Digital Accessibility Lawsuits

Digital accessibility lawsuits have been increasing year over year. The best strategy to protect your organization is to be proactive.

Bar chart of Digital Accessibility Lawsuits by year: 262 cases in 2016, 814 cases in 2017, 2314 cases in 2018, 2890 cases in 2019, 3550 cases in 2020, 4,055 cases in 2021

Cases on the Rise

Digital accessibility lawsuits are an increasing concern for many businesses and organizations. Government agencies and organizations that receive government funding are subject to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires them to meet WCAG 2.0 guidelines.

But even organizations not subject to Section 508 are still bound by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Federal Circuit Courts have mandated that websites are subject to ADA regulations.

MORE THAN 250 lawsuits were filed in 2020 against companies using widgets or overlays as an accessibility solution for their websites. The last 6 months of 2020 show a significant increase in cases related to the use of overlays and widgets filed, with the rate eclipsing more than one per day.

Pie chart of Lawsuits by state: New York 1756 (49.5%), California 989 (27.9%), Florida 542 (15.3%), Rest of US 263 (7.4%)

Majority of Lawsuits in 3 States

New York, California, and Florida accounted for over 90% of website accessibility lawsuits in 2020 due to their significant state civil rights laws. While the ADA at the federal level does not allow plaintiffs to recover damages beyond compensation for court costs and legal fees, some state laws do allow plaintiffs to recover punitive damages for discrimination caused by an inaccessible website. Some states also enforce discrimination laws against any company whose website is available to residents of their state, regardless of where the company is located.

While much of 2020 was utterly unprecedented, the increase of website accessibility lawsuits is not. Increasingly, people with disabilities are becoming frustrated with companies’ failure to create websites that are accessible. The only way an organization can guarantee it won’t face ADA lawsuits is to make sure every part of its business- both in the built and digital environments- is accessible to every visitor.

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Avoiding Digital Accessibility Lawsuits

The best course of action to avoid the expense and trouble of digital accessibility lawsuits is to be proactive.

  1. Have a Digital Accessibility Policy and enforce it rigorously
  2. Ensure employees are trained in accessibility and responsibilities are clearly outlined
  3. Regularly audit and remediate websites and online documents
  4. Respond promptly and helpfully to any complaints. Do not delay resolution to any issues that arise.
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