Five Reasons Businesses Don't Make Their Websites Accessible Until They're Sued, and Why That Approach Fails

Published July 17, 2020

Despite the uptick in website accessibility lawsuits in recent years, many businesses don't take action to make their websites accessible until they face a lawsuit themselves.

Here are five common reasons companies wait until it's too late:

  1. They aren't familiar with accessibility.
  2. They don't know that the law requires accessibility.
  3. They think their website is accessible, but it isn't.
  4. They don't know the value that accessibility provides.
  5. They think they can provide accessible options when asked.

1. They aren't familiar with accessibility

Many companies don't realize that there is such a thing as website accessibility. It isn't a valid legal defense, but it's true that many people aren't aware that some people with disabilities will not be able to use their website if it isn't built accessibly. Learn more about digital accessibility.

2. They don't know that the law requires accessibility

Various federal and state laws provide the basis for the legal obligation for entities to have accessible websites. For private businesses in the United States, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the most likely to apply. Title III makes it illegal for people with disabilities to be denied equal access to the goods and services of public accommodations and commercial businesses.

3. They think their website is accessible, but it isn't

This can happen for any number of reasons, but whether it's because a website was never formally tested for accessibility, a website once was accessible but no longer is, a vendor or website provider made claims of accessibility that don't hold up, a product like an accessibility overlay failed to provide full accessibility, or anything else, companies can be surprised to learn their website isn't accessible. Accessibility subject matter experts, whether on-staff or as consultants, can help by testing according to standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and creating maintenance strategies.

4. They don't know the value that accessibility provides

Most businesses don't like to make a habit of wasting money. If the benefits of accessibility aren't realized, investing in it might feel like something to be put off for as long as possible. When content is accessible to people with disabilities, organizations open themselves up to a greater number of prospects and a more diverse and complete talent pool, and lessen the likelihood of unintentionally discriminating against people and the legal and reputational consequences that might come with that.

5. They think they can provide accessible options when asked

Part of the power of the web is how quickly, and sometimes anonymously, people can do truly countless tasks. Within minutes online, the same person might compare prices of new patio furniture, order lunch for the family, and pay a few bills. To do any of those things, of course, requires that they can use the website at the time they need to. If they can't and are forced to request accommodations instead, they have to identify themselves as likely having a disability and miss the opportunity to do things quickly and independently. Most website accessibility barriers are completely avoidable, and so the individual is discriminated against based on their disability at the moment of being denied those goods or services.

Websites should be accessible before getting sued

Businesses can help spare themselves a lawsuit or demand letter by making their websites accessible from the beginning. In plaintiff-favored rulings, the defendant will normally be required to make their website accessible anyway. By failing to create accessible web experiences, companies open themselves up to lawsuits and complaints, and miss out on the benefits accessibility affords them resulting in unfortunate opportunity cost and legal cost.

The time to act is before, not after, because in many cases the damage is already done.

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