ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) lawsuits have spread to businesses’ websites. I call these lawsuits “grey law” litigation because they are extensions of a law into areas which were they were not really designed to go. As a result they are grossly unfair. Moreover, the lawsuits seem focused more on extracting monetary settlement from threat of the cost of litigation rather than whether the claims have merit; or as one court phrased it, “by dint of nuisance and threat of expense” rather than by “threat of victory.” These claims are extraordinarily easy to make because the claimants need merely surf the web rather than actually visiting the business to claim disability “discrimination.” As a result, there have been a surge of these claims. Many, if not most, of the claimants are “professionals,” i.e. they have made dozens to hundreds of claims and lawsuits. They often use online and commonly available website “accessibility” testers These testers give read-outs on where websites fail for screen-readers used by disabled persons such as sight impaired persons. Because there are no laws or regulations prescribing standards for private business websites, website developers have, as a whole, been lax in implementing accessibility features into websites.
There are measures that business owners can take to improve website accessibility and to help deter a lawsuit or threat of a lawsuit. First of all, contact your website developer or a reputable website developer to ensure your website maximizes accessibility. Many fixes are relatively simple and inexpensive. For more detailed information on the law and the features necessary to make a website pass accessibility muster, please read Are Your Websites at Risk for an ADA Lawsuit? It’s an article directed at web developers and do-it-yourselfers.