Accessibility is a vital feature for any person with a disability. Without it, they won’t be able to enjoy technology and conveniences as much as non-disabled persons can. Although it may have been more challenging for these individuals in the past, the future is looking bright with more and more technological advances to help them along the way.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), inaccessible web content may hinder disabled persons as much as a building without a wheelchair ramp would. For this reason, there has been an increase in digital accessibility lawsuits that shows no sign of slowing down.
For a better understanding of the latest trends in digital accessibility lawsuits, there has to be an explanation of some critical points to establish a background for these trends:
- Why digital accessibility is important
People with disabilities may need more assistance to find and use the online content they need. It may include using specific user interfaces, especially in banking apps or food ordering services. For this reason, the law about these platforms being accessible to disabled clients came to be, along with the rise of accessibility lawsuits.
For those without disabilities, it may be difficult to fathom how much of a difference the accessibility will make to those who need it, but as an overview, below are some examples of how these adjustments could help companies avoid legal issues:
- Seizure-reducing content: This means flashing elements must be removed or minimized.
- Descriptive audio: For explaining options or reading back the content.
- Visual assistance: Compatible add-ons like screen readers that assist with enlarging the content.
- Keyboard-only input: For those who struggle to operate other hardware like a mouse.
Although these aren’t the only ways that companies can enhance the accessibility for their customers, they are some of the most common subjects of a lawsuit.
- Current trends for accessibility lawsuits
As technology improves, the laws around accessibility will also change to incorporate more of the latest technologies. Furthermore, companies will have a greater responsibility to employ these new methods so they can be accessible to all clients.
One of the biggest reasons companies are hit with lawsuits is that some try to skirt the costs of implementing appropriate accessibility options. Those using a general widget are more likely to find themselves in court than companies adding specially developed software options.
There are also increasing lawsuits regarding Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Since adopting the updated legislation, namely WCAG 2.1, not all organizations have updated their digital accessibility features to conform to the new rules, leaving them open for legal action.
Among the industries that most frequently receive notice of a lawsuit, e-commerce stores still top the list. However, an expected new contender for the top three is the healthcare section, which stems from increased telehealth and other web-based healthcare applications. The automotive, as well as the restaurant and food industries, aren’t immune to these lawsuits either. They also remain on the list of popular sectors involved in digital accessibility lawsuits.
Federal departments and agencies aren’t exempt from this law either with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in place, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It means that both public and private sectors should pay more attention to digital accessibility.
- Resolutory approaches for these lawsuits
Businesses that find themselves to be the subject of a digital accessibility lawsuit often want to settle the matter as swiftly and quietly as possible. Because accessibility is very personal to some, the news of a local company being involved in such a lawsuit may attract unwanted attention or spark a public outcry.
For these reasons, companies may face resolutory approaches like the ones mentioned below:
- A class settlement with consent: With this type of action, a number of defendants can group together and file a lawsuit. During these cases, the judge will likely lay a hefty fine on the company, and a payout to the defendants is shared equally based on relief only.
- Individual settlements: These could be public or confidential, of which companies prefer settling the matter behind closed doors. These discussions usually involve the two parties agreeing to a settlement and may include a payout to the complainant with the promise that the company will update its accessibility accordingly.
Even though lawyers can successfully resolve digital accessibility lawsuits, most companies still struggle to keep up with the latest innovations and digital accessibility rules. Unfortunately, technology is improving rapidly, and not everyone can adapt equally. However, it has become commonplace for businesses to move and embrace new accessibility features.
Lawsuits can be costly for any business, but from the perspective of customers, it’s their last resort to air out grievances—especially in a case of discrimination which is usually the contention in digital accessibility lawsuits.
It may not lead to the awareness that most would expect, especially when negotiations happen out of the public eye. Still, in the end, the defendants can stand up for their right to be included as valued members of society.