The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) based discrimination claims alleging inaccessibility of business websites have increased dramatically over the last several years, potentially costing businesses millions of dollars in settlements as of the latest targeted litigation trends.
Enacted in 1990, the ADA prohibits employment discrimination, discrimination by government and other public services organizations and applies to all public accommodations and services provided by private companies. ADA’s Title III deals with accommodation services provided by companies and this is where the main exposure for litigation lands. The lack of an ADA accessible website emerged as one of the biggest commercial liabilities in 2017 and it doesn’t look like this costly trend will slow down any time soon. In fact, ADA website related lawsuits increased 181% last year from the year prior1, according to UsableNet’s 2018 report, citing over 2,200 cases filed nationwide, with the heaviest concentration throughout New York, Florida and Pennsylvania.
As food service and hospitality are among the top five industries most often targeted for ADA lawsuits (along with retail, entertainment and financial services), it’s especially important for businesses in these industries to evaluate their websites and mobile apps for accessibility and ensure that they have the proper insurance coverage in place.
How To Know If Your Site Is ADA Compliant
If your website’s type font is too small for the visually impaired or contains imbedded videos without captions or audio descriptions for the hearing impaired, or if a physically-impaired consumer has to scroll up or down to find your main navigating tools, it may not be ADA accessible. While ADA regulations don’t mention websites specifically, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) frequently cites recommendations such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)2, provided by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which can be referenced as the standard for compliance. To get you started, the following are three key tips for migrating your website to ADA compliance:
1. Don’t use your own judgment
Comb through your website with a third-party vendor that’s familiar with ADA accessibility – find out how much they know the issues, standards and what’s considered ADA accessible.
2. Describe the imagery
Complex graphics should be accompanied by detailed text descriptions. If an image is also used as a link, make sure the alt tag describes the graphic and the link destination. Add captions and audio descriptions to all videos.
3. Provide alternatives
All java applets, scripts and plug ins and their contents must be accessible to assistive technologies, or an alternative must be made available. Provide a skip navigation option to assist text readers. Create a link to videos rather than imbedding them in the web page.
In addition to assessing your website’s compliance, now is the time to also ensure you have the right insurance coverage in place in the event your business is hit with an ADA discrimination lawsuit. Various Media Liability or Employment Practices Liability (EPL) insurance policies can provide coverage for ADA website accessibility related losses, as well as third-party EPL policies, which includes coverage for third-party discrimination.
Avoid this liability exposure by taking the appropriate steps today to confirm your website is ADA accessible and speak to your insurance broker regarding the insurance protection you need to shield your bottom line from the costly implications of potential claims.
1. UsableNet 2018 ADA Accessibility Lawsuit Recap Report