Internet Law Topic: Website Accessibility

May 31, 2018

A visually impaired woman named Kathleen Sypert slapped several businesses with an Internet law claim over “multiple access barriers” on their websites.

Will she win?

Well, we don’t have all the facts, but Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodations.” And according to U.S. case law, websites are considered public spaces.

So, if you haven’t given much thought to how people with disabilities interact with your site, it’s probably time to do so.

What is Website Accessibility?

Website accessibility refers to code and design features that help users with physical disabilities navigate a site. For example: Can screen readers, often used by people with visual impairments, navigate your site properly? Do the graphics on your website include descriptive “alt” tags that enhance the experience for blind people?

For a full list of website accessibility points, head here.

Website Accessibility Lawsuits: A Growing Trend

Sypert is not the first person to sue over the issue. In 2017, consumers smacked grocery chain Winn Dixie with a website accessibility lawsuit. In that case, the court sided with the plaintiffs and ruled that Winn Dixie discriminated against visually impaired online shoppers by denying them “the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations that Winn-Dixie offers to its sighted customers.”

The Goal of Website Accessibility Lawsuits

People who file website accessibility lawsuits typically aren’t looking for money. They simply want businesses to comply with Title III of the ADA.

If, however, a matter makes it to court, legal fees and punitive damages can add up. So, the best — and most economical — bet is to update your website before an accessibility lawsuit lands on your doorstep.

We’ll leave you with a thought from Cynthia Bennett, an academic at the University of Washington:

“The fact it is still necessary to convince businesses that website accessibility is part of just operations is saddening. But inaccessible websites quietly commit similar discrimination by sending a message that people with disabilities are not the type of visitor the company expects on their website.”

Connect With An Internet Law Attorney

Gordon Law Group works with startups, established businesses, and individual entrepreneurs on Internet law matters, like website accessibility, online privacy compliance, digital intellectual property, and online promotions, in addition to domestic and international e-commerce concerns.

If you want to read more about Internet law issues, head over to that section of our website.

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