Litigation, Liability and Accessibility Compliance

Litigation, Liability and Accessibility Compliance

According to their website, “ (AB) was created to bring awareness to the millions of website owners, companies and individuals that continue to ignore the need to make their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities.”….” denying these individuals equal access to the web, to experience the products and services that a website owner is providing, is a form of discrimination, and it is the goal of AB to bring about awareness and change that will encourage these website owners to take corrective action to make their website accessible.”

This sounds like a worthy goal and it behooves businesses to take action to make their digital properties accessible to everyone. It is fundamentally a good business decision to reach as many potential customers as possible, after all. But there is a “but” here. Potential issues arise because without laws and legal guidelines, the “accessibility industry” is sort of like the Wild West.

For example, on the site, they also state “The corporate websites that appear on this site have been identified as potentially discriminating against individuals with disabilities.” Who is doing the identifying? What exactly (legally) constitutes discrimination? It is very easy to dismiss the word “potentially”, and by then the damage to a business’s good name might be done.

In researching this website, it is not immediately apparent who created it, who moderates it, and where they get their information. For businesses and companies who appear on the “blacklist,” this is important. The companies that appear on this list are marked as having “failed” the “Accessibility Test” The site claims that they verify the validity of a website that has been reported to be inaccessible by measuring the reported website against accessibility standards created by the World Wide Web Consortium but they do not indicate anywhere on their site what the parameters and guidelines of their testing include.

It is also unknown how frequently their information is updated, challenged, or corrected.

Again, the notion of having a watchdog to monitor legal compliance is not a bad thing, but accessibility guidelines and standards are still only guidelines and still works in progress. To date, only Title III of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) which prohibits discrimination against disabled persons in places of “public accommodation” is the law of the land.