The Failure to Make Websites Accessible is Leading to More Lawsuits

July 19, 2019

In a time when large companies are having substantial fines levied on them for breaching GDPR regulations, it’s important to remember that data privacy isn’t the only area where businesses need to be diligent. Website accessibility is another area covered by regulation, and 2018 saw the number of lawsuits pertaining to website accessibility in the US pass the 10K mark, per a new report [download page] from The Integer Group.

Lawsuits for non-compliance of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III have skyrocketed in the past five years. The Integer Group reports that in 2013 the number of lawsuits was at 2,722. By last year, that number spiked at 10,165, representing a 34% year-over-year increase from 2017, which saw 7,663 ADA non-compliance lawsuits for website accessibility.

The report gives some designing suggestions to help improve the accessibility of websites. When designing for users with low vision, they suggest using good color contrasts and readable font size, publishing all information on web pages (instead of burying information in downloads). The report also suggests using a combination of colors, shapes and text and to follow a linear, logical format on the site. Additionally, when designing for users with screen readers, the Integer Group advises describing images and providing transcripts for video, to structure content using HTML5, build for keyboard use only and write descriptive links and headings.

As one of the top three skills marketers say they would stake their future on, there is no doubting the importance of user experience (UX) in general. While website accessibility goes beyond e-commerce sites, past research has found that online shoppers value elements like speed and seamless/ease of use when evaluating their online shopping experience. However, while in the past it was thought that emerging technologies like AI were expected to enhance the user experience, more recent research indicates that business executives may be putting other use cases above the customer experience in their use of AI.

To quote the authors, perhaps one of the takeaways from the report is, “It boils down to the fact that accessibility is about people, and about giving everyone the same access to online content and functionality. If people with disabilities can’t use a site, their privacy and independence can be compromised.”

Furthermore, if the thought of a lawsuit isn’t daunting enough, making a website which is accessible to everyone means reaching a larger population of buyers. This may even include the growing population of baby boomers who not only control the largest portion of household wealth in the US but also spend the most per transaction.

The full report can be downloaded here. More detail on a state-by-state basis can be viewed from Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

About the Data: Lawsuit numbers are based on a manual analysis of all federal cases coded as ‘ADA-Other’ and removing ADA Title II cases in which defendants are state and local governments.

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