Businesses are liable for Website Accessibility Barriers

Hundreds of website accessibility lawsuits citing the Americans with Disabilities Act have filed annually. Many organizations continue to delay the inevitable, are unfamiliar with website accessibility, or expecting to address the issue when and if it presents itself—delaying the implementation of a website accessibility policy and approach until after a demand letter is received is not recommended. ADA demand letters specific to the website or application will cite the inability to use the website. Website accessibility complaints will further state the organization is violating the American with Disabilities Act - Title III - disability discrimination in places of public accommodation. While the code does not state websites explicitly, a precedent is in place by a variety of cases that have ruled the physical presence of business extends virtually (i.e., a website). Standards have been put in place (Website Content Accessibility Guidelines - WCAG) that dictate the guidelines of an accessible website to accommodate people with hearing, visual, cognitive, or motor disabilities. A proactive approach to website accessibility mitigates the risk of the expense and time of a lawsuit. A range of companies has experienced website accessibility complaints, most notably Dominos Pizza, Dave and Busters, and even Beyonce. Based on the present information available, we expect the recent number of accessibility lawsuits to continue. Year after year, the number of people with disabilities and the number of people using the internet continue to rise. Sixty-one million adults in the U.S., or 26% of the U.S. adult population, are living with a disability, according to the CDC. An estimated 90% of Americans use the internet in 2019, up from 83% in 2015. Prevention of the use of essential internet features and functionality is affecting the lives of people with disabilities. Many of the lawsuits claim the prevention of the use of the website is a violation of their rights. In 2018, there were thousands of website accessibility lawsuits filed tripling from the previous year. Most notably and recently, the Dominos Pizza lawsuit was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, stating in January 2019 that the ADA applies to websites and mobile apps. The Ninth Circuit's opinion was further validated when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the case following their decision. Many businesses, large and small, have taken the initiative towards compliance, including Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Youtube. Some organizations are hoping to delay the cost as long as possible. In contrast, others feel the moral aspect of ensuring an online organization presence is worth the short term of the expense of not being digitally accessible.

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