Over the years, the importance of web accessibility has been rising dramatically. And so are the number of ADA-related web accessibility cases. In 2020 alone, more than 2000 cases were filed in federal court claiming that websites were not accessible to people with disabilities.
In this article, we will take a close look at ADA web accessibility and its related cases that help both you and other business owners understand the market requirements and grow your business online.
But before we head to our main topic, let’s try to understand what ADA is first.
What is ADA?
ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s an act passed by the US Congress government in 1990 with the goal of eliminating discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.
In today’s business world, it also ensures people with disabilities are not discriminated. According to this law act, all public websites must be accessible to everyone, especially people with disabilities.
Although digital accessibility hasn’t been mentioned officially anywhere in the Act (as it was written in 1990), there has been a great debate about whether it should be under the Title III of the Act. Cases of Dunkin’ Donuts and Domino’s Pizza Chain have given rise to the importance of ADA web accessibility significantly. We will discuss the two cases in the later sections of the article.
Understanding ADA is a bit of a complex process. There are two reasons for this:
- First- there is no mention of web accessibility in the official ADA law
- Second – There are no predefined consequences if your website is unable to comply with the latest ADA standards
To make things simpler for the users, the courts have often referenced a set of standards that are said to be the ADA standards. As a business owner, you need to follow those standards to make your website compliant with ADA web accessibility.
In the next section, we will explain how you can benefit your business by making your website compliant with ADA.
Why is ADA-related web accessibility crucial for your business?
It is true that ADA-related web accessibility is very crucial for all classes of online users, including those with disabilities. But this doesn’t mean that it is not good for businesses. In fact, ADA directly affects the growth of a website and if optimized properly can help a business grow tremendously.
Many business owners lack this basic understanding and hence fail to scale their business to its true potential.
We don’t want you to be the same and that is why we have listed the 10 major benefits of making your website accessible for all.
- Increased Web Traffic
- More customers
- Improved website SEO
- Better brand reputation
- Reduces the risk of legal complications against your site
The benefits of making your site ADA compliant are manifold. But the sad part is that many business owners fail or do not try to understand this fact and do not invest in making their sites compliant with ADA.
What happens if your website is not ADA-compliant?
When your website isn’t compliant with ADA, intentionally or unintentionally, it is considered that you are discriminating against disabled users. Before any other factor, it is perceived as a social crime and the reputation of your website goes down drastically.
If people with disabilities aren’t able to access your website, you are considered liable. Search engines like Google stop recommending your website to the larger audience, which is a major drawback for your business.
Moreover, you can also face multiple challenges legally when your website isn’t accessible to all. Here are a few of them.
Fines for non-compliance: According to federal law, you can be fined up to $75,000 for violating ADA compliances for the first time and up to double the former amount the second time. Plus, local and state governments are allowed to fine additional charges and make your website meet higher accessibility standards. In comparison to such costly and painful penalties, investing in a compliant website looks like a much better and easier task.
Lawsuits involving disabled people: A severe challenge than legal fines can be in the form of lawsuits for a non-compliant website. If you have a website related to government agencies, municipality services, health care facilities, or have a public small business and it is not accessible for people with disabilities, you may be prone to lawsuits, personal injury claims, and legal penalties. These lawsuits which can cost up to thousands of dollars, can be devastating, both personally and financially.
The phenomenal rise of ADA-related cases
ADA is not a very new term for business owners out there. It simply stands for the Americans with Disability Act which demands businesses to be equally accessible for both general users as well as people with disabilities such as those with visual impairment.
Despite being a very common term, ADA wasn’t much in the game earlier. Before 2013, there were hardly any official records of any cases filed against businesses for discriminating disabled. It all started when law firm Seyfarth Shaw started tracking the number of lawsuits filed under the ADA each year.
Since 2013, the number of ADA cases has just been going up every single year. To date, more than 11.400, which is the highest of all, ADA cases have been filed already this year alone.
But what made ADA that much important for businesses over these years?
There are several reasons. And one of the most prominent causes for this immense rise of ADA-related web accessibility cases is none other than the courts. The judicial courts have undoubtedly played a very important role in determining how ADA standards apply to websites.
Important ADA-related web accessibility cases you should look at
While studying the phenomenal rise of ADA-related web accessibility cases over the years, two cases are given great priority. These include the case of Dunkin’ Donuts and that of Domino’s Pizza Chain.
The Dunkin’ Donuts Case
One of the earliest lawsuits associated with ADA-related web accessibility is that of Dunkin’ Donuts in 2018.
In the case, a federal appeals court overturned a lower court and ruled a blind plaintiff can pursue an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit against Dunkin’ Donuts L.L.C for allegedly having an inaccessible website.
This all started when a blind, Dennis Haynes, who used screen reading software to access the internet claimed that Dunkin’ Donuts violated the Title III of ADA by not maintaining their website compatible with screen reading software.
Initially, the lower court dismissed the case. But then a unanimous three-judge appeals court overturned the decision.
The court said, “Under the ADA, whatever goods and services Dunkin’ Donuts offers as a part of its place of public accommodation, it cannot discriminate against people on the basis of a disability, even if those goods and services are intangible,”.
This lawsuit against Donkin’ Donuts emerged as a trend setter as there was a great hike in the number of lawsuits filed against different companies for violating ADA after that.
Domino’s Pizza Chain Case
Another very popular ADA-related web accessibility case came into the news when a blind man named Guillermo Robles filed a lawsuit against Domino’s after he was unable to order food from the company’s website.
In response to it, the company filed a petition in the supreme court for a hearing on whether its website is required to be accessible or not. The court denied the request and stood with the lower court’s decision against the company.
The case became very popular and many businesses started to understand the importance of having ADA-Compliant websites.
Takeaway: What Should Businesses Learn from These Rise in ADA-related cases?
Throughout the article, we learned about ADA, its benefits and disadvantages for businesses, and cases that gave strength to ADA.
Going through all of this, businesses should take multiple notes about how they can leverage ADA to its full potential and contribute to the growth of their business.
Here are a few points, from our perspective, that businesses should put out as takeaways from this whole thing.
- Web accessibility should be a priority to every business, no matter if it’s large or small, new or well-established.
- Making your website accessible simply means allowing more and more people to visit your online store without any disturbance.
Just assume you have an offline store that offers great products for your customers. But to enter your store, every 1 out of the 4th customer needs to muscle through the door as it remains always locked. It’ll suck, right?
Now, that’s exactly the case when your website isn’t ADA Compliant.
Advantages of making your website ADA compliant
Making your website accessible can reduce the risk of ADA lawsuits: We have already seen a couple of cases against well-known companies for violating ADA standards. And this can happen to other businesses as well if their website isn’t compliant with ADA. Well, this risk can be reduced by making websites accessible to the disabled.
Investing in ADA-compliant websites can help you grow your business significantly: Many business owners have this misconception that ADA is only beneficial for people with disabilities and it affects the growth of their website.
As said, it’s a misconception. ADA does help people with disabilities leverage the internet quite amazingly. But at the same time, it also helps businesses in various areas as well.
Here are a few of them;
- It extends their reach to a much larger audience base where there are higher chances of conversions.
- Moreover, sites that are ADA compliant are considered much more liable than the non-ADA compliant sites and hence, are ranked higher by search engines.
- Another great benefit that businesses get by making their websites compliant with ADA is related to SEO. Sites that are optimized for higher accessibility also experience better SEO and hence get higher website traffic as compared to others.
If you are starting a new business and have a website, it’ll be a very wise decision to make it accessible to all.