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May 26, 2020

Businesses of All Sizes Risk Losing Big in Web Accessibility Lawsuits

Talia Chudacoff Head of Communications
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(Estimated read time: 4 minutes)

From global brands to small local businesses, everyone with a website feels the looming threat of web accessibility lawsuits. According to analysis by Seyfarth Shaw, more than 11,000 ADA Title III lawsuits were filed in federal courts in 2019, a 400% increase compared to just six years earlier.

High profile web accessibility lawsuits include cases against Domino’s, Winn-Dixie and even Beyoncé Knowles. These well known, and very different, groups make such legal actions top-of-mind, both for businesses and those seeking to bring them to court. The number of cases being settled out of court, and outside the news, are far greater.

High Profile Cases are Making Headlines

Winn-Dixie was the first such lawsuit to be taken to trial. In that case, according to Forbes.com, a federal judge determined the grocery store failed to make its website accessible to people with significant visual impairment. As a result, the company allocated $250,000 to update their site. This was a landmark win for this particular plaintiff, who has filed nearly 70 other known lawsuits claiming business websites failed to comply with American with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

In a similar action, according to Fortune.com, a blind woman initiated a class action suit against Beyonce.com, claiming the performer’s site and e-store are inaccessible to people with vision impairment. 

Perhaps the most prominent case – and far-reaching for businesses of all sizes – has been the lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza. In that case, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ADA does indeed apply to provide access to websites and apps as well as brick-and-mortar locations. According to an article in the LA Times, this led to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce voicing concerns about the potential for a “tsunami of litigation” and judges “imposing a nationwide website-accessibility mandate.”

Small Businesses are Also Being Targeted for Web Accessibility Lawsuits

It’s not just big corporations being targeted. Colorado Bag & Baggage was forced to pay a plaintiff $4,000 in damages plus up to $100,000 in the plaintiff’s legal fees. Whisper Restaurant and Lounge in Los Angeles were also required to pay a plaintiff $4,000, after the court rejected their assertion that the website is not a “place of public accommodation,” and therefore should not fall under ADA regulations.

Those are just some of the thousands of businesses that have been taken to court or paid financial settlements in order to avoid lawsuits.

Mounting legal precedent led Forbes.com to write, “times are changing and online businesses have a greater responsibility than ever to prioritize their website accessibility. When companies essentially deny equal access because their website is incompatible with a screen reader – or has other accessibility issues, the companies also become vulnerable to lawsuits.”

There’s More at Stake than Just Lawsuits

Web accessibility is about more than just avoiding the threat of lawsuits. In this day and age, no one should be precluded from benefiting from the availability of goods and services. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates nearly 1-in-5 Americans has a disability. That’s more than 60 million people. The potential positive financial impact of making a company more accessible to this huge swath of the population is game-changing for any business.

Where Can Businesses Turn for a Web Accessibility Solution?

Even as awareness of web accessibility issues grows, many businesses are left grasping for a viable solution. Traditional techniques for building a website to meet accessibility requirements can be extremely costly, requiring thousands of dollars and weeks of coding. Retrofitting an existing site can be just as expensive. Plus, manual updates are required every time new content is added to the site.

Until now.

A new technology is revolutionizing the way businesses integrate complete accessibility into their websites. accessiBe makes any website fully accessible in just one step. Driven by artificial intelligence, the system utilizes a mix of front-end and back-end tools and adjustments to accommodate screen readers, keyboard navigation, and more. 

The most surprising aspect is the price. With accessiBe, websites up to 1,000 pages can be made completely accessible for just $490 per year, with larger websites costing a bit more. And the software continually scans for updates and new content. It’s the future of web accessibility and it’s here today.

To learn more about how accessiBe can make your website fully accessible and protect your business against ADA lawsuits, visit our product page and start your free 7-day trial today.