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ADA Website Compliance: Web Accessibility Lawsuits in the U.S.


In today's world we rely heavily on digital technology, most businesses have an online presence in the form of a website, so it has become more important than ever for businesses to ensure that their websites and apps are accessible to everyone and easy to use, including people with disabilities. We might even say especially for people with disabilities. Why?

With 1 in 4 adults in the USA having some form of disability, and given that the number of web accessibility lawsuits against businesses is ever increasing, you should consider staying on the safe side of the law by seeking to achieve web accessibility compliance.  

This is not only the right thing to do but also a legal requirement mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a law that protects people in the United States of America that have a disability from being treated unfairly, which has over time, translate also into the digital space where services have to be accessible to everyone. 

If businesses and organizations don't make their digital platforms easy for everyone to use, they could face legal consequences. This push for digital accessibility is part of a larger effort to make sure everyone is included in the digital world.

In this article we are looking at what the ADA is, what are the potential ADA fines for noncompliance, and what are the implications for those businesses found to have an inaccessible website, such as an ADA lawsuit being filed against these. 


What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, is a U.S. law that prevents discrimination against people with disabilities and ensures they get the same access and chances as everyone else.

Under ADA's Title III, businesses and public places must be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes websites, which are seen as part of these public spaces.

All companies and groups that provide goods or services to the public need to follow this rule.

While the Department of Justice (DOJ) hasn't set a strict legal standard for what makes a website ADA compliant, it suggests following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Courts often look to these guidelines, especially WCAG 2.1 Level AA, to judge if a website meets the ADA web accessibility standard. You can read our article on the topic of WCAG levels to understand the difference between levels A, AA, and AAA.

Lawsuits related to ADA and website accessibility have been on the rise, with a significant increase in cases seen from 2017 to 2021, focusing on making websites accessible for everyone.

The ADA's journey into the digital realm began as society's reliance on the internet grew. Initially, the ADA did not address the online environment, which was still in its early years of development when the ADA was enacted.

However, as the web became integral to daily life, courts and advocates argued that digital accessibility fell under the ADA's purview, particularly under Title III, which prohibits discrimination in "places of public accommodation." The Department of Justice has affirmed this interpretation, extending ADA compliance to online spaces, thereby setting the stage for subsequent web accessibility lawsuits.


What are other Legal Frameworks and Guidelines for Web Accessibility?

In the United States, both the ADA's Title III and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act are crucial frameworks that govern web accessibility. While the ADA’s Title III addresses public accommodations' obligations, Section 508 specifies requirements for federal agencies' electronic and information technology. 

Both of these as well as many other accessibility laws around the world rely on the WCAG, a standard developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The WCAG outlines specific requirements for web accessibility, providing a detailed checklist that organizations can follow to ensure their digital offerings are accessible. The guidelines have become a cornerstone in legal arguments, with non-compliance often cited in lawsuits as evidence of ADA violations. To get a better understanding of the current landscape of web accessibility in the USA, read our article on the topic.

What is Web Accessibility?

At its core, web accessibility allows people with disabilities, such as auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual impairments, to effectively use websites and online resources. Web accessibility is guided by the principle of equal access to information and functionality on the web, making it central to inclusive web design. This concept is supported by various legal frameworks, including the WCAG standard, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, or ADA’s Title III, emphasizing the need for perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust website content.

In the United States, ADA Title III mandates that places of public accommodation, which includes websites, must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. While the ADA does not explicitly mention websites, legal interpretations and various lawsuits have established that websites are included in its scope.. Consequently, businesses with inaccessible websites might face legal challenges, highlighting the importance of ADA compliance in web design.

In addition to this law, the United States’ web accessibility landscape also includes Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the newly minted Colorado Accessibility Law, HB 21-1110. You can get a better understanding of the web accessibility landscape in the United States by reading our associated blog post. 

Clym helps businesses with their web accessibility compliance by offering a compliance tool that combines data privacy with accessibility needs into one single platform, that seamlessly integrates into any website built with any website builder. Additionally, our resources on the topic of accessibility will help you understand what is expected of your e-commerce, for example our web accessibility guides on the WCAG 2 or 21 web accessibility resources to help you have an accessible website. 


