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Establishing digital touchpoints with consumers is quickly becoming a necessity in the business world. Whether that means selling your products online or operating a blog to provide additional information about services, neglecting to build an online presence will make it difficult to manage a commercially viable enterprise that is competitive in its field. That being said, introducing online channels presents its own set of unique challenges, such as potentially exposing yourself to significant legal risk in the form of web accessibility lawsuits.

As it turns out, 2021 was a record year for such cases, with almost 11,400 lawsuits filed (a 320 percent increase since 2013). This sharp rise can be attributed to a growing awareness of the relevance and legal requirement of digital accessibility. Moreover, high-profile court cases, such as the United States Supreme Court’s verdict against Domino’s Pizza, have firmly set the tone for digital accessibility lawsuits, confirming a clear precedent that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act does, in fact, extend to websites.

Despite this, 97.4 percent of the top one million web pages on the internet exhibit detectable WCAG 2.0 failures (the set of universally applied guidelines for determining the accessibility of a website). In light of this, the number of ADA lawsuits is likely to rise year after year until companies learn to embrace accessibility as a cornerstone of their web design.

accessiBe’s Litigation Support Package

Given the current climate, no business is safe from facing litigation proceedings. Even if you have put in the work and have a solid accessibility program that you stick to religiously, there’s a chance that a plaintiff law firm could come knocking on your door with a lawsuit. When that happens, the best course of action is to prepare yourself, so you can properly demonstrate your current accessibility efforts and emphasize your commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion practices. So, how can you do this?

The market-leading web accessibility specialists at accessiBe have a Litigation Support Package, designed to equip you with the vital documentation and guidance you need to navigate through web accessibility lawsuits.

Once you inform them that you are facing proceedings, they will get straight to work running a complete line-by-line assessment of your website’s code in order to highlight any accessibility issues that are present. If any are found, accessiBe will write a direct response to each issue. This will help you when preparing to defend your case, as the plaintiff law firm will typically present evidence of the areas where your website failed to comply with WCAG guidance. Armed with this full report breaking down your code, you will be able to deliver a structured response to each of the plaintiff’s complaints and improve your chances of a favourable outcome.

In addition to this, accessiBe clients will also receive two independent third-party audits. These audits will be used to further highlight any and all accessibility issues that your website possesses. Having this information at your disposal will allow you to put measures in place to remediate the problems before you head to the court. In doing so, you will be able to protect your business from further litigations while demonstrating your commitment to improving the overall usability of your website.

Lastly, the accessiBe team will be available to offer support as and when needed throughout the process. The team will take the time to get to know your individual case as it progresses and will be ready to offer support, advice, and guidance where necessary.

Is your company at risk?

Just as your company would be expected to make physical provisions for disabled users in its brick and mortar locations, such as disability ramps, toilets, hand-rails, and braille, all business owners face similar obligations to ensure that their websites are equally accessible.

After all, Title III of the ADA clearly stipulates that all websites and digital domains are to be deemed as “public places of accommodation.” Therefore, all businesses have a legal responsibility to make “reasonable modifications” to their websites when necessary so that they can serve people with disabilities.

With that said, some industries are more prone to being on the wrong end of web accessibility lawsuits than others, although this largely depends on the type of digital content you create and how often you make new uploads. For instance, eCommerce websites seem to be one of the most frequently sued industries. According to this report by Peer J Computer Science, this is likely due to eCommerce stores facing multiple accessibility challenges, such as rapidly changing content, the need to display items visually, high volumes of traffic, and low budgets (for the smaller stores). With that said, just about every industry is facing an increasing risk of lawsuits, so don’t get complacent just because you don’t operate an eCommerce store.

On a similar note, many business owners make the false assumption that they do not need to worry about web accessibility because of the size of their operations. In other words, web accessibility lawsuits are something that only the larger corporations have to deal with. In reality, the majority of lawsuits and letters pertaining to website accessibility have been directed mostly at small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in recent years, which is likely due to the bigger enterprises already establishing robust digital accessibility programs.

Final word

If you want to minimize the risk of web accessibility litigation against your organization, the best course of action is to improve your digital accessibility by bringing it up to speed with the WCAG criteria. However, if you have already received litigation proceedings or want to ensure that you are fully prepared in any circumstance, accessiBe’s Litigation Support Package will provide you with everything you need to begin building your defence and demonstrate your commitment to accessibility across your online channels.