The COVID-19 Pandemic Prompts a New Wave of Lawsuits as the Need for Website Accessibility Increases

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The rapidity with which the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life for Americans forced large-scale changes to daily life for which many businesses, schools, and organizations were wholly unprepared. Stay-at-home orders led to a scramble to move society’s operations online. In the process of doing so, ADA Title III compliance was often an overlooked consideration. The oversight is leading to an increase in lawsuit filings that underscore the importance of accessibility on the internet.

Web Access Litigation Pre-pandemic

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act provides for access to places of public accommodation for persons with a wide range of disabilities. Public accommodation in the digital age includes access to online services. For a website or app to be compliant, it must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. This requires coding sites to function with assistive technology.

Prior to the pandemic, 2019 saw more than 10,000 cases filed in the federal courts for noncompliance, continuing an upward trend in ADA compliance cases in recent years. This uptick in accessibility lawsuits is not likely to change in 2020, especially with the transformations wrought by the coronavirus.

Coronavirus Impacts on Digital Accessibility

COVID-19 is shifting the landscape of daily life. With the public ordered to stay home, a majority of work, education, shopping, and recreation activities are now predominantly conducted in the virtual space. While the movement towards online models for each of these has been steadily increasing, the pandemic tipped the scales such that a complete return to pre-pandemic operational methods is unlikely.

With lockdowns in place, individuals with disabilities are required to engage with websites to the same degree, and for the same reasons, as everyone else. However, when a website has not adhered to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for digital accessibility, the obstacles users face can be insurmountable. In a world with few alternatives for those who cannot access services, the importance of adhering to regulatory requirements has been made abundantly clear.

Litigation Vulnerability for New Websites

The pandemic is spurring a spike in digital content and media creation. New websites are primed for scrutiny for adherence to the law. Firms specializing in online disability discrimination will be on the lookout for violations. No organization should be considered immune, as private companies providing public services or using interstate commerce are considered public accommodations.

The best way to avoid becoming the target of a lawsuit is to ensure the accessibility of your digital content and media. Amnet offers the expertise you need to get your digital content up to speed on digital equality and regulatory compliance. Get expert advice today and discover Amnet’s world-class accessibility services.

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