Business development 2 February 2021

How to avoid being sued for an inaccessible website

website
website

An inaccessible website is a site whose content is not easy-to-read or possible to read for users with disabilities; and believe it or not, many websites today still do not comply because they aren?t sure how to make the changes needed.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice passed new standards under the Americans with Disabilities ADA for accessible website design that states website content must be available to blind users, deaf users, and others who use assistive technologies to read, write, and speak.

In short, businesses who employ over fifteen people and operate for twenty or more weeks a year must ensure their website is accessible, and failure to comply can result in a lawsuit that will cost businesses a significant amount of money.

The cost of accessibility lawsuits

Due to the exponential growth of online work, shopping, social media, and the mobile web, accessibility lawsuits are being filed much more frequently. Data from 2020 states that in the first six months of the year, 4,759 web-based accessibility lawsuits were filed against businesses.

When added up, all the costs that come from an accessibility complaint can be a huge detriment to the company. Legal fees alone can add up to $350,000 for lawsuits as you pay for litigation, court fees, documentation and more. In addition to these legal fees, the actual complaints coming from users cost time and money to fix as well. Taking the time to fix the user complaints can cost a business up to $100,000 a year.

What does it mean to be accessible?

While there is not a complete list of requirements to be accessible set forth by the ADA, there are Website Content Accessibility Guidelines that can be followed to ensure a website is able to be accessed by anyone. The guidelines are broken up into four different categories. These categories guide businesses to ensure their content follows the law set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act for accessible website design. The four categories are:

  • Perceivable. Information on the site should be presented in a way that can be easily interpreted. Examples include text alternatives (larger font, symbols, and braille), speech captions on videos or images, and making important content distinguishable through the use of color, audio, and visuals.
  • Operable. Website content should be navigable and operable. All content should be operable with just a keyboard, pages should allow users unlimited time and access on the page, and all content should be designed in a way that will not cause seizures or physical reactions during or after viewing.
  • Understandable. All information should be easily understood and readable. Examples include simple language alternatives, abbreviations, easy instructions, and focused content.
  • Robust. Website content must be able to be interpreted by assistive technologies. It should be programmed so that it is available to user agents and technologies that assist those with disabilities. Screen readers, wearable technology, and braille displayers are all examples that should be compatible with websites.

How to make your website compliant with accessibility laws

Fortunately, making your website compliant with these laws takes a few small tweaks to your website. Some simple and general changes that can be made to make your site more accessible are as follows (see a more extensive list here):

  • Create text captions for all images, videos, and audio on the site. Those who are visually and/or hearing impaired can use the text captions to better understand the content.
  • Identify the site?s language in the code. People who use text readers will be able to input the correct language so their readers will speak in the correct language.
  • Create a consistent layout. Pages, subpages, links, and interactive features (buttons, videos, audio) should be organised in a uniform manner so users can find exactly what they are looking for.

While making some of these changes are simple, businesses are finding it difficult to comply with every single necessary feature for accessibility without the help of experts.

This is where accessibility solutions like accessiBe come into play, an automated ADA compliance solution that can be implemented onto a business?s website to ensure it meets the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines and ensure you are fully compliant with the ADA immediately, while Level Access helps you with website auditing and advisory. Other solutions like Level Access can help with website auditing and overall advisory. Google LightHouse is a great tool for developers to conduct some testing.

The Takeaway

Making sure that a business’s website is accessible to all users is imperative to further grow the organisation and to avoid unnecessary legal battles. By ensuring every person, no matter their disability, has access to a website is beneficial to both parties. Everyone will be able to view, interact, and purchase from the website which creates a satisfying experience for the user and profit for the business.

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