Right now, the Internet is a strong power – at the same time, we live in a time when legal freedom is available to anyone looking for it. Anyone can sue for pretty much anything if they feel they are in the right. Even Netflix once got sued by the National Deaf Association over the lack of captions.
If such a big company got into trouble for this, imagine if this were to happen to a small business – yours. This is why your website is at risk of a disability lawsuit if you are not careful enough.
What Exactly Is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility is the degree to which people with certain disabilities can access a domain. Think about the disability parking signs in a parking lot, accessible bathrooms, or accessible stairs in malls; they are required by the law to make it happen unless they want to face one big lawsuit.
With Section 508, that accessibility now reaches the digital era – which means that even the websites we go on need to be accessible. For instance, people that are visually impaired may have to use screen readers for page navigation, whereas others with a hearing disability may need captions. In the end, by ensuring the accessibility of your website, not only do you protect yourself legally, but you also make your website more consumable.
Even if you are a small business, you are not spared from this. The ADA Standards for Accessible Design and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines make it a legal requirement. Unless you follow the right legal operating models, the consequences may be nasty.
How to Know If Your Website Is Accessible
The issue with the accessibility laws is that you may think that you are doing everything right, but in truth, you accidentally miss something. As you do not have these issues, you may not know how to address them perfectly – and you do not know when you may face a lawsuit.
This is why you need to evaluate exactly how accessible your website is. The first thing you should do is read the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines carefully, to make sure you know the basics.
User testing may also be recommended, and there are several programs out there that can help you determine accessibility. You can read an AccessiBe review or call in an expert to provide an opinion, ensuring you do not miss anything.
What Happens If You Do Not Comply?
There are several consequences to not respecting the needs of the community of people with disabilities. The first obvious thing is that you may lose potential customers. Site abandonment may also increase, simply because people will not be able to access your content. Considering that around 2.2 billion people are visually impaired, this can lead to significant losses for your business.
Loss of customers is not your only problem here. You can also face multiple clashes with the law, in the form of fines or even lawsuits. Failure to comply may lead to you being accused of discrimination and prejudice against those that are impaired.
Overall, here are the risks that you face if you fail to comply with the Section 508 regulations:
Non-compliance penalties are no joke, as they can go as high as $75,000 even for the first violation. The more you fail to respect the requirements, the higher the penalties will be. You have to protect privilege and those wanting to obtain service, and if you fail to do so, you will be penalized.
Fines are one thing, but if your website is not ADA-compliant, a person with disabilities has every right to file a complaint. The Department of Justice will review the case and, if necessary, will also file a lawsuit.
State and local government also have their own disability laws in place. As a result, if you are unlucky, you may end up paying even more in the end. There was a record number of disability lawsuits in the past few years, where people receive a settlement out of court. This is why you should take extra precautions to make sure that you respect the law.
The Bottom Line
As a small business, it is in your greatest interest to ensure that your website is accessible to people with disabilities. Not only will this increase your client retention, but it will also protect you from some nasty fines and lawsuits. Hopefully, the information provided in this article proved helpful.