Why is web accessibility important? 

Creating a space where any one individual has easy access to your website is essential to the safety and even reputation of your business. You may be familiar with accessibility as it applies to buildings and public spaces, such as ensuring there is a ramp near the entrance to your office, and that the door is wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Creating an analogy for web accessibility, it is important that users with disabilities such as visual or hearing impairments, ADHD, dyslexia, or cognitive disorders, must also be able to access your website content.

Recent studies and research have shown that 

  1. “More than 70 percent of Internet sites are inaccessible to users who are blind.” and 
  2. “Inaccessible e-commerce retailers are losing out on $6.9 billion in annual revenues.”

In 2022, according to a statistic by Accessibility.com, a total of 2,387 web accessibility lawsuits were filed against businesses whose websites were accused of not being accessible for individuals who had some form of disability. The most targeted industry with the highest number of web accessibility lawsuits (1,378) was the ‘Consumer goods, Services & Retail’ industry, followed by the ‘Apparel, Durables & Beauty’ industry with a total of 247 web accessibility lawsuits. 

In 2023, a total of 2,281 web accessibility lawsuits were filed, a mere 4% decrease compared to the previous year. The industries with the most accessibility lawsuits were filed against them were the Consumer Durables & Apparel, Food, Beverage & Tobacco and Retailing with a total of 1,312 lawsuits, and most of these were filed in the states of New York and California. 

What is interesting to note as well is that 1 in 4 lawsuits were against businesses that had been sued before and 1 in 5 businesses sued were using an accessibility widget on their website. 

For 2024 in January alone things look as follows, according to Accessibility.com

  • 128 website accessibility lawsuits were filed.
  • Food, Beverage & Tobacco, Consumer Durables & Apparel and Retailing were targeted most.
  • 5 Plaintiffs filed 43% of the month's website accessibility lawsuits.
  • Most lawsuits (64%) were filed in New York with California coming in second at 18%
  • 7% of litigated websites in January are using a Third-party accessibility Overlay tool.


What are some examples of web accessibility lawsuits under the ADA? 

Looking at these statistics, it becomes clear that web accessibility is important if you want to avoid lawsuits and the associated penalties, if you want to increase your customer base, improve your overall reputation, and grow your business.

There are many examples of web accessibility lawsuits which illustrate not just the legal risks but also the broader imperative for digital inclusivity, impacting how organizations prioritize and implement web accessibility. 

One such example is the ADA lawsuit filed against Blue Apron back in 2017. A court in New Hampshire ruled that the website of Blue Apron, an online food delivery company, needed to be accessible to people with disabilities, in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This was significant because even though Blue Apron operated solely online without any physical stores, the court treated its website as a space that must be accessible to the public.

This case became part of a larger movement where various courts determined that online businesses couldn't neglect accessibility standards, even in the absence of specific guidelines from the government on how to make websites accessible.

These courts frequently referred to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA as an acceptable standard, which aimed to ensure that websites were usable for everyone, including people with disabilities, by being perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

A more recent case is that of the DOJ vs. Service Oklahoma, where a settlement was reached. The Justice Department reached a deal with the Oklahoma state agency, Service Oklahoma, to fix issues with their mobile app that wasn't accessible to people with disabilities.

According to the press release, this agreement ensures that Service Oklahoma's mobile apps will meet the ADA standards, specifically the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA, making them usable for everyone, including those with disabilities. 

The action against the mobile app came after a complaint from a visually impaired person, leading to changes that will help all Oklahomans with disabilities access public services through mobile technology. 


What happens if I have an inaccessible website? 

Web accessibility lawsuits have ramifications across various sectors and industries as shown by the yearly statistics, causing these industries to reevaluate their online presence. Even schools, for instance, have been made to improve their websites and online materials so all students can use them, regardless of disability.

E-commerce stores have also had to make their websites easier to use for everyone. When these industries change their websites to be more welcoming, it helps make the internet better for people with disabilities.

