Is an ADA Compliance Complaint Even Legitimate?
Yes! This is the second most frequent question we are asked, and we can assure you it is very real. Originally, the complaints began with some of the biggest household name companies such as Target, Nike, Reebok, Winn-Dixie, and Amazon. Today, even “Mom and Pop” stores are at risk for being sued for being non-compliant. The following sections should help you understand the history, purpose, and sudden rise in incoming complaints over the past couple of years.
Transformation of the ADA
The ADA was passed in 1990 and prohibits the discrimination of individuals with disabilities in all areas that are open to the public. You have seen the ADA in action in your everyday life any time you see a handicap ramp, handicap parking space, or even braille on signs in government buildings. Since the ADA was passed when the internet was only in its infancy stage, the ADA historically was only applied to physical spaces such as government buildings, businesses, schools, transportation services, or any other buildings that were open to the public.
However, recent federal court decisions have extended this ADA protection to non-physical, technology spaces such as websites, applications, and other software for the very first time. Now, not only is ADA website compliance necessary in order to prevent a lawsuit or government action, it is also necessary to avoid the perceived conception that your business discriminates against the disabled.
Websites that Must Comply with ADA Regulations
Unfortunately, courts have been inconsistent with their rulings on exactly which types of websites and software must comply with the ADA. Some courts have held that only companies that are tied to a physical location must be compliant, while other courts have held that any website, app, or software that provides goods or services must be compliant. These industries have been the most susceptible to ADA website compliance litigation:
- Real Estate
Since the decisions have been inconsistent, we recommend that if your business is open to the public, whether with a physical location or not, maintaining complete compliance with the ADA is the only way to ensure that government infractions or causes of actions will not be filed against your company, at least until further regulations by the legislature are established.
How Websites Must be Compliant
Websites must be accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities such as blindness, low or poor vision, deafness or poor hearing, learning or cognitive disabilities, physical handicaps such as limited movement, speech disabilities, and sensitivity to bright or flashing lights.
There are many companies who develop software programs that assist those with disabilities, so while your website does not need to accommodate every known disability, the purpose behind ADA website compliance is to ensure that your website is able to communicate and function with the most common assistive technologies used by those with disabilities.
Actions to take for your ADA website lawsuit:
Review the complaint
If you are receiving a lawsuit, it will most likely state that you are in violation of the American with Disability Act Title 42 U.S.C. 12101 and 12181. The lawsuit will also most likely reference different aspects of your website that their client with a disability had problems with accessing. While there are no enforceable guidelines as of now, the plaintiffs attorney may cite infractions to the WCAG 2.0.
Contact a lawyer
Even if you suspect the lawsuit to be fake or malicious, it is recommended that you speak with a lawyer to make sure your business is not at risk. Your lawyer should be able to read through the complaint and/or lawsuit and establish if it has merit.
Make changes to website to meet ADA compliance
The next step to remediation is making the necessary changes to your website. If the plaintiffs’ lawyer has outlined which parts of your website are inaccessible, it may seem easy to quickly get in compliance. While quickly fixing the issues yourself can seem like a proper solution, we recommend contacting Atlas Accessibility for a complete website audit so your website and company are fully protected from future ADA compliance litigation.
If your business’s website has failed a certain part of the ADA compliance tests, it may still be a good idea to fix and update your site. If your site is easily accessible by those with disabilities, you may see beneficial returns from those users in turn.
Issue a statement to the plaintiff
After consulting your lawyer and Atlas Accessibility, the last step is to contact the plaintiff and explain that you have received their complaint and have completed the proper steps to remediation. It is highly recommended that you let your lawyer contact the plaintiffs’ attorney. Open communication with the plaintiffs’ attorney can sometimes delay action in the litigation.