Ok first a BIG legal DISCLAIMER – This Post is not legal advice. And I’m not an attorney.
All content is intended for general information only. This should not be construed as legal advice and may not be applicable to your particular situation. Before taking any action based on this website, you should consider your personal situation and seek professional advice. Oh yeah, no attorney-client relationship is created unless and until a binding written engagement letter is signed by both you and your attorney.
So now on to the wisdom learned from others who shared these lessons with me. The focus of this week’s blog post is on suggested ways to minimize your company’s legal risk when it comes to website accessibility. Below in this article we have included an overview of some legal risk, a brief history of laws mandating accessibility compliance, and ways suggested to minimize your legal risk. This is our third post for this month’s blog series on user accessibility and company compliance! Enjoy!
Not having a website that is accessible for all users can be a problem for the users and a legal issue for the company. Website accessibility lawsuits can be a costly and lengthy problem. In 2020, 265,000 demand letters were sent to businesses which resulted in around 3,500 accessibility lawsuits. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility states that the average cost of these lawsuits for a small business is $25,000. These lawsuits can be avoided by following the steps set forth by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA was passed in 1990 with the intent to improve the access and opportunities for people with disabilities in all aspects of life including employment. The ADA protects against disability discrimination in the workplace. This is done by ensuring employers provide reasonable accommodations to job applicants and employees. This policy also protects applicants and employees from being discriminated against or harassed by an employer due to the employee’s association with a disability. This policy applies in both the workplace and online platforms.
Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD)
In 2008, the United Nations passed the “Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD)” which states that all people have a right to equal access to communication technology. Today, this document has been ratified by 175 countries and paved the way for greater accountability for companies to make their websites accessible. The purpose of the CRPD is to promote, protect, and ensure equal access and enjoyment of technology.
CRPD states that companies can take appropriate measures to improve accessibility by:
Develop and monitor the implementation of guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services provided to the public.
Ensure that facilities and services which are open or provided take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities.
Provide training for participants on accessibility issues facing persons with disabilities.
Provide public signage in Braille and easy-to-read and understand forms.
Provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers, and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public.
Promote appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disabilities to ensure their access to information.
Promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet.
Promote the design, development, production, and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage, so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.
By implementing and promoting these steps, your company will improve accessibility in physical buildings and online platforms. At the same time, your company will actively minimize its legal risk. As an employer, you can check your website’s accessibility compliance through free website compliance audits online.
One way your company can define and implement its accessibility efforts is by publishing an accessibility policy. The statement should emphasize your policy, goals, and achievements towards improving accessibility. This policy can either stand-alone or be included in your non-discrimination or equal opportunity policy. The ADA’s website has a checklist of steps to write your accessibility policy.