Over the past year there has been an increase in lawsuits brought by plaintiffs firms and advocacy groups, as well as an increase in filing mills that are issuing thousands of demand letters to businesses with a web presence.The Economist recently published an article discussing these filing mills:
“Peter Strojnik, a lawyer in Phoenix, has sued more than 500 businesses since starting in February 2016, and says he will hit thousands more in the state and hire staff to begin out-of-state suits… Violators must pay all legal fees and courts ordinarily find violations.” “Omar Weaver Rosales, a Texas lawyer, has sued about 450 businesses in the past two years; more than 70% paid up to avoid a trial.”
Recent High Profile Settlements
- H&R Block (lawsuit/consent decree)
- Hilton Worldwide (lawsuit/consent decree)
- Quick Trip (settlement agreement)
- Museum of Crime & Punishment (settlement agreement)
- Louisiana Tech University (settlement agreement)
- Harvard & MIT (statement of interest)
- Florida State (settlement agreement)
- Peapod (settlement agreement)
- Law School Admissions Council (settlement agreement)
- Carnival Cruise Lines (settlement agreement)
- Miami University (consent decree)
- edX (settlement agreement)
How have businesses been responding to the surge in lawsuits and demand letters?
Most plaintiffs claiming that a website is not accessible to individuals with disabilities cite violations with one or more of the following laws:
- Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Title III of the ADA
- Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
- Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
- Air Carrier Access Act
- Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act
- State/City Laws
Motions to dismiss are being denied by judges and law firms are encouraging clients to settle and settle early and devote their time and money to fixing their website. Settlements from demand letters can range from $6,500 – $20,000.The standards being used by the courts and being considered by the Department of Justice to determine if website is compliant are WCAG 2.0 AA which incorporates WCAG 1.0 A, AA, AAA and WCAG 2.0 A.
So, what can keep a website owner from being sued?
We recommend the following:
- Create and implement internal policies regarding website accessibility. This is usually done by the human resource team.
- Train your employees that provide customer service or interact with customers regarding web accessibility and your business commitments to creating a web accessible environment.
- Conduct an audit of your website. This can be done by the human resource team by using a web based web accessibility testing tool, like AuditGenie™ (www.auditgenie.com), to scan your website and identify accessibility errors.
- Create a process for changing website structure and content so that it is meaningful.
- Identify an internal or external expert or team that can implement the changes needed to make your website compliant with Section 508 and the standards of WCAG 1.0 A, AA, AAA and WCAG 2.0 A and AA.
- Regularly conduct an accessibility scan/audit of your website for accessibility issues. Because websites are very dynamic, future changes made to the website need to be tested to ensure that they meet the WCAG standards, and Section 508.
- Regularly monitor websites that are testing and publicly reporting websites that are not ADA compliant. An example would be www.accessibilityblacklist.com .
- Add an accessibility policy and a link to your website
- Ask for customer feedback on your website regarding accessibility issues and identified content that is inaccessible.
About Career Resources, Inc.
Career Resources, Inc. is a federal and state regulatory consultancy that assists companies implement policies, procedures, and self monitoring employment practices that could be discriminatory. Career Resources, Inc. represents companies in key areas of industry across the United States, including Fortune 500 companies.