ADA website accessibility lawsuits are on the rise against businesses across the U.S.

Q&A with Elizabeth Bowersox

published in The Oklahoman | July 10, 2018

For many businesses that have already made physical modifications to their facilities – such as the widening of doorways and bathroom stalls and the installation of handicap parking spaces – as a way to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, it may come as a surprise that ADA accessibility lawsuits are actually on the rise in one area: websites.

In a business Q&A with The Oklahoman, labor and employment attorney Elizabeth Bowersox said that while the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was enacted in 1990,  does not specifically mention websites, the U.S. Department of Justice has taken the stance since 2003 that all websites of companies that are considered “places of public accommodation” must be accessible for disabled persons, including those with visual or hearing impairments.  And while the DOJ has not released any official regulations on the topic for businesses to follow, that has not stopped plaintiffs from filing lawsuits.

“People with disabilities access websites in a variety of ways, and common website problems may create barriers for these individuals,” said Bowersox.  “For example, a blind person may use screen-reading software, which reads the text of the website out loud to the individual. If the website has used images to convey information without using text alternatives, the screen reading software cannot convey that information and the blind person won’t be able to use the website.”

Bowersox advised that for some businesses, “it makes good business sense to redesign their website to increase the functionality and accessibility of their websites to comply with WCAG 2.0 standards before they are hit with a demand letter or lawsuit, but many factors weigh into this consideration. Companies facing this decision should consult legal counsel for assistance.”