What You Can Learn From Digital Accessibility Lawsuits

Published January 9, 2024

What You Can Learn From Digital Accessibility Lawsuits

As a website owner, you already know the importance of digital accessibility. You’re probably following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and other regulations as they apply, like the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). You’ve probably tested your website and ensured it is as accessible as possible — but the worry of a potential digital accessibility lawsuit might weigh heavily on your mind‌. 

Lawsuits have risen in recent years, so it’s a valid concern. However, there is much to learn from observing these lawsuits, and these lessons are things you can apply to your website to lessen the chances that someone will sue in the future. Let’s look at some things you can learn from digital accessibility lawsuits and how you can grow from them. 

Lawsuit statistics

There were 2,387 lawsuits filed in 2022. Many companies received multiple cases — a 143% increase. 

Consumer goods, services, and retail were most targeted: clothing, food, and appliances. This means that if you are a company that provides these goods and services, you should be on alert as these trends may continue. 

Lesson one: regularly test your website

Accessibility is not a one-stop shop. Just because you built accessibility into your website does not mean you can stop there. Continuous improvement is necessary to ensure your accessibility features remain accessible. With websites, things break and need change, so you should constantly check to ensure your build continues to work. 

There are many resources for testing your website. The Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (WAVE) is a set of various accessibility checkers ranging from browser extensions to more advanced subscription tools to check your website’s accessibility features. WAVE can help ensure that your website is still functioning as intended. 

You should also pay attention to feedback given by customers. Providing ways for your customers and website visitors to contact you if there are problems with your website is one way to circumvent a lawsuit by quickly addressing any issues. Make sure you have accurate contact information so that you can respond to complaints quickly. 

Lesson two: professional development

Just as you regularly test your website, you should also test yourself. Take advantage of professional development opportunities to advance your accessibility knowledge. This will allow you to increase the accessibility of your website by implementing this new knowledge. Like webinars offered by Accessibility.com, professional development opportunities could be free or paid. 

Pay close attention when you attend a class or webinar for professional development. Take good notes and ask questions when you need clarification. Professional development is for your benefit and your website's benefit. What you learn could help prevent someone from suing you, if you use what you learn effectively. 

Lesson three: quickly address issues

When issues arise — because it’s inevitable they will, even for the most accessible websites — it’s important to address them early and quickly. Don’t delay, as this only allows a lawsuit to be filed. As soon as you are notified that an issue exists, plan to fix it.

Ensure you respond to the concerned website visitor who brought the issue to your attention. Communication is key — there are many best practices to follow when doing so. However, the most important part is that your customers and website visitors know you are aware of any issues and are working to solve them. 

Of course, you must address the issues that you say you will address. Stating that you know about them is not enough to help potentially prevent lawsuits. You must also work to change your website to ensure your accessibility features work. 

Lesson four: research

In this case, research means following the trends of the lawsuits currently being filed. Knowing what websites are being sued over will allow you to check your website for these same issues. If a website is being sued over failure to adhere to ADA requirements, as with Acheson v Laufer, paying attention to ADA requirements as they relate to your website would be beneficial. 

Subscribing to Google Alerts or following websites listing digital accessibility lawsuits will help you stay on top of the news. Note the trends, especially as they relate to your industry. At the end of the year, subscribe to year-end recaps for a summation and an idea of what may come in the following year. 

This will also help if you get sued. Knowing what came before can help you develop a game plan for approaching your lawsuit - and what to do once it's over.

Conclusion

Lawsuits are daunting and may be your worst nightmare, but there are many things you can learn from them. Note these lessons and apply them to your website before any lawsuits to prevent one from being filed. The best thing to do is to be accessible; these lessons will help you continue to do so. 

 

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