Cyber Lawyer on Your Side

Could Your Business' Website Be a Lawsuit Waiting to Happen?

Posted by Marie Ruettgers on Jul 17, 2017 10:04:11 AM

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As a business owner, you know the importance of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But did you know your company’s website also needs to comply with ADA?

Case in point, the Omaha Steaks company is facing a lawsuit from the advocacy group Access Now over the application of the ADA to the Omaha Steaks website.  Access Now maintains that the Omaha Steaks’ website is not fully accessible to blind individuals.Could your company be facing a similar lawsuit? Don’t worry – we’ve answered your questions below! And as always, if you have specific inquiries, please contact an attorney for further information.

What’s the Deal with the Omaha Steaks Lawsuit?

Access Now claims that Omaha Steaks’ website contains 13 access barriers to individuals with disabilities. Some of the access barriers identified in the suit include the allegation that text on the company’s website text cannot be read by audio convertors.

The difficulty with the case, however, lies with the specificity, or lack thereof, of ADA standards. Even though the Department of Justice has interpreted the 2010 ADA standards as applicable to online spaces, the standards were written with the design of physical spaces in mind. Because of this, the standards do not lay out specific rules and regulations for websites. New regulations that directly address website accessibility are expected to put in place, but not until 2018.

Omaha Steaks asserted in court documents “that its ongoing efforts at compliance are sufficient under the guidelines, and that it should not be held to a higher standard or earlier deadline than federal agencies must meet.”

In addition, according to Omaha Steaks it received a letter from Access Now prior to the lawsuit being filed.. Omaha Steaks claims that Access Now offered not to sue if Omaha Steaks paid “certain attorney fees and expenses” and suggested the company hire the law firm Carlson Lynch Sweet & Kilpela to help Omaha Steaks avoid additional website claims. The ethics of Access Now’s letter have been called into question by some, but it has yet to be determined if it will have anyeffect on the case.

How Can my Company Avoid a Similar Lawsuit? 

Until new website standards are added to the ADA, business owners can consult the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 to make their website accessible to people with disabilities. Some of the suggestions in the guidelines include providing text alternatives to non-text content, maximizing compatibility with assistive technology, and providing captions for graphics and pictures.

Even though the new ADA regulations regarding websites have not been enacted, it’s very important to begin taking steps toward website accessibility now.  Website accessibility is especially important now because the Department of Justice already has interpreted the 2010 standards as applicable to websites. 

Making both physical and online spaces accessible to those with disabilities is an important legal obligation for businesses. Even though the 2010 ADA standards do not directly address websites, your company may want to start taking steps to make its website more accessible to avoid lawsuits, and more importantly, for the good of individuals with disabilities. If you have any questions about the ADA regulations and your company’s website, contact a Sioux City lawyer, Sioux Falls attorney, or Omaha lawyer today!

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