Do You Know What Step 1 of Your ADA Litigation Defense Is?
How to Create and Publish Your Website Accessibility Statement
Another useful idea for websites is to prominently publish your web accessibility statement on your website. The BS 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice is a process-oriented standard enabling organizations to:
- understand why digital inclusion and accessibility makes good business sense
- embed inclusion responsibility strategically across key job-roles, and into key policies
- follow a standard user-centred production process which identifies the key decisions which impact inclusion which are taken in a web product’s lifecycle
- adopt an informed way of making these decisions
- adopt a way of documenting these decisions to provide a log which can be used for assessing accessibility risk and proving conformance with BS 8878
- synchronize these activities with similar processes for the inclusive design of non-digital products.
While other web accessibility standards concentrate on the technical, design or testing elements of accessibility, BS 8878 puts those important activities in a framework to ensure all aspects of an organization’s activities which impact inclusion are covered.
How to Avoid the Possibility of Increasing Web Accessibility Litigation
2018 was a big year for the DOJ and organizations like the Federation for the Blind that represent real people with disabilities. Large brands and retailers faced court challenges brought to ensure that all people enjoy universal access to web content. Web accessibility is becoming a basic rights issue, and courts are lining up in support of accessibility.
Demand Letters From Lawyers Threaten Litigation
It was also a big year for those law firms that looked to leverage these successes for their own gain. They served thousands of businesses with hollow demand letters with unnamed plaintiffs and aggressive tactics.
Such demand letters should not be ignored. If you receive one, contact your lawyer. The key is to avoid getting one in the first place.
A Website Accessibility Statement is Your First Line of Defense
What’s the quickest and easiest and most effective step you can take? Establish and publish an Web Accessibility Policy. If you want to avoid this situation, your goal is to not be low hanging fruit and to kill the profit motive.
A policy that states that you are in process of addressing all the issues they will demand, knocks their legs under them. Most importantly, once this is publicly stated, the plaintiff firm cannot claim they are the cause of your actions and therefore cannot claim compensation for their efforts.
Since the plaintiff’s themselves cannot collect damages, the only profit motive is the plaintiff’s firms looking to get all of their costs covered by you. This kills that and in all likelihood will send them off.
Your Website Accessibility Policy
Your Website Accessibility Policy should be written with counsel versed in ADA and outline goals, current and planned efforts to reach those goals, and a timeline.
Further, it should also include what steps you plan to make to ensure on-going conformity to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines which current serve as de facto regulation.
Accessibility Lawsuits are Already Here
First read this story in the Florida Record about Dion Snowshoes getting hit. This is a tiny mom & pop business based in Vermont. Yet the plaintiff firm is located in Florida. Everyone is a target.
But here is the real reason…
First, consider how common ADA claims have been for physical barriers. Those required a “tester” to physically go to the location and record violations.
What’s different here is that these testers simply use free software to test for website ADA compliance. They can generate demand letters or suits from a computer anywhere – in volume – and at little cost.
Plus, there is no secret sauce or intellectual property rights to this business model. So the barrier of entry for copy-cat plaintiff firms is nil. And if it’s true that lawyers love money, this is a printing press.
Accessibility is the Right Thing to Do
Final point… while its clear that website owners have an ethical and legal reasons to heed the ADA, there are also strong business reasons to do so also. 20% of people in the US are disabled and over 20 million suffer from vision loss. Those are a lot of customers and it’s the right thing to do.