It would seem as though the latest craze in the USA is beating up people and businesses when they are already down. Small businesses are truly struggling to survive. Suing them for failing to provide an accessible website, without forewarning, is ruthless and unacceptable.
Drive-By ADA Lawsuits Give Accessibility a Bad Reputation
Accusing a small business website owner of failing to serve your needs by slapping them with a lawsuit as your introduction is insensitive and cold-hearted.
When law firms represent unscrupulous, mean spirited plaintiffs who file bulk accessibility lawsuits, it’s obvious that helping disabled website visitors is not the motivating factor.
The latest example of drive-by ADA accessibility lawsuits made the news recently when a blind man from Colorado, David Katt, who is represented by New Jersey law firm, Marcus & Zelman, filed over 50 lawsuits against small businesses in Colorado.
The Colorado businesses claimed there were no requests or correspondence between the plaintiff to the business owner, who may not be aware there is an issue. Most businesses with websites are happy to help when given the opportunity.
Shoot first drive-by ADA lawsuits are unfortunately common practice. It’s unkind and unethical.
Accessibility professionals do not support attack first, remediate later demands.
Small Businesses Can’t Afford to Be Sued
An ADA lawsuit for a website is the kiss of death for a small online business, or startup. As much as accessibility advocates try to educate anyone considering owning a website for their business, the reality is that most view accessibility as not important, too expensive to implement, or is taken care of automatically by their theme, host, plugin, or widget.
It’s a shock when they learn their website may be legally required to meet accessibility compliance. In countries where accessibility laws are yet to be created or enforced, other laws addressing equal rights and non-discrimination may apply.
Website Owners Are Responsible for Their Websites
Passing the buck is not helpful.
Owning a business anywhere is a venture that includes protecting your assets, meeting local, state, and federal laws, and providing a safe and secure customer experience. This is true for brick and mortar businesses as well as digital.
However, with websites, there is no insurance company that will cover you if you are sued for not having an accessible website.
There is no protection if you rely on poor advice such as accessibility plugins and widgets that do not require a business to build an accessible website.
User friendly websites do not exclude people with disabilities who require the use of assistive devices such as screen readers. Research into how we use websites has shown that many people find that simply changing their accessibility settings on their computer devices helps them read, listen or browse in various environments where it is better to turn off the sound or the lighting makes reading difficult.
In other words, web accessibility is not just another set of laws or policies to be enforced.
Inclusive web design practices provide conveniences that everyone can enjoy.
Be Proactive with Website Accessibility
There is no substitute for accessibility testing.
Should your business be sent a demand letter or served with an ADA lawsuit, it helps you to have your ducks in a row by providing proof that your website was tested by an accessibility specialist or is in the process of remediation.
Educate yourself on website accessibility by seeking out trusted professionals who work in the field.
Avoid unscrupulous marketing tactics designed to scare the hell out of you.
Accessibility advocates are ready to help you make your business a success and will fight for you because they care.
Photo Credit by Scott Graham on Unsplash