In today's digital age, companies must proactively prepare for lawsuits related to digital accessibility. With increasing lawsuits filed under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses must ensure their online platforms are accessible to people with disabilities. Ensuring digital accessibility not only demonstrates inclusivity but can also lead to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and an expanded customer base.
When your website fails to meet accessibility guidelines like Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) or there is an accessibility feature that doesn’t work, you risk being sued for that failure. Lawsuits are becoming more common and you don’t want to find yourself on the wrong side of one, but if you are, you won’t be alone — some big names have been sued multiple times for accessibility failures over the years.
What kind of accessibility failures? All kinds. Let’s dive in and explore some of the top companies who have faced multiple lawsuits for accessibility failures — and see what you can do to ensure it doesn’t happen to you.
Walmart, a department store headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, has been the subject of multiple digital accessibility lawsuits against both it and its subsidiaries. Both in the actual store and on its websites, it has run into multiple accessibility problems that have ended in litigation.
In 2018, three blind Maryland residents and the National Federation of the Blind sued Walmart, alleging that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because its self-checkout kiosks were not fully accessible to blind customers.
In 2021, Tyrone Thompson sued Walmart, alleging that Walmart’s website was not accessible per WCAG standards. Among his complaints were HTML issues, improper link labeling, improper keyboard navigation setup, and more. He asked for penalties pursuant to what was required in the ADA and California’s Unruh Act, including Walmart’s correction of these errors and an award of $4000 per error.
Though there is no immediate news as to how this case has played out, there are still more cases against Walmart’s subsidiaries, including Bonobos, Inc. Accessibility seems to be an issue Walmart has encountered time and time again.
Amazon is an online retailer that has been sued for accessibility issues on its website. In 2018, a lawsuit was filed alleging that Amazon’s website was inaccessible to people with vision disabilities. Per the lawsuit, Amazon “violates the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines in not providing a text equivalent for every non-text element on its site that a screen reader can read as text to the user.” In other words, they don’t have alt-text.
This lawsuit ended in a settlement, but in 2019 Amazon was hit again by a lawsuit surrounding accessibility for people with vision disabilities. Maryann Murad, a Hawaii resident looking to be employed by Amazon remotely, could not do so because their remote assessment platform was inaccessible. The platform was incompatible with the assistive technology she used. After unsuccessful attempts to remedy this issue with Amazon, she sued for discrimination. The case was settled and Amazon created technology that is now accessible.
Though Amazon touts itself as a company committed to accessibility through software like Alexa, they have clearly had problems with digital accessibility in the past. Hopefully, in the future, these problems will resolve themselves thanks to more dedication to accessibility.
CVS, a health service store and pharmacy, has been sued multiple times for accessibility. In 2022, after a lawsuit, CVS agreed to change its website to make vaccine booking more accessible. The lawsuit that preceded this alleged that the booking process was inaccessible and prevented people with disabilities from booking an appointment and getting vaccinated.
In 2023, CVS was sued over the accessibility of their HealthHub machines for people who have vision disabilities. Julie Dalton, the plaintiff, alleges that CVS “failed to make the self-service kiosks for its CVS HealthHub independently usable for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.” These machines are touchscreen and allow users to book appointments and check in when they arrive at a location for an immunization or doctor visit. If they are inaccessible, they prevent people with disabilities from being able to use CVS’s MinuteClinic.
As a healthcare company, CVS has had to make some improvements in the area of digital accessibility. Hopefully, these lawsuits will help them realize where their errors are and improve accessibility going forward.
How can you prevent a lawsuit?
First of all, make sure you are adhering to WCAG. WCAG offers the best guidelines to ensure your digital content is accessible to all. Build accessibility into your website from the ground up — don’t just leave it for the last minute! Accessibility should be a priority from day one.
Run regular accessibility audits as part of your continuous improvement processes. You won’t know if something is broken or needs updating if you don’t continually check on it. And it only takes one visitor seeing one broken accessibility feature to turn into a lawsuit. It’s not worth it — always check.
Ultimately, keep accessibility top of mind. It’s not a one-and-done thing, and there’s no magic solution. It takes hard work, but it is worth it, especially if you don’t get sued.
Businesses can learn valuable lessons from the digital accessibility lawsuits Walmart, Amazon, and CVS faced. By proactively addressing digital accessibility, companies can avoid common issues such as improper link labeling, inadequate keyboard navigation setup, and incompatible assistive technologies.
Ensuring digital accessibility helps prevent costly legal battles and demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity, leading to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and an expanded customer base. By prioritizing digital accessibility, businesses can gain a competitive advantage, drive innovation, and create a more inclusive digital environment for all users.