On November 1, 2016, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an article focusing on the rise in lawsuits against companies over inaccessible websites. More than 240 businesses have been sued across the United States since the start of 2015 for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
This is a trend that began in 2008, when retail-giant Target was sued by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The case, NFB v. Target Corporation, went in favor of the Federation and set a precedent that inaccessible websites constitute a form of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
The Department of Justice, which enforces the ADA, has delayed releasing technical guidelines regarding accessible websites until 2018 so that the public can provide input on the proposed guidelines. This has caused understandable confusion and frustration among businesses looking to comply with the ADA.
At the end of the day, the topic of web accessibility should be one of equality: making sure that individuals with disabilities have the same opportunities and freedoms to enjoy the internet as the rest of the population. As the internet becomes more pervasive in our lives, access to it is crucial in allowing individuals to thrive.
But the current status of web accessibility guidelines, laws and regulations have made it difficult for businesses to know how to best accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities. Web accessibility can impact site design and company branding; it can also be costly to implement. Businesses must find a flexible and economical solution to meeting the needs of all their site visitors. If not, they may find themselves in the courtroom.