Website ADA Compliance Lawsuits
In recent months, banks and other companies have been targeted by demand letters alleging that their websites are in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”). While there are currently no specific compliance regulations concerning online accessibility under the ADA, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) is in the process of developing regulations in this area, which it hopes to become effective in 2018 (see, DOJ Statement, available at https://www.ada.gov/regs2016/sanprm_statement.html). However, judges are not waiting on these regulations to handle such lawsuits, as evidenced by several cases filed in California, New York, and Pennsylvania. In fact, one visually impaired plaintiff who sued a retailer over its website’s accessibility has been granted summary judgment, and several other plaintiffs have received settlements. Thus, businesses that are deemed “commercial facilities,” including banks, should take action to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities before the DOJ’s regulations become effective in order to reduce the likelihood of being targeted by plaintiffs law firms in the meantime.
The DOJ has implied that its regulations will be heavily based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) 2.0 Level AA, so achieving compliance with WCAG before the effective date of the regulations may be a useful goal. WCAG Compliance can generally be broken down into four different types of guidelines for website compliance:
- Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to all users in ways they can perceive
- Operable – User interface components and navigation must be able to be operated by all users
- Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable to all users
- Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive agents
Each of these categories has specific suggestions to improve accessibility to those with disabilities, a number of which are outlined here:
- Text Alternatives – Make the website more accessible for screen-reader technology, possibly by including captions on videos and providing text descriptions to graphics.
- Alt Tag – Make sure the alt tag describes the graphic and the link destination when a graphic is also used as a link.
- Adaptable – Create content that can be presented in different ways without losing information.
- Distinguishable – Use design strategies that make it easier for users to see content, including the use of readable fonts, larger font sizes, and separation of foreground and background. Also, do not include design elements that are known to cause seizures, such as rapid flashing.
- Keyboard Accessible – Allow a keyboard to perform all functions on the website.
- Navigable – Allow users to navigate content in multiple ways, including obvious, prominent links and other techniques.
- Resize Text – Make text capable of being resized up to at least 200 percent without the use of assistive technology and without loss of content or functionality.
- Input Assistance – Assist users with web experience by using a program that automatically corrects mistakes in the user’s input.
- Timing – Allow enough time for users to read and use content.
- Time-Based Media – Provide alternatives, such as transcripts, for time-based media, such as audio and video files.
- Predictable – Make the website appear and operate in a familiar way that is predictable to users.
- Language of Parts – The human language of each passage or phrase should be able to be programmatically determined by assistive technology.
- Compatible – Make content compatible with assistive technologies used by people with disabilities.
- Name, Role, Value – For all user interface components, make the name, role and value of each component determinable by assistive technologies.
Once a website is brought up to compliance, a company or bank is advised to perform regular ADA compliance audits to ensure it remains in compliance. In addition, all companies and banks should be monitoring the final rulemaking of the Department of Justice related to the Accessibility of Web Information.
The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.