Web Accessibility Lawsuits are on Course To Set Record Highs in 2021
In a recent interview between CNBC and accessiBe Chief Vision Officer Michael Hingson, it was revealed that only a mere 2% of the 350 million active websites in the U.S. are considered accessible for people with disabilities. While there have been some small advancements in enhancing online accessibility in recent years, much more work has to be done if the internet is to be regarded as fully inclusive for all users.
With this in mind, it is no surprise that web accessibility lawsuits are expected to reach new highs in 2021. According to UsableNet, data drawn from midyear trends suggest that more than 4,000 lawsuits will be filed in 2021, up 20% from 2020. This covers cases brought to federal courts and those filed in California under the Unruh Act, with a direct reference to ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) violations.
Not just a concern for big businesses
One of the most common misconceptions surrounding web accessibility is the assumption that the laws and guidelines laid out in the ADA and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 only apply to large enterprises; however, that is simply not the case.
Smaller businesses are firmly in the crosshairs of plaintiff law firms and are certainly not exempt from obeying the regulations, as evidenced by the fact that companies with revenue of less than $50 million got more lawsuits than their larger counterparts. So, what does web accessibility include, and what must you do to guarantee that you satisfy the requirements?
For the most part, the WCAG outlines four critical areas of website accessibility that businesses must adhere to in order to achieve full compliance. These are perceivability, operability, understandability, robustness.
- Perceivable – Information and user interface elements must be presented in a way that people can understand.
- Operable – Components of the user interface and navigation must be operational.
- Understandable – The user interface’s information and functionality must be understandable.
- Robust – Content must be capable of being understood by a wide range of user agents, including assistive technology.
Avoid digital discrimination lawsuits and customer complaints
It seems that we have all finally come to an agreement that web accessibility is a civil right for people with disabilities. As a result, there has been a significant increase in digital-related lawsuits referencing violations to the (WCAG) 2.1 and ADA guidelines from new plaintiff law firms.
Businesses that want to prevent discrimination accusations and legal action should endeavor to meet the WCAG web accessibility standards so that users of all abilities may access their content. As a result, emphasizing online accessibility may help save time, money, and resources that could be better spent on other facets of company operations rather than defending against litigation. If you own an online business, the Berea of Internet Accessibility can provide you a Letter of Reasonable Accessibility attesting to the fact that your website has been inspected and that reasonable modifications have been made for persons with disabilities.
Other benefits of an accessible website
The benefits of web accessibility aren’t just confined to their direct impact on individuals with disabilities. As a matter of fact, businesses that take the time to put provisions in place usually stand to gain a lot from enhancing the usability of their site – let’s take a look at two main perks:
Reach a wider audience
The World Health Organization estimates that 15% of the world’s population lives with a disability. This works out to be around one billion people, which is a considerable number of people that businesses are neglecting if they fail to put adequate provisions in place.
As a result, increasing the accessibility of your website is just smart business sense. Although it is impossible to create a website accessible to everyone in the world, a few simple changes may go a long way toward making your site more accessible to individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, features like transcripts and closed captions, mobile device support, and a clear, straightforward site design will benefit all users, not just those with disabilities.
Enhance brand image
The data is in – most customers want to support companies that share their ideas, goals, and values. According to a recent Accenture Strategy poll, 62% of customers prefer to buy from a company ready to take a stance on important topics. Furthermore, if consumers are dissatisfied with a company’s values or behaviors, 47 percent are prepared to walk away, and 17 percent would not return.
For persons with disabilities, their families, and disability rights advocates, web accessibility is a critical issue. If you increase the accessibility of your website and clearly state that it is a priority for your business, you will be laying the groundwork for a favorable brand image for your company. Furthermore, people with disabilities who have had great experiences with your company are more likely to tell their family, friends, acquaintances, and social media connections about you, increasing your reach via positive word of mouth.
With 2021 on pace to set a record milestone for digital-related accessibility lawsuits, now is the time for businesses to take steps to ensure their websites are as accessible as possible to persons with disabilities. The good news is that organizations who invest their time and resources into web accessibility will also profit from reaching a broader audience and boosting their brand image, both of which will help them improve their business performance.