When we look at these lawsuits from both sides, we see that businesses might have to pay money or suffer harm to their reputation if their websites are inaccessible. On the other hand, what all these web accessibility lawsuits are showing is that people who can't access these websites are just fighting for their right to use the internet just like everyone else, showing how important it is to remove online barriers. These cases help define what businesses need to do to make their websites accessible. 

For example, simply consider web accessibility for users with a cognitive disability. With 10% of Americans dealing with something from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) to autism or Alzheimer’s disease according to a CDC statistic, not making your website easy to use for everyone means your business’ loss of potential customer base is significant. 

And this is just one type of disability an individual may have … 

The number and types of lawsuits can be different depending on the state, like New York or California, showing how local laws and courts can influence what's expected for web accessibility. As technology keeps advancing and more people use smartphones and apps, laws and guidelines will also evolve to keep up, ensuring that websites and apps are easy to use for everyone, shaping the way businesses approach web accessibility in the future.

Having said all this, if your website is inaccessible to people with disabilities, you could face several potential consequences, such as:

  • Legal Action: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals may file lawsuits against businesses whose websites are not accessible. If a court finds your website to be non-compliant with accessibility standards, you could be required to pay damages and legal fees and to make your site accessible, which will also cost you a pretty penny.
  • Financial Penalties: Fines for ADA violations range between up to $75,000 for the first violation, and can result in subsequent violations potentially resulting in fines of up to $150,000, as permitted under federal law. Additionally, states and local governments may impose further fines and may require businesses to adhere to more stringent accessibility standards than those mandated by the ADA. 
  • Reputational Damage: If word gets out that your website is not accessible, it can harm your reputation. Customers value inclusivity and may choose to do business elsewhere if they perceive your company as indifferent to the needs of people with disabilities.
  • Lost Business Opportunities: An inaccessible website limits your audience, potentially alienating millions of users with disabilities. Think only of the 10% above dealing with some form of cognitive disability, then add to this visual impairments. 
  • Enforcement Actions: The Department of Justice (DOJ) has affirmed that ADA compliance applies also to websites, meaning they could take enforcement actions against non-compliant businesses. Though specific regulations for websites under the ADA are still developing, the DOJ has settled cases with businesses over web accessibility, indicating a clear expectation for compliance.

What are some common web accessibility issues that lead to ADA lawsuits? 

Some common web accessibility issues that lead to ADA lawsuits include but are not limited to:

  • Images Without Descriptions: When images on a website don't have text descriptions, also known as Alt-text, individuals with visual disabilities won’t be able to understand the content.
  • Hard to Navigate: Your website has to be able to be operated without a mouse, by simply using a keyboard, so people with certain disabilities can get around them.
  • Poor Color Contrast: If there isn't enough contrast between the color of the text and the background, people with visual impairments will not be able to read it.
  • No Subtitles on Videos: Videos should have subtitles or written transcripts for people with a hearing disability.
  • Forms Without Labels: Every box in a form should have a word or sentence explaining what information goes there, helping people who are using screen readers.
  • Only Using Color to Convey Information: Using only color to show something, i.e. the color red for error messages, will not be very helpful for those who can't see colors well.
  • Changing Content Without Alerts: If something changes on a website, for example a live score, the change has to be coded so that a screen reader can inform the user about the change.
  • Unclear Error Messages: Whenever a user makes a mistake or has to perform a specific action on your website, they should be given clear instructions, so they know what to do next.

What are some best practices to avoid ADA lawsuits? 

In order to avoid an ADA lawsuit related to website accessibility being filed against your business, you can follow a series of best practices, such as the following:

