Avoid Website Accessibility Lawsuits

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Avoid Website Accessibility Lawsuits

The U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) recently released “Guidance on Web Accessibility and the ADA.”[1]  The Guidance is intended to assist businesses and the public to ensure websites are accessible to people with disabilities, which might also avoid unnecessary lawsuits, which have proliferated in the last number of years.  The DOJ says that a multitude of services have moved online, and people rely on websites like never before for all aspects of daily living.  For example, not just businesses open to the public, but accessing voting information, finding up-to-date health and safety resources, and looking up mass transit schedules and fare information increasingly depend on having access to websites.  Private business websites are the ones that bear the brunt of the lawsuits.  Businesses have long sought clarity on the standards for website accessibility and until now the DOJ has not taken a position.  While many hoped that the DOJ would go further and give more specificity on technical standards for compliance, the DOJ’s new guidance will still be a welcome first step for businesses seeking certainty regarding their legal obligations to make their websites accessible to the disabled.  So, listen up.

Businesses can mitigate the risk of ADA claims relating to their website by proactively engaging a reputable remediation service.  As the DOJ notes, automated tools, while very cost effective, are not as reliable as accessibility consultants that pair technology with human engineers and experts.  Websites that are incompatible with screen readers, have poor color contract, use color alone to give information, provide images to convey information (blind people need the readable text), lack closed captioning for videos, have inaccessible online forms, have only mouse navigation through the website, and generally present other barriers to access, are on the target list for class actions and/or other litigation.  As there has been no universal standard denoted for website compatible access under the ADA and similar state laws, the DOJ weighed in with the “guidance.”

But the DOJ guidance does not solve some legal jurisdictional issues on whether the ADA applies to a business that is exclusively online or whether a website must relate to a physical brick and mortar place that requires public accommodation.  While the DOJ “guidance” does not explicitly say so, the information provided implies that the ADA would apply to any public website, even without a physical business location.

The “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” (“WCAG”)[2] are part of what the DOJ used in its publication.  Websites should aim to achieve WCAG Level 2.0 AA compliance or higher, and the higher the level of compliance (i.e., WCAG Level 2.1 AAA), the lower the risk.

If you get a demand letter regarding your website accessibility, call us – we’ve dealt with it and solved the problem for clients.  Please contact Dawn at: dcoulson@eppscoulson.com.

Information contained in this Memo is intended for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.  It is likely considered advertising.  Epps & Coulson, LLP encourages you to call to discuss these matters as they apply to you or your business.

Attorneys admitted to practice in California, New York, Colorado, Texas, and Oregon


[1] https://beta.ada.gov/web-guidance/

[2] https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/