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ADA and Web Accessibility - The Legal Requirements and Lawsuit Trends


ADA and Compliance Information

Having an accessible and inclusive website is not only the right thing to do, but it also offers several benefits, such as increased traffic (with improved SEO) and eligibility for tax credits. It is important to note, however, that accessibility is first and foremost a legal requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to the legislation, we have seen a growing trend of lawsuits filed against non-compliant businesses in recent years. With timing becoming a significant factor, it is essential to ensure that you and your clients are familiar with the ADA and its relation to web accessibility to stay ahead of the curve and minimize the risks of legal ramifications.

This article aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of web accessibility regulations and standards, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), other relevant laws, and details on related lawsuit trends.

In addition to covering the essential information on these topics, the article also includes a dedicated section on how to present this information to your clients.

Based on our experience, we have assembled the relevant marketing materials, key points worth emphasizing, and a sample email snippet you can share with your clients.

ADA and WCAG overview - what are they, and what do they cover?

ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 provides comprehensive civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. The ADA is America’s most important law regarding accessibility and civil rights for people with disabilities, including web accessibility.

As the internet became essential and websites played a more significant role in how consumers interact with businesses, the way ADA is applied to web accessibility began to change. Since 2018, a clear consensus has emerged that ADA covers the online world. Disability rights activists, legal scholars, and court rulings have agreed that websites, internet portals, and online stores must also be accessible to people with disabilities.

In 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reaffirmed and clarified its 2018 ruling that websites are places of public accommodation and are subject to the ADA’s requirements of general non-discrimination and effective communication.

To learn more about the ADA, you can read here.

WCAG

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a massive guidebook that explains how accessible websites should look and operate for people with disabilities. While it is not stated in the ADA, the WCAG has been widely accepted as the industry standard for being ADA-compliant.

Therefore, if you abide by the WCAG guidelines, your website should be considered compliant.

To learn more about the WCAG, you can read here.

Additional laws that refer to web accessibility

In addition to the ADA, several other accessibility-focused legislations in different countries may be relevant to some of your clients, depending on their business operation and location.

The laws you need to know about:

  • Section 508 refers to a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is a set of rules for government entities and any organization that receives federal funding. Based on section 508, any federal agency or government-funded organization must build and maintain all information and communications technology (ICT) so that they are accessible to people with disabilities. That means that if a business works or plans to work with a government entity, it must comply with section 508. You can learn more here.

  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) - The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is an Ontario law that outlines standards through which organizations must become more accessible to people with disabilities. Under the AODA, private or non-profit businesses with at least 20 employees in Ontario must file an accessibility compliance report, which is done through a standardized form provided by the government of Ontario every three years. You can learn more here.

  • UNRUH - The Unruh Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code Section 51) protects from discrimination by all business establishments in California, including housing and public accommodations, because of age, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. You can learn more here.

  • New York City Human Rights Law (NYHRA) - New York has enacted state-level, and city-level anti-discrimination legislation parallel to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The NYHRA protects people with disabilities from discrimination at work, home, and public spaces.

Lawsuit Trends - Numbers and trends of ADA-related lawsuits

The legislative landscape has changed in recent years, seeing a significant rise in web accessibility demand letters and lawsuits. Over the past few years, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of businesses have received demand letters, with 3% resulting in a trial. For reference, 2022 saw an all-time high of ADA web accessibility lawsuits, with 3,250 cases filed.

Given this rise in legal claims against non-ADA-compliant businesses, you must be aware of this trend and its potential consequences for your clients and ensure that their websites are accessible and compliant with the ADA.

Below, we have summarized the most relevant information you should be aware of, including a trend graph of recent growth in web accessibility-related demand letters.

**Please note: Following this section, you will find information and collateral to share with your client. The data below is for your reference.

Key data and numbers:

  • 2022 broke the record for ADA lawsuits and demand letters.

  • In 2022, 3,250 lawsuits were filed, representing only 3% of demand letters, as 97% are settled before going to trial, which means the number of demand letters is even much higher.

  • This means that approximately more than 100,00 business owners received demand letters in 2022 for having inaccessible websites.

  • Since 2019, there has been an average of 13% year-on-year increase in web accessibility-related lawsuits.

  • Organizations and businesses can be fined up to $150,000 for ADA violations, while the average ADA website lawsuit settlement typically ranges from $20,000 to $50,000.

