2023 ADA Web Accessibility Lawsuit Statistics Full Report

2023 ADA Web Accessibility Lawsuit Statistics: Full Report

Published: May 30, 2024

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    Web accessibility is no longer a fancy word in the digital hemisphere. The spike in ADA-related lawsuits throughout 2023 has woken up website owners, developers, and digital marketers. It is now an essential component every online business has to consider while establishing its web content.

    Ignorance is no longer an option.

    Understanding the trends is imperative for protecting your online presence in 2024. Business owners should make it a point to see if their business is vulnerable and what has led to this spike in litigation. This will help them prevent being included in the web accessibility statistics.

    However, ensuring web compliance is not easy for business owners who run businesses. That is why accessibility experts like us can help. At ADA Site Compliance, our team of accessibility experts stays abreast of the latest regulatory developments so you don’t receive an ADA website lawsuit. We help organizations like yours ensure that all digital content meets accessibility standards, safeguarding your business from potential legal risks.

    Web Accessibility Enters a New Era

    In 2023, advocates working to include digital platforms under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have achieved significant milestones. The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that by 2024, all state and municipal government websites must comply with WCAG AA standards.

    This rule now applies only to state and local government bodies under Title II of the ADA.

    However, private enterprises governed by Title III will soon be required to meet similar standards. This progress and updated state laws, like California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 1757, have invigorated advocates.

    This has culminated in an unprecedented surge in legal actions to improve web accessibility.

    Key Insights from the 2023 Digital Accessibility Lawsuit Report

    UsableNet, a leading advocate for digital accessibility, has released its comprehensive 2023 Digital Accessibility Lawsuit Report, highlighting crucial developments and challenges in digital access litigation.

    UsableNet’s research teams annually investigate ADA cases pending in federal and state courts, focusing on Florida and California. Through their research and analysis, UsableNet provides valuable insights into the dynamic landscape of digital accessibility and its legal ramifications.

    Their efforts ensure users with disabilities have equal access to online information and services, thus promoting a more inclusive digital environment.

    Demand Letters vs Federal and State Lawsuits

    The most substantial impact is not from state or federal lawsuits but demand letters threatening legal action for not reaching settlements. Often described as extortion, these letters prompt companies to settle out of court, leaving such cases undocumented.

    If recordings of these settlements were made, they would reveal the significant influence exerted in federal court by a relatively small number of highly aggressive serial plaintiff firms.

    Accessibility Lawsuits: A Major Concern for E-commerce

    E-commerce websites have become a primary focus for digital accessibility-related lawsuits, with UsableNet reporting that they account for 82% of such cases. Consequently, 82% of the top 500 e-commerce companies have faced legal action.

    This trend highlights the critical need for smaller online businesses to conduct thorough audits and swiftly resolve accessibility issues. Prompt action reduces the risk of lawsuits and ensures compliance with accessibility regulations.

    Every Business Faces Equal Accessibility Risks

    The smaller companies, generating annual revenue of less than $25 million, face 73% of accessibility lawsuits.

    Large companies that often face legal action have invested in thorough manual audits and remediation. However, smaller businesses typically address accessibility issues only after being sued.

    With 33.2 million small businesses in the United States, there is a vast pool of potential targets, suggesting this trend will continue to rise. To mitigate legal risks, large and small businesses must proactively ensure their websites comply with accessibility regulations.

    Comparing Websites, SaaS, and Mobile Apps

    According to the report, 97% of accessibility lawsuits target websites. This is because one can test websites for ADA compliance using free tools. In contrast, there is an additional layer of complexity of purchase or registration to access web-based SaaS services or mobile apps.

    A prediction for a 300% increase in ADA claims against mobile apps and SaaS platforms suggests that the market for website lawsuits may be saturated. However, with 133 million websites in the United States, there still is a vast number of potential targets for the few serial plaintiff law firms driving these actions.

    The sheer volume of websites ensures that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.

    New York – The Center of ADA Lawsuits

    In 2023, more than 4,600 ADA lawsuits were filed, with the highest numbers originating from New York, Florida, and California. These states have courts and judges experienced in ADA disputes, often favoring plaintiffs.

    New York has become the epicenter of ADA lawsuits, consistently outpacing California. This trend is due to various factors:

    • Businesses can face legal consequences if they have customers in New York, even if they are not physically based there.
    • New York courts do not require businesses to have a physical location.
    • Some of the most active plaintiffs and plaintiff attorney firms are in New York.

    Why Are Web Accessibility Lawsuits Increasing Every Year?

    The unclear legal standards regarding the ADA’s application to digital accessibility issues have led to increased digital accessibility lawsuits. The ADA was enacted in 1990, primarily focusing on physical accessibility, as the Internet had not yet become a crucial part of daily life.

    Over the years, the Internet has become an essential resource for communication, entertainment, commerce, and services. With millions of businesses operating online, website inaccessibility for individuals with disabilities, who constitute a large segment of the population, exposes businesses to potential lawsuits.

    Any business that ignores digital accessibility thus faces legal challenges. Besides, courts often favor plaintiffs in ADA-related cases, and plaintiff law firms leverage this trend by targeting organizations with inaccessible websites.

    The number of lawsuits will rise in the coming years as long as companies ignore the importance and legal repercussions of failure of web compliance.

    Accessibility Widgets and Overlays

    Accessibility widgets and overlays provide comprehensive compliance for websites by adding features like text resizing, color contrast adjustments, and screen reader support to digital properties. However, these solutions often encounter issues, and as they do not fully address accessibility barriers, they are generally not favored by disabled users.

    Additionally, they can introduce new problems, such as interfering with native screen reader functionality or creating confusing navigation experiences. Many accessibility advocates and professionals thus discourage reliance on widgets and overlays.

