Have You Received a Complaint or Demand Letter?
Prior to a lawsuit being filed against you, the first indication that your site may harbor accessibility issues (from a legal standpoint) will come in the form of a letter from the affected parties. While it is true that specific laws dedicated to website accessibility have not yet been created, the precedent for such web accessibility violations does exist in thousands of legal cases and is also outlined in the WCAG 2.1 guidelines. These letters regarding a brand’s website accessibility shortcomings are based on violations outlined in Title III of the ADA, which applies to private and non-governmental entities.
While settlement fees may (and will) include court costs and lawyers’ fees, it is important to remember that the number one goal of these letters (and subsequent lawsuits) is to ensure that disabled users have the same level of access that is customarily granted to every other user of a business’s website. Fortunately, there are steps you can take upon receiving a compliance letter to get your website compliant as outlined by the WCAG 2.1 guidelines.
Step #1: Don’t Ignore It and Don’t Panic
No person or business welcomes the delivery of a compliance-based legal document—especially one you never saw coming. These compliance letters (usually with titles like “For Settlement Purposes Only”) can be confusing, alarming, as well as a bit misleading. Please stay calm and be aware that even if your site is not ADA compliant (currently), there is a high probability that you are not in any legal trouble yet. The legal firm that drafted and sent the compliance letter will encourage you to contact them first for a more “cost-effective” and “pragmatic” solution. You may even find a section of the letter dedicated to the payment of the attorney’s fees and expenses. It is important that you begin by investigating the matter yourself so that you are educated and truly understand the best course of action.
Step #2: Research the Law Firm
While not every law firm is predatory, there are firms that make predatory lawsuits part of their business model and may attempt to collect excessive fees and “costs.” With your letter in hand, use Google to research the firm to understand the legitimacy of their practice. You may be able to find other people discussing their experiences receiving a similar letter and the steps they took, or even what lawsuits relating to ADA website compliance the law firm has filed in the past.
Step #3: Check in with Industry Partners
Predatory law firms tend to send out compliance letters such as these in waves targeting specific industries or even geographical areas. As an example, it would make more sense from the lawyers’ standpoint to spend time drafting compliance letters that could be sent to 50 car dealerships than only one. So this is a good time to start calling and emailing some of your local industry partners or even competitors to see if they have also received ADA website compliance letters from the same law firm. If others in your industry have received letters as well, you may have an opportunity to build a class action case against the firm in question.
Step #4: Are the Claims in the Letter Valid?
It is also important to have an understanding as to the validity of claims as outlined by your ADA website compliance letter. A great place to begin is by installing our Free True Accessibility Plugin. All it takes to begin is to install one simple line of code on your website to get a complete overview of your vulnerabilities. You will see where you are ADA and WCAG 2.1 AA compliant—and where you are not. Additionally, it may be wise to seek out legal counsel familiar with such ADA website compliance matters to ensure that the outlined violations in the letter are true and valid. Having all of this information will give you a better idea of your pathway to compliance.
Step #5: Know Your Rights and Seek Assistance
First, you need to be aware that you are in no way obligated to hire the law firm that has composed the ADA compliance letter. While there may be a recommendation or inference that you should contact the law firm, legally you are not required to communicate with the plaintiff or law firm directly. You do have the right to obtain your own legal representation and communicate via this channel.
Chances are that if you are reading this you either have received such a compliance letter or perhaps are preparing for the possibility of such a letter. If this is the case, seeking assistance from True Accessibility is a step in the right direction. From a legal perspective, the goal with ADA website compliance letters should be to increase the level of accessibility for everyone online—a goal that True Accessibility 100% supports. So if you need to address your brand’s adherence to the WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines due to a compliance letter or you want to make sure you are ready if you should receive one, True Accessibility is the perfect place to begin!
Are You at Risk of Receiving an Compliance Letter?
According to the ADA Title II, businesses that have 15 or more employees and operate more than 20 weeks per year are required to have a website that is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Going further, Title III of the ADA requires that private entities operating in a “place of public accommodation” must provide equal access to “goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations.” Generally, the ADA considers 12 categories of businesses that fall under the “places of public accommodation” umbrella—grocery stores, hotels, restaurants, and theaters are just a few examples. While the original legal nomenclature was developed for physical storefronts, in today’s landscape there is little distinction between physical storefronts and digital website storefronts.
Give Your Customers True Accessibility
Regardless of where you may be in the legal process (from compliance letter to legal settlement), you can give your customers online True Accessibility to your brand and all you have to offer—faster and more affordably. No matter the size of your brand, True Accessibility’s free plugin and team of experts have a path to WCAG 2.1 AA compliance ready for you. This is not only your opportunity to reduce your chance of legal complications, but also to make your brand accessible to millions of additional potential customers. Contact our team to get True Accessibility for your website today!
Note* The information provided should in no way be used as a replacement for legal consultation. As with all legal documents, lawsuits, or litigation, please consult with proper and accredited legal professionals specializing in such matters. True Accessibility cannot guarantee the suppression of any such legal documentation or act as an deliverance/execution surrounding the settlement(s) outlined within any such legal documentation.
Got Sued? Get a Free Risk Assessment
Even if you feel that the contents of the compliance letter are unfounded and/or you feel you have already taken appropriate steps to make your site truly accessible, ignoring a compliance letter will likely make matters worse.
Schedule a consultation with an accessibility expert for a free risk assessment today!