  • Understand ADA Requirements: Stay informed about the ADA and its requirements for digital accessibility. Understanding what the law expects from your business can help you proactively address potential issues.
  • Follow the WCAG Guidelines: The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide a framework for making web content more accessible. Aim for WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliance to enhance accessibility and reduce legal risks.
  • Conduct Regular Audits: you should perform regular accessibility audits of your website to identify and fix potential barriers. Although automated tools can help, manual testing, including by users with disabilities, may prove crucial for uncovering certain issues.
  • Have in place a Feedback Mechanism: Provide a way for users to give feedback about accessibility issues. Promptly address any problems reported and maintain communication with the user who reported the issue.
  • Train Your Team: Ensure that your web developers, content creators, and all relevant staff are trained in accessibility best practices and understand the importance of maintaining accessibility in ongoing site updates.
  • Document Your Efforts: Keep records of your accessibility efforts and audits. Documenting your commitment to accessibility can be beneficial if your organization ever faces an ADA complaint.
  • Consult with Experts: If needed, hire experts or consultants who specialize in web accessibility to evaluate your website and help implement necessary changes.
  • Stay Informed about Legal Developments: ADA compliance is an evolving field. Stay updated on legal developments and court rulings to understand how they might affect your responsibilities.
  • Inclusive Design from the Start: When creating or redesigning a website, incorporate accessibility from the start. It's often easier and less costly to build in accessibility than to retrofit it later.
  • Plan for Ongoing Compliance: Web accessibility is an ongoing responsibility. Plan for regular content reviews, updates, and training to ensure sustained compliance.


What are some resources for learning more about web accessibility? 

If you want to learn more about making websites easy to use for everyone, there are lots of resources you can access, from the detailed WCAG guidelines to specialized services that focus on accessibility compliance.

Engaging with these resources can provide your business with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate the complexities of web accessibility and particularly ADA compliance and contribute to a more inclusive digital environment.

To help you get started, our team has compiled a series of articles on web accessibility and the various web accessibility regulations currently in place around the world which we are including below: 

How can Clym help make my website accessibility ready?

Clym offers a comprehensive tool designed to facilitate data privacy and web accessibility compliance with the WCAG 2.1 standards for websites while providing customizable settings for users. 

By leveraging Clym's solution, your business can not only improve its website traffic and conversion rates but also mitigate the risk of accessibility-related legal challenges, such as those posed by the ADA Title III and the many web accessibility lawsuits being filed against businesses found to be non-compliant. 

Our user-friendly platform simplifies the management of compliance requirements, seamlessly integrating these features to meet both legal compliance and business needs effectively.

Interested in finding out how Clym can help you transform your website into an accessible website? 

Start today by scheduling a demo or reaching out to us for a discussion tailored to your unique needs.

FAQ on Web Accessibility and ADA Compliance

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The ADA is a law from 1990 that prevents unfair treatment of people with disabilities in the USA. It includes rules that make sure businesses provide the same access to everyone, including online. This means websites and apps should be easy to use for people with disabilities, just like physical stores and offices.

Why is web accessibility so important?

Web accessibility is vital because it ensures everyone, including those with disabilities, can use websites and apps. With about one in four adults in the USA having a disability, making your digital content accessible is not just a legal requirement but also expands your audience and promotes inclusivity.

What happens if my website isn't accessible?

If your website isn't accessible, you could face an ADA lawsuit, which might lead to paying damages and legal fees. Besides the financial costs, an inaccessible website can damage your brand's reputation and result in lost business opportunities, especially among customers with disabilities.

What are common web accessibility issues that lead to lawsuits?

Common issues include missing text descriptions for images (alt-text), navigation that isn't keyboard-friendly, poor color contrast, lack of subtitles on videos, forms without clear labels, reliance on color alone to convey information, and not announcing content changes to screen reader users.

How can I avoid ADA lawsuits regarding web accessibility?

To avoid lawsuits, understand and comply with ADA requirements, adhere to WCAG guidelines, conduct regular accessibility audits, provide feedback mechanisms, train your staff on accessibility, document your efforts, consult with experts, and keep updated on legal developments. Start with accessibility in mind when creating or updating your website.

Where can I find more resources to learn about web accessibility?

There are numerous resources available, including the WCAG guidelines themselves, specialized services, and various online articles and training programs. Engaging with these resources can enhance your understanding of web accessibility requirements and best practices.

How can Clym help facilitate my website’s accessibility?

Clym offers a tool that helps businesses meet web accessibility standards, reducing the risk of legal issues and improving the user experience for everyone. Our compliance tool simplifies managing compliance, integrating seamlessly with your website to meet both legal and user needs.