4 Key Takeaways from 2018 Web Accessibility Lawsuits

A wooden gavel rests on its sounding block in front of a row of law books

Over 1,000 lawsuits related to web accessibility were filed from January to July 2018. The government is putting their foot down on anti-discrimination laws and the internet. Many brands are feeling the heat from these laws as the grey area on websites and accessibility for the disabilities is being addressed. This article breaks down what web accessibility is, assesses some 2018 lawsuits, and discusses key takeaways so you can protect your business.

What is Web Accessibility?

In its most basic definition, web accessibility ensures that everyone, even those with disabilities, can comfortably use websites. There are four policies, rules, and standards to keep in mind concerning web accessibility.

  • WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0
  • Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • International rules

The Web Content Accessibility Content Guidelines (WCAG) was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium and are the most widely accepted web accessibility standards. There are three levels: A, AA and AAA, with the most common of those being AA.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is mostly based on WCAG 2.0 AA, mandating that all federal agencies and any local or state resources receiving federal funding must comply with its rules.

The ADA Title III regulations are the most popular web accessibility laws in question. It doesn’t have a specific section regarding websites, creating a grey area that has resulted in thousands of lawsuits. In order to be ADA compliant your website must be:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

International regulations are often looked over, but equally as important. There is a complete list of country policies and regulations here.

Could your business be at risk? “If you are a business that exists to benefit the public, a local or state government agency, or are a private employer with 15 or more employees, you should be compliant with the ADA regulations.” (Yokoco)

Avoid lawsuits and manage accessibility on your site. Download the Ultimate Web Accessibility Checklist >

2018 Web Accessibility Lawsuits

Some of your favorite brands are among those being sued for web accessibility violations. To name a few: Nike, Burger King, Pharrell Williams, Cricket Wireless, Rolex and Glossier are all among those affected. Why are these brands being sued?

Nike

A woman from New York is suing Nike for a website that is not compatible with screen readers, lacks alt-text as a text equivalent for all elements on their site and empty links that contain no text. Both Nike.com and Converse.com are affected by this lawsuit.

Burger King

The same woman suing Nike is suing Burger King. Burger King’s site had four counts of accessibility violations: no alt-text on images to serve as a text equivalent, empty links that cause issues for screen readers, redundant links and linked images without alt-text. This case is primarily focused on the fact that those who are visually impaired cannot easily navigate Burger King’s website.

Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams website, Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, is being sued because it cannot be accessed with a screen reader.

Cricket Wireless

A legally blind man is suing Cricket Wireless because it is not completely compliant with a screen reader. This means that all of the information on the website cannot be translated into text, therefore is not completely ADA compliant.

Rolex

Rolex is being sued by a legally blind man who claims Rolex’s website is not fully compatible with his screen reader. The barriers the man found on Rolex’s website included lack of alt-text, empty links without text, redundant links and linked images missing alt-text.

Glossier

A blind woman is suing Glossier for the inability to navigate their website with a screen reader due to lack of alt-text for elements on the web page, empty links without text, redundant links and linked images missing alt-text.

Notice a pattern in these lawsuits? So what can you take from these lawsuits to protect your website?

4 Key Takeaways for Web Accessibility

The first takeaway to note is that there seems to be a consistent theme with web accessibility issues. The four common issues you should pay attention to on your website are:

  • Lack of alt-text for elements on the website
  • Empty links without text
  • Redundant links
  • Linked images missing alt-text

web accessibility

Secondly, the majority of individuals suing these brands are visually impaired or blind and using screen readers. Keep this in mind when you are building your site and checking it for accessibility. Screen readers turn visual elements into synthesized speech so those who are visually impaired can still get the same experience from a website as those who are not visually impaired.

Thirdly, there seem to be blurred lines on the laws for web accessibility. Air on the side of caution and double check that your website is compliant. Use tools like Accessible Metrics to understand where your website stands on an ongoing basis.

 

Finally, the last key takeaway to remember when it comes to web accessibility is that web accessibility testing is an ongoing activity, not a one time fix. Digital interfaces are constantly changing, and more than likely your website will evolve as well. Whether you create new blog posts or add pages to your website, all of these could temporarily put your business at risk. Partner up with Accessible Metrics and we’ll automatically run a scan every month to make sure you site is in good standing.


With no real guidelines to follow, it can be confusing to understand and keep track of what pieces your website is lacking in terms of web accessibility. To avoid unnecessary lawsuits and keep your visitors happy, download the Ultimate Web Accessibility Checklist to make sure your site is in the green.