ADA website compliance: What every small business owner needs to know

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that prevents discrimination against people with disabilities. Not only does it bar discrimination at schools, the workplace, and all private (and public) places that are open to the public, it affirms that people with disabilities have the same opportunities and rights that are afforded to all individuals, regardless as to their race, national origin, religion, age, or sexual orientation.

What you may not realize, however, is that ADA compliance also extends to websites. Notably, if your website isn’t accessible to all people, regardless as to whether they have a disability, you could find yourself in a world of hot water.

Litigation trends

According to recent data, the number of lawsuits filed against companies for not having ADA compliant websites has skyrocketed, from 4,798 in 2015, to more than 11,450 in 2021. In fact, the Department of Justice’s guidance on Web availability lists several common characteristics of websites that are inaccessible to individuals with disabilities.  Sample characteristics include:

  • Videos that lack captions
  • Lack of alt-text (text alternatives) on image files
  • Insufficient color contrast
  • Websites that rely on color to relay information

What’s more, is that individuals from throughout the US are suing businesses throughout the US, regardless as to whether they live in the area where that business operates.

For example, a Florida-based litigant recently sued a Napa Valley real estate agent because their website wasn’t ADA compliant.   When the federal judge asked the man why he had standing to sue a real estate firm that’s located on the opposite side of the country, he claimed he had standing based on “[aspirational] dreams and window shopping.”  Although this case was ultimately thrown out, others have been successful.

  • Four large healthcare companies, including WellPoint, Inc., HCA Holdings., Inc., CAC Florida Medical Centers, and Tenet Healthcare, have all been sued for alleged violations of the ADA.
  • Burger King, Hulu, and Amazon have also been targeted for alleged failure to comply with ADA website regulations

The bottom line

Although litigants aren’t able to collect personal damages in this type of case, if your company is sued and you lose in court, you could find yourself on the hook to pay tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands to cover the litigant’s attorney’s fees.

If you have questions about whether your website is compliant, or you’re interested in having your website tested for ADA compliance, call our office today to speak with an expert.