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Website Accessibility For The Blind: Will You Be Sued?

website accessibility for the disabledAs recently reported by the Wall Street Journal, there’s a new trend of trial lawyers cashing in by suing over website accessibility for the blind under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Does The ADA Apply To Website Accessibility?

The courts are split on whether or not the ADA actually covers website accessibility for the visually impaired and other disabled persons. For some, a key factor is whether or not the business also has an offline presence (e.g. a brick-and-mortar retail store) in addition to the site itself.

However, plaintiffs’ attorneys will want to settle these cases without a court getting to the point of examining the merits of the underlying discrimination claims. To minimize potential liability, defense counsel (and defendants’ insurers) also have an incentive to settle pre-trial.

Given this situation, it’s likely that a website owner will spend over $100,000 counting the settlement amount and defense costs.

Like many lawsuits, the attorneys are often the primary beneficiaries (fees and expenses) while the actual plaintiffs incidentally benefit. The lawyers may get the lion’s share of any monetary settlement while the blind plaintiffs get the “win” to the extent the defendants agree to modify their websites to make them more accessible.

How To Make Your Website More Accessible For Visually Impaired Visitors

According to Internet Lawyer Mike Young, the American Foundation for the Blind has created a valuable resources page with helpful tips on website accessibility. Be sure to also check out the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

You may also wish to encourage visitors with vision impairment to use software applications like Microsoft’s Narrator, Apple’s VoiceOver, and the KNFB Reader (available for iOS and Android OS devices) to experience your website’s content.

As a final note, there’s no guarantee that your company still won’t be sued by someone looking for a payday rather than actual website access. However, by taking a few reasonable steps, you’re reducing your legal liability exposure while making a positive impact in the online world by accommodating those who are blind or have other disabilities.

Of course, if you have any questions about website legal compliance issues, you should consult with an experienced Internet lawyer.

Additional Reading: Law firms file and settle dozens of ADA suits claiming websites aren’t accessible to the blind by Debra Cassens Weiss (ABA Journal, Nov. 1, 2016).

Mike Young, Esq.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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