I’ll get straight to the point. If your company has not already received a demand letter from a law firm suggesting your website is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s likely on the way.
I’m paraphrasing, but the letter will typically go something like this:
We represent John Doe, who is blind/visually impaired and whose right to access internet-based services on your website has been violated.
Although the Department of Justice has not officially adopted any law pertaining to website accessibility, they’re talking it over and may get back to us sometime in 2018 on the matter. In the meantime, the DOJ believes there is a set of guidelines you should be following immediately, and a few judges across the nation have agreed with them, so think twice before tossing this letter in the shredder.
All you need to do now is:
• Enter into a settlement agreement with us to compensate the plaintiff for their trouble
• Hire us to consult with you on how to correct your site
• Update your entire website to meet the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0)
• Hire us to help you stay within compliance
• Act quickly or we will have no choice but to file a lawsuit against your firm
If it seems like you’re between a rock and a hard place on this one, it’s because you are. Every day a growing number of companies are finding out that their website is viewed as a “place of public accommodation,” much like a store location or bank branch. As such, their websites must be “accessible” for visually or hearing-impaired visitors in much the same way a physical location must have ramps and wider doors for wheelchair access.
While we can debate the manner in which these law firms are targeting companies for website accessibility and the legal basis for their claims, it has become clear they are not going away and should be taken seriously. Government entities were first, followed by major retailers such as Target, and most recently by financial services institutions. And despite a large number of accessibility suits filed in the last few years, the first federal case to proceed to trial (Gil v. Winn-Dixie) was recently ruled in favor of the plaintiff.
Other industry segments are sure to follow, so if this isn’t on your company’s radar, it’s time to make this a priority with the executives on your IT team. The good news is that there are some great companies who are experts at auditing your site for WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility and helping you bring them into compliance relatively quickly.
Feel free to reach out to us if you need some guidance on the topic or if you would like us to connect you with some experts within this space. We would be happy to share how this has impacted our B2B clients and help you avoid any surprises along the way.