, as a business owner, have gotten wind of the onslaught of recent lawsuits against businesses by individuals with disabilities claiming inaccessibility to the businesses’ websites.
More and more demand letters are going out to businesses for inaccessible websites. As a result, businesses are being exposed to hefty fines, costly litigation, downtime in running their business, and damaged reputations.
Could this happen to you? What can you do to prevent it?
KEY POINT: It has become clear that the ADA accessibility requirements do not apply just to physical barriers, but to virtual barriers as well.
We have a potential solution. Read on.
What’s Happening in the Law
In 2010, the Department of Justice, the federal entity tasked with the ADA’s regulation and enforcement, issued an “Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking”, basically giving notice that it would be seeking to amend Title III of the ADA to expressly include websites.
Recently, however, the DOJ formally withdrew the notice, indicating the regulations would not be coming anytime soon.
Since 2010, a LOT of courts have ruled on the issue, and… the results have been, well, clear as mud.
We won’t get into all the case law here, but here’s one noteworthy outcome:
In August 2016, the DOJ ruled that UC Berkeley was violating Title II of the ADA (like Title III above but applies to government entities). The DOJ instructed UC Berkeley to use the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as a guide to measure the usability and accessibility of its web content.
What Does All this Mean?
Here’s our best scholarly answer:
You probably need to do something about it. We’re not entirely sure what.
Here’s what we know:
- There are currently no defined laws as to what web accessibility actually means for businesses
- The courts are divided on their rulings
- The DOJ recommended the WCAG as a guide
There’s a lot of gray area, a lot of unanswered questions, and courts are going in all different directions. But one thing’s for sure: businesses ARE being successfully sued.
When the DOJ does finally rule on the issue, it’s a safe bet that web content will need to be accessible on some level.
What are Your Options?
We expect this to be an ongoing issue. Demand letters are being sent and lawsuits filed in increasing amounts.
The way we see it, you can:
- Do nothing and take your chances (not recommended, but up to you)
- Hire an ADA consultant and potentially spend a lot of money on unclear law
- Have us install an accessibility widget on your website (we see this as the best proactive approach)
We’ve discovered an innovative web accessibility widget called UserWay, which is supported by WordPress and backed by tons of positive reviews. We’ve installed it on our own website. To see it in action, check out the blue circle on the right hand side of the page.
We’re offering to install the UserWay widget into the code on every page of your website, as well as an Accessibility Statement page (linked to in the footer of your site).
While UserWay cannot do Every. Single. Thing. to bring your site to 100% compliance (whatever that means), we believe it provides exceptional modifications to users with disabilities, and greatly helps businesses who want their sites to be ADA compliant.
Whatever you decide, we believe it’s better to be proactive than reactive, so we’re recommending you take active measures to make your website more accessible to users with disabilities.
If you’re interested, give us a call right away and we’ll ensure your site is compatible with the UserWay widget. If it is, we’ll get started on installing it onto your site.
DISCLAIMER: While we cannot guarantee that these measures will shield you entirely from threats of litigation, we are confident they will bring you very close to ADA compliance. We believe a business that is obviously concerned with ADA compliance and is taking measures to improve its website’s accessibility is less exposed to the attention of a law firm on the hunt for non-compliant websites.