    They instead advocate for comprehensive, built-in accessibility features that adhere to established guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

    31 Plaintiff Firms File 50% of ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits

    A small group of plaintiffs is responsible for a significant portion of lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The report reveals strategic behaviors and notable periods of inactivity by specific law firms. Understanding these dynamics gives a better understanding of the impact of this trend on the ADA compliance landscape.

    Digital Accessibility Lawsuits Filed Against Websites Using Accessibility Widgets

    UsableNet tracks whether a website uses an accessibility widget on the day of filing a lawsuit. According to the report, there was a significant 62% increase in digital accessibility lawsuits against businesses with accessibility widgets or overlays on their websites in 2023 compared to 2022.

    The months of filing patterns by leading 15 plaintiffs reveal significant trends, offering insights into the strategic tactics employed in these cases. The number of legal cases associated with websites using accessibility widgets over the first five months of the year are:

    • 95 cases in January
    • 80 cases in February
    • 99 cases in March
    • 91 cases in April
    • 72 cases in May

    This analysis is not to create an unfavorable impression of accessibility widget manufacturers. While many lawsuits involve widgets, this does not necessarily imply that the widgets are flawed or defective. Instead, the core issue often lies in how these tools are implemented and relied upon as the sole solution for accessibility compliance.

    Additionally, these widgets can prove ineffective without proper configuration or maintenance. Some websites may also rely on them without understanding their limitations or without testing to ensure they work correctly for all users.

    This can lead to an inadequate accessibility solution, potentially leading to legal issues.

    30% of Digital Accessibility Lawsuits Involve Websites Using Overlays

    According to the report, 30% of accessibility lawsuits comprised of websites using overlays.

    So, what exactly is an overlay? It can be called a ‘band-aid solution’ for web compliance, used to make a website ADA-compliant overnight. It involves injecting code into the website to hide accessibility issues. These solutions frequently highlight the use of AI for web compliance.

    However, despite documented failures and misleading promises, many businesses still get tempted by the idea of a fast and cheap solution until they face a lawsuit.

    Overlays serve no purpose in ensuring digital accessibility. Contrarily, they put businesses at legal risk and do not adequately serve users with disabilities. It is the reason why many accessibility advocates and industry professionals oppose the use of overlays. With lawyers and courts well aware of these issues, 2023 saw a 60% rise in accessibility lawsuits against websites using overlays in 2022.

    How to Prevent Becoming an ADA Lawsuit Statistic in 2024

    WCAG 2.2 was recently updated with these internationally recognized standards. Websites, SaaS applications, and mobile apps must conform to WCAG 2.1 A and AA standards for compliance in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, the European Union, and other regions.

    Compliance with these regulations ensures accessibility and legal compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state regulations. By complying with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), you prevent your website from becoming an ADA lawsuit statistic in 2024.

    A WCAG Audit-The First Step Toward Legal Compliance

    It is crucial to understand that software alone can detect only about 30% of WCAG issues and why overlays often fail. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are nuanced where user scenarios like keyboard-only use, are not identifiable by algorithms. It is thus essential to have manual testing done by qualified WCAG auditing professionals.

    An audit ensures a website complies with WCAG. It comprises a comprehensive evaluation of the user experience (UX), code, and assistive technology testing, primarily using screen readers. A detailed audit report includes all identified issues and specific recommendations on how to address them effectively.

    Step Two: Corrective Action

    At this stage, the existing web development team, or business owner, handles the website remediation process. Do not worry if you do not have a team. Most compliance services have experts on board to handle your website remediation process.

    After the remediation, accessibility experts conduct a verification audit to ensure the proper resolution of all issues. Next is creating a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). Initially, government agencies used the VPAT to certify WCAG compliance for digital products and companies. The VPAT is now often used to document the website’s level of compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. What is the average ADA website settlement?

    The typical settlement for ADA website lawsuits prioritizing digital accessibility can vary significantly. In cases where prompt corrective actions are taken, settlements are under $25,000. However, there are instances where settlements can amount to several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    2. What is the success rate of the ADA lawsuit?

    The success rate for lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) remains high, with employers accounting for 92% of all cases filed since 1992. Despite the passage of time, the associated costs continue to be substantial, necessitating ongoing vigilance. ADA officials emphasize the importance of maintaining compliance to mitigate the risk of costly litigation.

    3. What is the accessibility trend in 2023?

    In 2023, a major accessibility trend is the incorporation of virtual reality into online platforms to offer more immersive and accessible experiences for users. With the rapid advancement of technology, virtual reality is swiftly becoming a crucial tool for enhancing digital accessibility.

    4. Can you get sued for your website not being ADA-compliant?

    If your website does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you could face a lawsuit. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Levels A, AA, and AAA set the standards for accessibility.

    Failure to meet these standards can result in legal action or the requirement to provide restitution. Ensuring your website is WCAG-compliant helps avoid potential lawsuits.

    Conclusion on Accessibility for 2024

    As we progress into 2024, the importance of internet accessibility remains paramount. The rise in ADA-related lawsuits underscores the need for businesses to ensure website compliance. Staying informed and implementing best practices are the best ways to protect your business and enhance the user experience for everyone.

    Investing in web accessibility is a legal requirement and commitment to inclusivity and digital excellence. Prioritizing accessibility will help your business thrive in an increasingly inclusive online environment.

    Collaborating with accessibility experts can simplify the process of making your website compliant. At ADA Site Compliance, our specialists offer comprehensive services, from initial audits to ongoing monitoring, ensuring your digital content remains accessible as standards evolve.

    By putting accessibility at the forefront of your business strategy, you can succeed in the modern digital era.

    Contact ADA Site Compliance today for all your website accessibility needs.

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