Last year saw a record number of lawsuits against businesses alleging digital accessibility violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Now, experts note a new trend in web accessibility litigation: Plaintiffs are increasingly targeting local governments, municipalities and universities, reports EmployerLINC, an online news source specializing in legal issues for employers.
Digital accessibility refers to ensuring that all users, including those with disabilities, have equal access to digital content. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are an international set of technical standards that help remove barriers to web-based information. For example, the standards cover alternative text for images, appropriate color contrast, optimal navigation, and many other web design, content and development principles.
Following WCAG helps ensure websites are compliant with ADA. WCAG standards are also wrapped into Section 508 requirements, which apply to digital content provided by federal agencies.
The Facts – and Their Impact
Highlights from the legal landscape include:
- Local governments in Florida, Minnesota and Georgia have been sued for having inaccessible websites.
- The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has reportedly investigated hundreds of web accessibility complaints against educational institutions.
- Lawsuits alleging ADA violations were filed against both private and public universities.
- Accessibility is different from accommodations. For example, a university that provides accommodations for disabled students on a case-by-case basis hasn’t solved the accessibility puzzle. Rather, digital content must be made accessible even in the absence of complaints or requests. (And academic websites are often available to the public, not just students.)
- Notably, 2019 has already seen major progress for digital accessibility for the differently abled, with a California appellate court finding that ADA applies to websites and mobile apps. In handing down its decision, the court noted that websites or apps connecting users with an entity’s services or products must be accessible.
The primary takeaway for businesses and public entities alike? A proactive approach to digital accessibility is essential – in fact, the California appeals court also stated that places of public accommodation have received “fair notice” that digital content must comply with ADA.
Get Expert Help in Digital Accessibility
Make-Sense, a leader in web accessibility, provides a platform that continuously monitors and provides real-time fixes to keep websites compliant with WCAG standards and Section 508 requirements.
What’s different about Make-Sense? The platform uses a hybrid approach to enable immediate compliance on a virtual layer while delivering development tools to support permanent fixes in the source code.