Reducing Your Risk of an ADA Website Compliance (Unruh, NY Human Rights) Lawsuit

Listen to Podcast Episode 4 (MP3 File Download)

This is the Accessible.org Podcast. My name is Kris Rivenburgh.

Today I’m going to talk to you about how to lower your risk of an ADA Website Compliance lawsuit.

I work with a lot of people from all sorts of positions and industries and there’s one thing I continue to advise them: Focus on the big stuff. Do not worry about being perfect. Now optimally, will your website meet every last single WCAG success criterion on all of its pages? Yes, that is the best case scenario.

You’ll have user testing. You’ll have an accessibility policy that’s airtight. Everything will be just perfect.

But it takes a long time to get to that point. We’re talking months. It doesn’t just happen overnight – even if you hire someone to do everything for you. Making sure there is not one grammatical error on your close captioning or that you’re alt text is absolutely perfect is an inefficient waste of your time.

The ADA, the Americans of Disabilities Act and the Unruh Act and the New York Human Rights Law demand letters and lawsuits almost always focus on the bigger, more broad components of accessibility. When they get more detailed, it’s because they usually copied and pasted something from an automated scan. And that’s yet another reminder to get your WAVE errors down to 0. So what you need to keep in mind is the law firms fueling this litigation spike are not accessibility experts. Rather, they’re easy money and loophole experts.

So while going all out on getting things like 24-7 monitoring and getting colorful monthly PDF report sounds good and it makes you feel better, it’s usually overkill unless you entered into a settlement agreement that requires it.

And here’s a tip: If you do find yourself in a lawsuit, don’t automatically submit and agree to all of the accessibility stipulations in a settlement. They can be cumbersome and overbearing and unnecessary. And the plaintiffs’ law firms really just want the cash anyways.

So that’s usually something that you can whittle down, and it will actually save you a lot of work and a lot of money in the back end.

Now continuing on with the podcast, it’s great that you have genuine commitment to accessibility, but there are a lot of fringe products and services being sold that only at nominal benefit to lawsuit prevention and actual accessibility.

The truth is there aren’t a lot of websites that need to be monitored 24-7. If you continually post blog posts or podcasts or upload the YouTube videos, then, yeah, you need to make sure your media uploads all have alternative means of access, but you can take care of this on your own. You don’t need to log into a dashboard every week and have it monitored for you.

Now WCAG 2.0 AA is the best technical standard for how to make your website accessible. But being in 100% conformance with WCAG and every last one of their success criterion is nearly impossible for most website owners of moderately involved or complex or dynamic websites.
WCAG is so complicated that there are only so many people in the world that can dissect every last detail and seamlessly retrofit what WCAG is asking for into a complex website.

What I recommend for you is that you huddle up with your developer, you try your best, you improve your website, you get into that 90th percentile range of accessibility, and then you keep accessibility on your radar. You circle back later and you start fine-tuning and you start improving your website as you go.

If you take that approach, you will dramatically lower your chances of litigation and have a very accessible website going forward. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be really good. If you’re really good, that’s going to take you so much further.

Practically, your website will very likely be accessible, and it will greatly reduce your chances of receiving a demand letter or lawsuit.
Remember, we can’t stop people from suing us. People can always sue us, but we can make it extremely unlikely they do. So that’s going to be it. My name is Kris Rivenburgh. I help people with ADA website compliance. If you have a question, definitely let me know. You can email me at kris@accessible.org or just visit accessible.org.

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