It’s no secret that the past two years have been very difficult for small businesses. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have forced hundreds of thousands of small businesses to close their doors permanently.
But for those small businesses that have survived, there are still many challenges ahead. Faced with rising costs, supply chain issues, and labor shortages, small business owners have an extraordinarily difficult road ahead. Unfortunately, those challenges continue to accumulate. A new challenge which has been growing over the past few years has been website accessibility lawsuits.
Website accessibility means websites are designed and developed so people with disabilities can use them. Website accessibility assists those with impairments better perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with, and contribute to websites. Website accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to digital assets, including auditory, cognitive, visual, neurological, physical, and speech.
Right now, website accessibility lawsuits are on the rise. The Missouri Bar Association reports that in 2019 there was a 1,000% increase in nationwide digital accessibility lawsuits from three years prior and “evidence indicates that the filing of these claims will only increase.”
So what’s at stake if your small business faces a claim for non-compliance with website accessibility? Obviously there are costs associated with court fees, attorney fees and settlements. But there are potential fines as well. Fines could be up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for each subsequent violation. Additionally, organizations that receive Federal funding could have those funds revoked for being in non-compliance.
There are many instances where small businesses have been confronted with website accessibility claims that have had a substantial negative impact on the business. For example, the Whisper Lounge in Los Angeles was sued in 2018 by a woman who is blind because she was unable to read the menu or make a reservation online and is now permanently closed.
Luckily there are easy and cost effective options to help your small business achieve website accessibility compliance. A great place to start is a Digital Accessibility tool for your website such as AllAccessible. It is also important to discuss website accessibility with your web developer to make sure you are addressing the issue.
If you are ever engaged in a claim for website accessibility, it is critical that you can prove that you are actively trying to improve your website’s accessibility.
To learn more about AllAccessible and how it addresses Digital Accessibility success criteria visit AllAccessible.org.