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WCAG Compliance: Can You Be Sued Under the ADA Because of Your Website?

WCAG Compliance: Can You Be Sued Under the ADA Because of Your Website?

by Cynthia Melendez-Flynn

Recent civil court rulings defining websites as a point of public access could mean your company is at risk of a lawsuit under the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Don’t let WCAG compliance sneak up on your business. Learn if your website is at risk and what to do to prevent a lawsuit.

What is WCAG Compliance?

Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) ensure a website is accessible for all users. Current law dictates all government-affiliated websites be WCAG compliant according to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, “…Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities”.

A computer keyboard with a blue accessibility key

For commercial businesses— just as a storefront is a point of public access— it’s open to interpretation whether a website is a point of public access as well. If a business website’s usability is not accessible by all people, the user could sue the business for discrimination under the ADA.

Forbes discusses the lawsuit Winn-Dixie recently lost regarding its website’s compliance under ADA.

“In what is believed to be the first lawsuit of its kind to go to trial, a Florida federal judge has ruled for a blind man … alleging that various companies’ websites violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. On June 12, Judge Robert Scola, of the Southern District of Florida, decided that Winn-Dixie’s website is heavily integrated with the company’s physical store locations, making it subject to the ADA. His decision will require the company to update its site…Experts believe it to be the first trial regarding a website’s accessibility under the ADA. Such lawsuits have become popular in recent years as the Department of Justice has delayed formal regulations.”

Under the ruling, Winn-Dixie was ordered to make their website accessible to all users, which according to the court documents could cost up to $250,000

How is a website inaccessible to those with disabilities? The blind, for example, use screen-reader software in order to browse websites. Thus, if a website is not compatible with the screen-reader they use, then the website is not accessible to them.

While WCAG are guidelines primarily intended for website developers, as a business owner it is important for you to know if your website is WCAG compliant so you avoid lawsuits. The first step to determine if your business is at risk is to conduct a WCAG audit or a WCAG compliance check on your website.

 

The Next Step: WCAG Compliance Testing

A WCAG compliance check is the best way to learn what you need to do to ensure your business is not at risk of being sued because of your website. It will reveal if your website is accessible for all users, like the blind and those covered under the ADA. If your website is not compliant, a WCAG audit will outline how to solve the limitations your website has for people with disabilities.

The way we see it, no one is better equipped to test a website for WCAG and Section 508 compliance than people who need and use accessible website content every day. For Lighthouse Works here in Orlando, WCAG compliance testing is not a business function, but “a commitment to serve visually impaired people everywhere”.

That’s why we recommend their WCAG compliance audit.

Over 100 lawsuits are already filed. Don’t risk exhaustive litigation. Get your website’s WCAG compliance checked, today.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • WCAG stands for Website Content Accessibility Guidelines.

  • A website that is WCAG compliant allows a full user experience for those with disabilities. All aspects of the website must enable disabled users to gain the same access to information the same way non-disabled users would.

  • Only content that is produced for or on behalf of the federal government requires WCAG compliance, but many companies in multiple industries who have websites that are not compliant have been subjected to civil litigation. Whether or not you should have a WCAG compliant website is a risk evaluation that should occur after a conversation with your attorney. In our experience, we can say definitively that this is a case where an ounce of prevention is worth way more than a pound of cure.

  • There is a lengthy list of technical standards that you must comply with to make your website WCAG compliant. It’s best to employ a reputable digital agency to ensure true WCAG compliance.

  • Making your website ADA compliant is the same thing as making your website WCAG compliant. Basically, ADA compliant is the new way of saying WCAG compliant.

  • How much it costs to become WCAG compliant depends on the size, functionality, and scope of your current website. Generally speaking, the process adds about 15-20% of the overall cost of new website development. It is important to note, compliance evaluates the entire customer journey including the use of any third-party apps or solutions.

  • There are, but they aren’t reliable. Online WCAG compliance tools and checklists can’t evaluate the subjective elements of your site. Leave WCAG to digital experts to ensure confidence in your website.

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