Many companies have gone remote, and online shopping has become the norm. As a result, web accessibility has come under increased scrutiny. Internet usage is up 40 to 100 percent since the start of the pandemic. Web accessibility lawsuits are at an all-time high of over 10,000 cases a year.
The Department of Justice has responded by issuing new guidance on website accessibility under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The new guidance explains how businesses can keep their websites accessible to those with disabilities. It also outlines their commitment to use its legal power to enforce these guidelines
Breaking The Silence on Web Accessibility
The DOJ’s position regarding web accessibility under the ADA has been unclear and unsettled since 2017. However, it has recently been met with pleas from groups and advocates representing persons with disabilities to finalize a rule.
There has been an alarming spike in ADA claims. Web accessibility lawsuits rose more than 14% in 2021. Among those sued are Netflix, Nike, and Amazon. The DOJ has responded, “we [hear] the calls from the public…for more guidance on web accessibility.”
According to the DOJ’s guidance, entities must offer effective communication for those with disabilities. However, covered entities are still allowed discretion with how they provide accessibility. On its face, the guidance repeats what was established in 2017. However, the rise in web usage and filed claims is forcing the DOJ to reconsider its approach. Its break from silence is more than redundancy. It is likely planning to roll out its own definitive rules.
Accessibility Rules And the Bottom Line
The DOJ has issued compliance reviews on various organizations, which have led to some high profile and presumably expensive settlements. CVS, Kroger, Rite Aid and other pharmacy operators reached settlement agreements with the US over their COVID-19 vaccine registration portals, after their websites failed to meet the accessibility compliance review of the DOJ. In addition, universities, cities, and corporations such as H&R Block and Peapod have also been targeted for compliance reviews under titles II and III of the ADA.
You should expect the DOJ to release new rules outlining accessibility. These rules could require a range of site updates. While the DOJ might turn to WCAG or other guidelines to define their own rules, whatever is decided will establish precedent for accessibility standards. Covered entities relying on dated accessibility standards could face substantial costs. They would be obligated to update or completely revamp their sites and meet criteria. In addition to the costs associated with site updates, these entities could also face legal liability. Whatever rules the DOJ does end up rolling out, covered entities will be much better off getting ahead of them, as opposed to playing catch up.
Website Accessibility In A Nutshell
Online presence is vital. A company’s web presence is its first impression, and the primary source of dialogue between the business and consumers. The last few years have made evident the importance of website accessibility. The DOJ will want to establish concrete rules to curtail further dispute regarding website accessibility. Companies that are not compliant may be targeted by the DOJ to exemplify their sense of urgency on the matter.
Prepare Your Site For Accessibility
As an agency policy, all new site’s designed and developed by STAUFFER must meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA.
But what about older sites, or those created by another agency?
Since the DOJ started to weigh in on accessibility combined with the influx of high profile lawsuits, we’ve seen a steady increase in companies wanting to confirm whether their site is compliant with the current standards.
We invite you to review the latest guidance from the ADA regarding web accessibility, visit https://beta.ada.gov/resources/web-guidance/.
Get a Free Accessibility Report
STAUFFER is also happy to help you understand where your site stands by providing a free accessibility report that provides a compliance score with an itemized list of potential issues that could raise your site’s score once resolved.
Please feel free to reach out to us to review your site via our contact form, or call 424-239-6025.