Mitigating ADA Lawsuit Risk: Affordable Solutions for Online Businesses

Mitigating ADA Lawsuit Risk: Affordable Solutions for Online Businesses

Are you worried about your ADA compliance as an online business owner or website manager? If so, you may be aware that many companies have faced lawsuits due to non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These guidelines protect people with disabilities and provide barrier-free access to web content. Failing to comply with these guidelines could lead to costly legal battles. However, achieving full ADA compliance might appear daunting and costly.

The good news is that there are several steps you can take to mitigate the risk of an ADA lawsuit without breaking the bank. In this blog, we will discuss practical and budget-friendly solutions to enhance your website’s accessibility.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil law that protects the rights of people with disabilities in all areas of public life. While the ADA does not explicitly mention online content, the courts have clarified that the law does apply to websites, specifically Title III. Title III of the ADA prohibits the discrimination of those with disabilities in places of public accommodation.

In fact, in 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) stated that websites are public places subject to the ADA’s requirements. Unfortunately, this ruling has exposed millions of online businesses to the risk of a frivolous ADA lawsuit.

What is an ADA Web Accessibility Lawsuit?

An ADA Web Accessibility Lawsuit can be filed by anyone who feels that they have been discriminated against due to the inaccessibility of a website. The consequences of such a lawsuit can be severe, including hefty fines, legal fees, and damage to the business’s reputation.

In recent years, there has been an increase in lawsuits filed against website owners for failing to comply with ADA. In 2022, 2,387 web accessibility lawsuits were filed in Federal and California State Courts under the Unruh Act. However, 97% of demand letters are settled and never evolve into a case. This means plaintiffs sent more than 1,500 demand letters per week in 2022.

As an online business or website owner, it is essential to ensure your website is accessible to everyone, regardless of their disability. By doing so, you can not only avoid legal action but also open yourself up to a wider audience and improve the overall user experience for your customers.

How to Mitigate the Risk of a Website Accessibility Lawsuit

The best way to avoid an ADA lawsuit is to ensure your website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. You may not have the time or money to make your site fully compliant, but fear not! There are steps you can take to make your website more accessible:

Conduct a Self-Evaluation

The first step is understanding your website’s current level of accessibility. Conduct a self-evaluation of your website to identify areas where it may not comply with the ADA. This can involve using automated testing tools or manual testing with assistive technologies such as screen readers.

Many free tools are available online to help with this process, such as WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) and Google Lighthouse. These tools will generate reports highlighting areas of your website that need improvement, making it easier to prioritize the most critical issues.

Prioritize High-Impact Issues

Not all accessibility issues carry equal weight. To make the most of your limited time and resources, focus on the high-impact issues that will benefit the most users. These may include:

  • Ensuring your website is keyboard-accessible
  • Providing alternative text descriptions for images
  • Offering clear and concise labels for forms and buttons
  • Navigational menus and links

Addressing these areas will significantly improve the user experience for those with disabilities, reducing the likelihood of complaints and lawsuits.

Develop a Plan

Now that you’ve identified and prioritized your website’s accessibility barriers, develop a plan to address them. Break your plan into manageable steps, set realistic deadlines, and allocate resources accordingly. While it might not be possible to address all issues immediately, demonstrating a commitment to improving accessibility can help mitigate legal risks.

Add an Accessibility Statement and Contact Information

Include an accessibility statement to demonstrate your commitment to web accessibility. This can be an essential part of your defense in an ADA lawsuit. Your statement should include information about your commitment to accessibility, steps taken to improve accessibility, and how users can report issues or request accommodations.

Make sure your contact information is easily accessible on your website, allowing users with disabilities to reach out to you with concerns or suggestions.

Be Responsive to Complaints

Addressing accessibility complaints promptly and effectively can demonstrate your commitment to making your website more accessible. If a user reports an issue, take the time to understand their concerns and work to resolve the problem as quickly as possible. In addition, documenting your responsiveness to complaints can be invaluable in case of a legal challenge.

Keep an Eye on Updates

Web accessibility standards and best practices are constantly evolving. Stay informed about updates to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and other relevant resources, such as the ADA‘s website. Regularly reevaluate your website to ensure that it remains compliant with current standards.

Get an ADA Lawsuit Risk Audit

Finally, consider investing in a professional ADA lawsuit risk audit. While it may be an additional expense, a professional audit can provide valuable insights into your website’s accessibility status and potential legal risks. An audit can help identify areas that need improvement and provide guidance on how to address them.

Prevent an ADA Website Lawsuit

Achieving full ADA compliance can be challenging, especially for small businesses with limited time and resources. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that, even if you take these steps, it is still possible to be sued for having a website that is not fully compliant with the ADA. But, by taking these steps, you can demonstrate that you are taking the matter seriously and making a good-faith effort to comply with the law. Remember, the key is to be proactive, prioritize high-impact issues, and demonstrate a commitment to accessibility. By doing so, you’ll protect your business from legal exposure and create a more inclusive online experience for all users.

216digital Specializes in Web Accessibility

If you would like to learn more about your risk of an ADA lawsuit and the steps you can take to protect your website against frivolous ADA lawsuits, schedule a complementary ADA Strategy Briefing with 216digital.

216digital’s can let you know whether your website is at risk of an ADA lawsuit and provide professional services dedicated to ensuring your website stays off of the radar of predatory law firms so you can continue focusing on what matters most, running your business.