Small businesses sued over ADA website compliance

Around 60 small businesses in Colorado have been sued by an out-of-state law firm over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The businesses claim that the New Jersey-based law firm is targeting small-to-medium-sized businesses. The lawsuits claim that the businesses have websites that are not compliant with the ADA.

Blanchard Family Winery, which has both a brick-and-mortar location and a website, is one of the businesses named. A suit claims that a blind man was not able to access information he needed from their website.

Co-owner James Blanchard received notice of a suit with David Katt as the listed plaintiff. Katt is also the named plaintiff in other suits in the state.

These types of lawsuits are not uncommon, and many more companies are focusing on e-commerce as a result of the pandemic. The suits in Colorado serve as a reminder to businesses to check their websites to avoid landing in a similar situation. Consult with a business attorney to ensure that your business is in compliance.

Essentially, some courts have interpreted Title III of the ADA to include websites as “places of public accommodation.”

That means that a website with a significant number of elements that are not accessible may be found to discriminate against individuals with disabilities, and therefore be in violation of Title III of the ADA.

In addition to federal suits under the ADA, state lawsuits are also being filed under similar measures in California and New York.

While businesses with fewer than 15 employees are exempt from some claims under the ADA, there is no such exemption under Title III.

One important thing to know is that there are no excuses you can put forth to absolve your business if it is guilty of an ADA violation, and that makes compliance especially critical.

What are the guidelines?

While there are currently no federal guidelines that define the web accessibility standards for private companies in the U.S., the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 AA are regularly cited by courts that hear cases on this topic.

The WCAG 2.0 AA is part of a series of guidelines developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, which is the main international standards organization for the internet.

The guidelines are quite comprehensive, including such requirements as providing text alternatives for non-text content, including captions for live video, and giving the option for text to be resized to 200% without loss of content or function, just to name a few. You can find complete, detailed checklists online.

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