4 Digital Accessibility Compliance Myths That Could Get You Sued

Man working on a laptop in front of a window in an office, addressing digital accessibility compliance on his website.

In 2022, there were over 4061 digital accessibility compliance lawsuits under the ADA in the United States. No one expects to receive a lawsuit over the accessibility of their website. These common myths impact your compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and increase your risk for lawsuits. Get the facts so you can successfully plan for digital accessibility compliance and avoid lawsuits.

Myth: Once you’ve been sued, you can’t get sued again

19% (more than 600) lawsuits in 2022 were against companies that have received a previous ADA digital accessibility lawsuit. It’s not uncommon for more than one visitor to find digital accessibility barriers on a website. Even while one lawsuit is ongoing, another visitor who uses assistive technology could visit your website and face the same barriers. If you’re in the process of making your website accessible in light of a recent lawsuit, having a documented accessibility action plan in place might help lessen the likelihood of a lawsuit, demonstrating that you’re attempting to remedy the problem. Additionally, if you fail to maintain accessibility after resolving issues initially, you could be sued again. 

Myth: Widgets and plug-ins easily protect you from lawsuits

575 companies with an accessibility widget on their website were sued in 2022. There are a number of different digital accessibility plug-ins that claim to make digital content accessible with a simple line of code or downloaded widget. However, while these “solutions” might identify the digital coding of the content on the page, there is no way to confirm any of the coding is correct. If the page isn’t coded correctly the plug-in or widget has just as much trouble identifying the contents of the page as assistive technology would. Just because digital code exists, doesn’t mean the info provided is correct, complete, or in the right order.

Some plug-ins create an accessibility “experience” that offers tools to customize the user’s experience, such as enlarged text, higher color contrast, etc. While this sounds like it could be helpful, it often conflicts with or supersedes the same features a website visitor may already have set up within his or her assistive technology. Either way, plug-ins and widgets are inaccessible because they do not provide an equal experience for assistive technology users.

Myth: There are no specific requirements for digital accessibility compliance, so I don’t have to address accessibility on my website

Fact: The internet is not specifically mentioned by name in the ADA. It was in its infancy when the ADA was signed into law in 1990. However, the ADA does say the following:

You have the right to full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation.”

Many courts have interpreted that in one of two ways. First, some courts consider any public-facing websites to be places of public accommodation because they offer goods and services to the general public. Second, other courts consider websites to be services offered by places of public accommodation. This second interpretation requires the website to have a nexus to a physical place of public accommodation.

Specific federal requirements will also be coming soon. In July of 2022, the DOJ announced that it will begin the advanced rulemaking process for ADA Title II digital accessibility regulations in May 2023. While clarity will certainly be helpful, it won’t curtail the number of lawsuits happening now, and organizations shouldn’t wait to start making their content accessible.

Myth: I’m not at risk because my company isn’t located in California, New York, or Florida

Fact: More digital accessibility lawsuits are filed in New York, California, and Florida than anywhere else in the country. That’s because most plaintiffs and their attorneys are located in those states. That means that no matter where your business is located, you could face litigation in those states. 

Myth: The DOJ doesn’t enforce digital accessibility under the ADA

Fact: Under the Biden administration, enforcement has increased for digital accessibility compliance. The DOJ has entered into a number of settlement agreements over website accessibility concerns. Many of these settlements are the result of compliance reviews the DOJ has been conducting among public accommodations in the private sector. This once again confirms that, while the ADA does not mention the internet by name, the DOJ does intend for it to apply to digital resources.

Fact: Prevent lawsuits with accessibility and compliance

Do the work now. Make your website compliant with the ADA by making all your digital resources, including PDFs, accessible to everyone. Need help? Let Equidox make PDF accessibility easy, no matter how many documents you have.


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Nina Overdorff

Nina comes to Equidox with years of sales and marketing experience from a variety of industries and holds a BS in Language Arts Education. Nina has a passion for words, storytelling, and information, which she believes everyone should have access to regardless of ability. After spending time as a teacher with a blind student, she became much more aware of the limitations and abilities of web accessibility, and how essential it is to those experiencing disabilities. “Being able to access information equally ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity for education, employment, and success in life.”

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