By: Christopher Sirota, CPCU
The law firm Seyfarth has reported on their analysis of lawsuits filed in federal court related to website accessibility from 2017-2019. (For an overview of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) status and COVID-19 considerations, see this Bloomberg Law article marking the 30th anniversary of the signing of the ADA).
Seyfarth analyzed data from Courthouse News Services and reportedly identified a slight decrease in the number of cases that, for example, allege "[…] plaintiffs with a disability could not use websites because they were not coded to work with assistive technologies like screen readers, or otherwise accessible to them." Per the article, in 2018, Seyfarth counted 2,258 such cases, and in 2019 it dipped slightly to 2,256 cases.
The top 5 states for frequency of these lawsuits in 2019 were: New York (1,354 cases), Florida (526), California (120), Pennsylvania (92) and Illinois (91).
Of interest, the article opined that the lack of increase in New York cases, which reportedly is a trend that goes against developments in previous years, "is likely due to some New York attorneys turning their attention to filing hundreds of lawsuits regarding the accessibility of gift cards in late 2019 and early 2020." Relatedly, we had posted back in 2019 about a verdict in New York federal court that potentially could slow down this litigation as well.
What parts of a website may prevent accessibility?
In December 2019, a website accessibility vendor reportedly analyzed 10,000,000 websites for compliance with some industry standards and found a failure rate as follows: 98% of web page menus, 83% of buttons, 71% of forms, 52% of images and 89% of pop-ups.
A related survey in April 2020, conducted by The Markup, reportedly analyzed the accessibility of websites created by U.S. state governments to provide the public with COVID-19 information. The Markup highlighted some of the following survey results:
- 41 of 50 states had low-contrast text, which can be an obstacle to those with poor vision, such as senior citizens.
- 31 of 50 states had empty links or buttons, an issue that can confuse screen reading software navigation tools.
- Two states, for example, used formats that hinder accessibility: Alaska's website provides some COVID-19 information with a PDF file, and North Carolina's website provides some COVID-19 information with a slideshow; both formats can be difficult for screen reading software to read.