Increase in ADA Lawsuits Concerning Website Accessibility

ADA Lawsuits

Website Inaccessibility Issues

In recent years, there has been a significant surge in lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regarding website accessibility. Since 2020, people have noticed an uptick in lawsuits filed concerning websites that are not created accessibly.

This trend has continued, and more and more people are taking action against businesses without ADA-compliant sites or apps. It is important to note that these claims are not solely being filed against large corporations. Reportedly, over three-fourths of the lawsuits filed in 2023 were against companies with less than $25 million in revenue.

Is AI to Blame?

While the reasons behind this increase are complex, there's a possibility that the very tools businesses use to enhance their online presence might be contributing to the problem. The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has led to the increase of complex website features and functionalities.

While AI can undoubtedly improve user experience, its implementation might inadvertently create barriers for users with disabilities if accessibility considerations are not prioritized during development. For instance, AI-powered chatbots, though designed for ease of use, might not be compatible with screen reader software used by visually impaired individuals.

Similarly, complex interactive elements or image carousels with unclear alt text descriptions can leave users with visual impairments or cognitive disabilities disoriented and unable to navigate the website effectively. Businesses and others who create online content should be aware that certain accessibility widgets and overlays that are meant to help identify accessibility issues do not always help. A report from UsableNet showed that 414 of the suits filed (to date) involved companies with active AI widgets.

DOJ Web Accessibility Guidelines

In early 2022, the Department of Justice released a guide on website accessibility under the ADA. In addition to discussing what can make online content inaccessible (i.e. inaccessible forms, lack of keyboard navigation options, lack of video captions and alt text on images, etc.), they offer general counsel on making web content ADA compliant.

Some key points for crafting an accessible website include the following:

  • Focus on assistive technology. Ensure your website works with screen readers, which convert text on screen to speech for visually impaired users. Additionally, consider users who might navigate with keyboards only, so design your site for easy keyboard navigation.
  • Include descriptive content. Provide clear and concise descriptions for images and videos using alt text. This alt text becomes crucial for screen readers to convey the image's content.
  • Pay attention to color contrast. Maintain sufficient color contrast between text and background to ensure readability, especially for users with visual impairments or color blindness.
  • Use a reader-friendly structure. Structure your website with clear headings, listicles, and proper use of semantic HTML tags. This improves navigation and makes content easier to understand for everyone.
  • Test and reevaluate as needed. Regularly test your website with assistive technologies and involve users with disabilities in the testing process. This helps identify and address any lingering accessibility barriers. With the rise of AI, it is also important that businesses and organizations do not rely on AI-automated remediation. While AI technology and widgets are here to stay, website content managers cannot yet rely on accessibility widgets and scanners.

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Don’t Be Discouraged Against Filing

In the article “ADA Lawsuits in California: A Gold Rush for Serial Filers,”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a vital piece of legislation ensuring equal access for people with disabilities. However, there are concerns that some individuals, known as serial filers, exploit the system by filing questionable lawsuits against businesses with minor or even fabricated accessibility issues.

It's important to remember that these abuses shouldn't discourage legitimate complaints. People with disabilities who face genuine barriers should absolutely hold businesses accountable for ADA violations. Here's why:

  • Equal access. The ADA's purpose is to create a level playing field for everyone. Individuals with disabilities deserve the ability to navigate businesses and public spaces freely, just like anyone else. Ignoring legitimate ADA violations can have a significant impact on their daily lives.
  • Deterrence against future violations. When businesses face consequences for non-compliance, it incentivizes them to fix accessibility problems and prioritize inclusivity. This benefits everyone with disabilities, not just those who file lawsuits.
  • Finding solutions. Valid ADA complaints can highlight areas where accessibility improvements are needed. Resolving these issues can lead to positive changes that benefit the entire community, not just those with disabilities.

Here to Protect the Rights of Those with Disabilities

At Manning Law, APC, we provide comprehensive legal services for clients who encounter accessibility issues with businesses' websites and apps. In the digital age, accessibility is paramount, and failing to comply with ADA guidelines can be a significant barrier. We can assist clients in conducting thorough investigations into these accessibility issues, meticulously gathering evidence to illustrate a business's non-compliance with ADA regulations.

Get in touch with our disability rights attorneys using our online contact form or by calling (800) 783-5006.

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