Every year thousands of businesses are facing lawsuits for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). And yet many companies choose to wait till they get a demand letter from ADA before they optimize their business website. But what you may not realize is that waiting for that letter can cause irreversible damage to your brand’s reputation even before it arrives.
What Is an ADA Demand Letter?
If your website or any other aspect of the business is not optimized for accessibility for people with disabilities, you may receive a letter of complaint. It will state that your company violates Title III of the Americans with Disability Act. Since the ADA got passed as a law in 1990, there are no specific guidelines for websites.
However, most federal courts have deemed that since websites are also termed as the digital presence of a business, they fall under Title III of the ADA that defines places of public admission. Therefore optimizing web accessibility saves companies from lawsuits that can tarnish their brand values.
How Can It Affect Your Company’s Reputation?
Getting a demand letter from ADA or facing accessibility lawsuits can be expensive for your company. It can also cause permanent damages to your company’s reputation and public image. Remaining ignorant or avoiding the civil rights reserved for users with disabilities can be a wrong business approach. Here are some of the introspects you must be aware of.
#1. Web Accessibility Is Permanent and Growing
The importance of web accessibility is not a fad. The number of people with disabilities in America is growing, and so is their spending capabilities. According to surveys, there are more than 60 million people in America who have a disability. That is almost one-fifth of the entire population of America.
More than 68% of that population uses or aspires to use the internet regularly. There is no doubt that the importance of web accessibility is here to stay. Limiting access to your website can be deemed immoral and unethical by many Americans.
#2. ADA Lawsuits Are Becoming Frequent
Some ignorant business owners may claim that Americans with disabilities are filing frivolous lawsuits to make money. But these lawsuits are not designed to pay for personal damages. Most of these lawsuits get filed because ignorant business owners do not realize that users with disabilities need the internet as much as others.
In the present decade, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic started, people have become dependent on websites for almost everything, such as buying things, paying bills, communicating with social contacts, so on, and so forth. Businesses that have not optimized their websites are preventing users from accessing their products or services, which is a violation of their civil rights. These lawsuits are the only way people with disabilities can fight discrimination against them.
The lawsuits have increased a lot in the past few years because, despite a law, many business owners are not taking accessibility issues of their websites seriously. Many big brands and high profile celebrities have also faced these lawsuits recently, including Domino’s Pizza restaurants, Dave & Buster’s entertainment chain, and the singer Beyonce.
That’s why many brands have started making disability-inclusive statements through their products. Mattel has launched a Barbie dolls series with prosthetic limbs and vitiligo, along with adding wheelchair accessibility to their campers and dream houses.
Many business owners also claim that websites need not be ADA compliant, since there is no specific law for them. The claims made by Domino’s Pizza restaurants were similar. But the United States Department of Justice confirmed that the accessibility guidelines set forth by the ADA hold for websites as well.
The web accessibility lawsuits have mostly been in the favor of the plaintiff till now since the cases were a valid infringement of digital accessibility Guidelines.
#3. Web Accessibility Lawsuits Can Be Costly
If you think that the optimization of your business website is an additional cost, think again. Accessibility lawsuits can not only be costly in the court of law, but you can also lose thousands of dollars in business due to the loss of brand value. These lawsuits can become a PR nightmare if the media targets your business and makes an example out of it.
On the other hand, making your website accessible through an ADA compliance provider like AccessiBe can provide your business with ease of mind from a potential lawsuit as well as a quick and affordable solution.
It gives an immense boost to your brand’s reputation, and you gain from a larger audience for your products and services. You not only add people with disabilities to your customer base but also their friends, families, and other individuals who are sympathetic to their cause.