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The risk of digital accessibility lawsuits is reaching new markets and sectors

AudioEye

Posted June 17, 2020

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Lawsuits against companies suspected of flouting the online accessibility requirements related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are now a regular feature of courtrooms in the US. From 2017 to 2018, the number of cases surged and they continued to increase throughout 2019.

To help companies better understand the risk of litigation, we continuously track ADA-related proceedings. So, how is the picture changing as we progress into the year?

Broader reach

Based on AudioEye tracking[1],  556 online accessibility ADA lawsuits were filed in the first quarter of 2020—that’s an average of eight new lawsuits filed each working day over this period. While the number of potential breaches of online accessibility legislation remains high, figures for 2020 reveal a 19 percent reduction in the total number of lawsuits compared with the first quarter of 2019.

Even though the total number of lawsuits has fallen slightly, the risks are growing rapidly for companies in certain geographies and sectors. Figures for the first quarter of 2020 show that lawyers are increasingly suing companies in courts outside New York, Florida and California—the three states that have seen the highest number of ADA-related lawsuits so far.

Already, we are seeing more companies in heartland states face legal proceedings and we expect this number to increase as lawyers look further afield for potential breaches of legislation. To put this into perspective, a total of 9 lawsuits were filed in Colorado throughout the whole of last year, compared to 14 in the first quarter of 2020. Similarly, the number of lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania during the first quarter of this year increased by 165 percent from the same time last year.

Emerging patterns

As in previous years, businesses in the retail sector have seen the highest number of lawsuits compared with any other sector. In the first quarter of 2020, retail accounted for 60 percent of the total number of lawsuits.

Restaurants and food services companies have faced the second highest number of lawsuits with 15 percent of the total number of litigation proceedings for the first quarter of 2020 filed against businesses in this sector. So far this year, the number of lawsuits filed against restaurants has grown by 38 percent versus the same period in 2019.

Clearly, restaurants and retailers still have a long way to go to deliver truly universally accessible services. Many businesses in these sectors have found it difficult to achieve full compliance due to the complex integration of the online and in-person experiences that they offer. Yet with the right support and intuitive accessibility solutions, retailers and restaurants can overcome their website accessibility challenges.

While retailers and restaurants are currently bearing the brunt of ADA-related litigation, companies in other sectors are not immune. In the first quarter of 2020, proceedings have been brought against organizations in the banking, entertainment, healthcare, education, travel and services sectors.

Our tracking also shows that 12 percent of lawsuits filed this year against companies in all sectors feature accessibility issues with native applications. Clearly, a significant proportion of companies are struggling to ensure that the accessibility of their websites is mirrored in mobile and other device-specific applications.

Looking ahead

As we witnessed in 2019, some companies will face multiple lawsuits. This is often because companies have failed to enact accessibility changes to all of the websites in their business portfolio, or because a recent change in website design renders previously accessible content inaccessible. To avoid repeat court appearances and associated fees, companies should review the accessibility of their sites on an ongoing basis.

If you want to avoid the growing legal risk of a non-compliant website, AudioEye can help. We offer fast and effective ADA compliance solutions that enable our clients to fend off lawsuits and legal demand letters from day one. Don’t wait to be sued, start your compliance journey with AudioEye today.

[1] Throughout 2019 and 2020, AudioEye has tracked ADA Title II and Title III lawsuits as filed in U.S. Federal District Courts and State Supreme and Superior Courts. This report considers all identified lawsuits as tracked by AudioEye staff. It does not include any calculation on the number of legal demand letters asserted by plaintiff’s making claims of non-compliance. AudioEye does not guarantee the accuracy of this report but has taken measures to track the details of the filed claims to the best of its ability given the resources available and the limited information supplied through the various sources associated with the publicly available information.

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