What To Do If I’m Sued For My Website Not Being ADA Compliant
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and this article is not meant to be legal advice. We strongly recommend consulting with an attorney to discuss your legal options.
If your business or organization has a physical location, chances are you’re familiar with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Making your store or office accessible to everyone is essential. But did you know you need to make your website ADA compliant too? You may have found that out the hard way; by being slapped with a lawsuit for website ADA non-compliance.
If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. Between 2019 and 2020, 98.2% of websites had ADA non-compliance issues. This, in turn, has led to a sharp increase in the number of non-ADA compliance lawsuits targeting websites. Being broadsided by a lawsuit is stressful, but there are steps you can take to minimize the damage. Keep reading to find out what you can do if you’re being sued for website non-ADA compliance.
What to do if I’m sued for my website not being ADA compliant
It’s human nature to picture a worst-case scenario in a situation like this. But not only is that not constructive, but it also takes your focus away from what you actually need to do.
First, do not ignore the complaint. On the contrary, you should take action right away. You only have a certain number of days, not months to respond. At the federal level, you have 21 days. Each state has its own time frame for responding, but that isn’t very long either. To give you an idea, California gives you 30 days to respond.
Generally, lawsuits over ADA non-compliance do not jeopardize the continued operation of a business or organization. It’s also common for them to be settled out of court. This brings us to the first step you should take:
Contact a business attorney
Do not take this on by yourself. You’ll need a business litigation defense attorney who is experienced in website ADA non-compliance cases. That way, they won’t be spending your money researching what ADA compliance issues and WCAG guidelines are. Instead, they can get right to work on your defense.
Take time to vet a few lawyers before choosing one. You can start by checking online review sites or asking for referrals. Once you’ve spoken to a few of them, call the references they provide you with before making a final decision.
Audit your website
You must make your website ADA compliant. To do that, you’ll need a website accessibility audit. An audit will identify all non-compliant items. You might be surprised to learn there are no laws addressing exactly what is and isn’t ADA compliant. Instead, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) guidelines are considered the standard to follow when it comes to website ADA compliance.
The audit should be completed following the guidelines of WCAG 2.0, Levels A, and AA. It should also be exhaustive. That is, it should cover every page and element of your website. Know that the criteria for ADA compliance are stringent. Just one non-compliant page makes your entire website non-compliant.
Website accessibility audits require meticulous attention to detail and experience with website ADA compliance. Your best option is to use the services of a 3rd party company.
Fix non-compliant items
Once the website accessibility audit has identified all of your website’s Level A and Level AA non-compliant items, it’s time for the company you hired to remediate them. Then, there should be one final audit to ensure your website is indeed ADA compliant
What if I don’t have a web developer?
That doesn’t stop you from making your website ADA compliant. Initially, you probably hired a company or developer to create your website. Now, a developer may not be regularly maintaining your website. And even if you do have someone, they may not be familiar with website ADA compliance. That’s why you should hire a company that specializes in WCAG website remediation.
When looking at WCAG website remediation companies, perform the same due diligence as when you were looking for the right lawyer. Some questions to ask include:
- Are you up to date on the latest WCAG guidelines? – They should be familiar with WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
- Which compliance levels will you test for? – They should test for Level A and Level AA. They should not test for Level AAA. The WCAG does not ask for compliance with Level AAA guidelines because not all websites can meet them.
- Will you give me some sort of written proof that my website is now ADA compliant? – They should provide you with a written summary of the audit and a letter of compliance from the WCAG as official proof of your website’s compliance.
- Will you audit every single page of my website? – They should tell you they’ll perform a manual audit, which takes time. Remember, just one non-compliant issue on a page makes your entire website non-ADA compliant. You don’t want them to miss anything.
Even if you have a developer, a WCAG website remediation company will probably perform the audit more accurately. Then, they can coordinate with your developer to fix the problems.
Will I still have to pay the claim if I fix non-compliant items?
Each case is different, so that question has no easy answer. If your attorney has experience with ADA non-compliance cases, they will have a good idea of what the case is worth. By showing that you have done the work to make your website ADA compliant, you could end up paying out less than what the plaintiff originally wanted.
In conclusion, note that ADA compliance isn’t something static. If you are making any major changes to your website, have new elements audited. And if you regularly add new content to your website, consider hiring a 3rd party provider for ongoing auditing.
As for your current lawsuit, your business attorney will tell you what to expect and how they plan to proceed. In the end, there is some major good that comes from all of this: going forward your revamped ADA-compliant website will be accessible to approximately 40 million more users while also helping your SEO ranking too.