Below you can see a graph with the trend in web accessibility-related demand letters, along with the year-on-year growth percentage:



In the event of a demand letter or lawsuit, accessiBe provides our partners and clients with an extensive Litigation Support Package. This is a unique, free service we offer our customers.

How to present ADA, compliance, web accessibility, and lawsuit trends to your clients

In light of the information we have shared in this article, your clients must also be aware of the ADA, get familiar with the related lawsuit trends, and understand how it is relevant to their businesses and websites.

For that, we prepared everything you need to share this information with your clients effectively. Below are marketing materials (like one-pagers and videos), main points you can easily use in your communications, and a suggested email snippet. Feel free to mix and match the different collateral types to produce the most relevant comms for your client.

Marketing Materials

*This one-pager contains a general overview of the ADA, WCAG, lawsuit trends, and other related laws.

Video - ADA Overview

Article - ADA

Article - WCAG

Main Points

ADA and WCAG:

Here are the main points you can refer to:

  • The ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act, an American civil rights law passed in 1990.

  • The WCAG is a massive guidebook that explains how accessible websites should look and operate for people with disabilities.

  • While it is not stated in the ADA, the WCAG has been widely accepted as the industry standard for being ADA-compliant.

  • By following the WCAG guidelines, you are making your website ADA-compliant.

Additional Laws:

Here are the main points you can refer to:

  • Section 508 Is a set of rules for government entities and any organization that receives federal funding. Based on section 508, any federal agency or government-funded organization must build and maintain all information and communications technology (ICT) so that they are accessible to people with disabilities.

  • If your client's business operates in New York, California, or Ontario, it is essential that they’ll be aware of NYHRA (New York), UNRUH (California), and AODA (Ontario, Canada).

**Please note section 508 especially, as it may be relevant to many of your clients - if they work or plan to work with a government entity, they must comply with section 508.

Lawsuit Trends:

Here are the main points you can refer to:

  • The legislative landscape has changed. Litigation over web accessibility shows no sign of slowing down, with 2022 breaking the record for ADA lawsuits and demand letters.

  • More than 100,00 business owners received demand letters in 2022 for having inaccessible websites.

  • Since 2019, there has been an average of 13% year-on-year increase in web accessibility-related lawsuits.

  • The rise in lawsuits is evident and reflects the importance of considering accessibility for all your digital channels and content.

  • Organizations and businesses can be fined up to $150,000 for ADA violations, while the average ADA website lawsuit settlement typically ranges from $20,000 to $50,000.

  • We recommend that you share the lawsuit numbers and trends, so they understand the potential immediate legal risks:


Email Snippet

Below, you can find a snippet available for you to share with your client via conversation or email:

“Hey {First Name},

As your website manager, I am contacting you to ensure you are aware of web accessibility regulations. Aside from the fact that it is the right thing to do and has the benefits of increased website traffic and potential tax credits, web accessibility is a legal requirement. Lately, we have noticed an increase in web accessibility-related lawsuits and thought it is best to bring this to your attention. For your convenience, I have summarized the most relevant information you should be aware of.

What is the law? The ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act, an American civil rights law passed in 1990. The law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places open to the general public. Since 2018, the ADA also covers websites, as they’re considered public places of accommodation.

Please note that the industry standard is to adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG). The WCAG is a technical guidebook explaining how websites should look and operate for people with disabilities. So, by following the WCAG guidelines, you are making your website ADA-compliant.

In addition, in recent years, there has been a surge in state court lawsuits regarding web accessibility. 2022 saw a record-breaking number of lawsuits and demand letters under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), with 3,250 lawsuits filed. It is estimated that over 100,000 business owners received demand letters in 2022 for failing to make their websites accessible. Organizations and businesses can be fined up to $150,000 for ADA violations, while the average ADA website lawsuit settlement typically ranges from $20,000 to $50,000.

As this is a top priority for us, I have found a suitable solution for your website, which can be easily implemented and help you become ADA-compliant. I’d be happy to discuss it further, elaborate, and answer all your questions.”

*In case any of the additional laws are relevant to your clients' business, you can add this snippet:

“In addition to the ADA, there are other laws regarding web accessibility you should know, and since your business works with the government and/or is located at {Insert location} - this law might be applicable to you.

Attached is a link to the relevant law: Section 508/AODA/UNRUH/NYHRA.

If you have any questions, please let me know.”

_

If you have any questions, you can always reach out directly to your dedicated account executive or email our partner support team at: partners@accessibe.com

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