Website Accessibility and Lawsuits

We’re all entitled to a rant once in awhile, right? One of mine starts with this report from Marketplace Money on June 16, 2019. Here’s the audio of Businesses Face Lawsuits Over Website Accessibility and the link to the Businesses Face Lawsuits Over Website Accessibility (includes transcript).

The following is a quote from a firm that defends businesses whose websites are inaccessible:

This is a very difficult issue for businesses,” said Minh Vu, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw and leader of a team that defends businesses in these lawsuits. “This issue of accessibility has just not been around that long.”

Not been around that long?

  • The ADA became law in 1990, 29 years ago, and years before websites became popular.
  • Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act became law in 1998, 21 years ago, and years before many of the inaccessible websites in these lawsuits were deployed.
  • The Rehabilitation Act became law in 1973, 46 years ago, and two years before the term “personal computer (PC) was even coined
  • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were first developed in 1999, 20 years ago and years before many of the inaccessible websites in these lawsuits were deployed.

Really? Not around that long?

And for readers who may not be aware, the HTML coding used to create webpages has always been, and still is, very accessible, when designed and implemented properly. It is poor design and poor coding that makes websites inaccessible.

Let me ask you what you might think if the bank, grocery store, post office and other commodities in your neighborhood–a block away from your home, were completely inaccessible, 24/7 because of constant sidewalk and road construction, or arbitrary gates and barriers that were placed in various places and moved about? You’d probably be demanding your town officials do something to clean up the mess, and wonder how those businesses were making any money when so many of their customers were unable to get to them!

The issue of accessibility was here before the Web, the Rehabilitation Act and ADA both predate the Web, guidelines (WCAG)  for web accessibility were available 10 years after the Web was first designed as a platform in 1989 and years before most of us even knew what the Web was about, and Section 508 became law a year before that!

Businesses are facing lawsuits over website accessibility because no one has taken the laws and guidelines related to accessibility, seriously. Laws that predated the Web, and guidelines that grew up with it. It’s that simple, and yes, it is most unfortunate that by overlooking the inclusion of many of our neighbors in the digital community, these lawsuits are tainting what accessibility is all about,and giving the rest of us the idea that this is somehow burdensome for businesses, complying with laws and standards that have been around long before many of their websites were even deployed.

Here’s a suggestion, make your business (physical and digital) welcome and accessible to all your customers–you’ll sell more stuff, and the money you’ll save by obeying the laws, you can share with employees or stockholders!

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