Technical SEO:

If You Have A Website, You Can Expect A Lawsuit

rtowe January 12, 2016


Several years ago in a “former life”, I wrote a blog about ADA online compliancy. In that blog, I wrote about the fact that if you have a website, you had better brush up on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Following those guidelines makes content more usable to users in general as well as accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including but not limited to blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, cognitive and mobility limitations, speech and learning disabilities, photosensitivity and any combination of these.

Layers of WCAG 2.0 guidance – levels of conformance

Level A (lowest success criteria): The website satisfies all of the success criteria or conforming alternate version is provided.

Level AA satisfies the aforementioned plus additional requirements

Level AAA (highest) expands on and satisfies the previous iterative levels along with its own success criteria.

The ADA complaints, the demand letters, and the pending lawsuits

This is not new information.  Back in early 2000s, the National Federation for the Blind filed a lawsuit alleging that the Target Corporation was not accessible to blind or visually impaired individuals.  Target settled a class action lawsuit with the NFB.

As of 2015, there are now more than 45 lawsuits pending against companies like Home Depot (10) and JC Penney (37), who live in the Top 100 internet retailers; Aeropostale (150), Patagonia (owned by Wolverine Worldwide 259), Ace Hardware (630), and many others.

Summary of the lawsuit

This specific complaint filed by multiple Plaintiffs against Patagonia (the Defendant) asserts that the Defendant’s website is not accessible to the blind and visually impaired consumers in violation of Title III in the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The filed lawsuit can be found here:

The Plaintiffs are seeking permanent injunction requiring the following:

  1. Defendant retains qualified consultant (accepted by Plaintiff) to assist in the improvements of the website so it complies with WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
  2. Defendant works with the consultant to ensure that website developers and content developers are given web accessibility training on a periodic basis to maintain compliance at Level AA.
  3. Defendant/Consultant to perform automated accessibility audit on a periodic basis to ensure continued compliance.
  4. Defendant/Consultant to create an accessibility policy that will be posted on it’s website along with email and toll-free telephone number to report accessibility-related problems.

If the judgment does declare that Patagonia is in violation of the specific requirements of Title III of the ADA, the following financial obligations and actions will apply:

  1. Permanent injunction for a period determined to ensure that the Defendant has adopted and is following policy to remain fully compliant.
  2. Payment of lawsuit costs
  3. Payment of reasonable attorneys’ fees
  4. Provision of whatever relief the Court deems just, equitable and appropriate.

The overall court costs, the training costs, allocated internal resource costs – IT, development, marketing, along with time spent making these changes are astronomical especially to those online retailers who do not live in billions of dollars in web sales with over 100 million monthly visits by online consumers.

The Altruik technology automates the compliance process

Considering the Level AA conformance on Wolverine Worldwide’s website, Altruik is able to help with many of the requirements within the success criteria.  For example, in just a few repeatable updates, Altruik can implement the requirements within the Navigable Guidelines 2.4 of:

Level A:

  • Bypass blocks
  • Page title corrections
  • Focus order
  • Link purposes

Level AA:

  • Webpage location
  • Headings/labels descriptions
  • Focus

Implementing a technology that automates this process of complying with the recommended web content accessibility guidelines, reduces allocated internal (maybe external) time and costs.

Implementing this prior to receiving notification of a pending lawsuit against your company potentially saves hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

How much is it worth to your company?


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