U.S. laws make it very difficult for businesses and organizations to defend against disability-related non-discriminatory lawsuits.
Under Title III
of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
, prior warning or dialogue with the non-compliant business is not required.
Moreover, actual harm or demonstration of inaccessibility to a disabled person is not a prerequisite to filing a suit. As most websites are not compliant, and only a click away from anyone in the world, the Internet has virtually turned into the Wild Wild West of litigation.
And if that wasn’t enough, ADA legislation permits plaintiffs who win in court to recover their attorney’s fees while nullifying this right from prevailing defendants. This only increases the incentive to file lawsuits and pushes businesses toward early settlements outside the court in order to mitigate financial damages.
Being unaware of the law, displaying good faith, or even fixing the accessibility issue under contention is not sufficient to defend against an ADA violation.
Target paid $6 million in 2008
to settle a class-action suit against its commercial website, and an additional $4 million to its own legal defense and plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.
Small and midsize businesses are not likely to face these kinds of figures, but even several thousand can have a detrimental effect on the business’s future.
Government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as recipient organizations and institutions of federal funds such as universities and colleges, associations, and voluntary organizations, are required to comply with Web accessibility standards.