2019 has been another big year of ADA-based Website legal action. While release of UsableNet's Annual ADA Website and App Accessibility Lawsuit report is still around the corner. In advance, I take a look at what we already know about the increasing attention brought to inclusion online and what I believe that we'll see in 2020 and the future, a continuation of 2019 initiatives and some new emerging trends too.
Prediction 1- Lawsuits at all levels will increase
Why? There's no reason to slow down. Plaintiffs keep winning. One especially notable victory for disability advocates in 2019 was the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to not hear Domino's petition.
Company Websites and Apps have accessibility issues easy to detect and document. There's also no proposed federation regulation in sight, so disability rights activists are left to fight for online inclusion in the courts, through private lawsuits and claims letters. Lawsuits increased 181% in 2018 and it was reported in 2019 that Website Accessibility litigation risk was on the rise. By the date of UsableNet's 2019 Midyear ADA Website and App Accessibility Lawsuit Report, the number of federally filed ADA lawsuits had reached a rate of one every working hour.
Prediction 2- Less Corporations Will Take a "Wait and See" Approach
Big brands can no longer wait on accessibility initiatives for their online assets. Inclusion will become the new rallying cry. The best defense for companies to reduce exposure to lawsuits is to implement digital accessibility best practices - test and fix top user-paths, verify accessibility with users from the disability community, develop and publish an online accessibility statement and partner with an experienced accessibility expert.
When a corporation implements a more inclusive culture it improves experiences for all and research has found a strong correlation between financial performance and well-developed disability-inclusion practices.
Prediction 3- CMS Platforms Will Launch Accessible Templates
Companies can’t be asked to pay $100 a month for a website from a CMS platform and no trust that they aren't incurring significant ADA based legal risk. CMS platforms will have to change templates to provide better accessibility solutions for their clients who rely on the CMS provider to ensure accessibility when providing a solution.
Prediction 4- Retail Platforms Will Launch A11y Tutorial And Education
Retail and more complex platforms will be in a similar boat as CMS, but the fix is not as easy. Retailers who use platforms such as Shopify and Big Commerce can unknowingly create accessibility issues when customizing the platform. More education on Accessibility and better testing tools will ensure teams create accessible e-commerce sites and maintain that accessibility through out updates and changes.
Prediction 5- Web Agencies Have To Take A11y Responsibility
I covered this before in a previous article, 5 Steps to creating an Accessibility Clause for Vendor Contracts, but we're hearing from some ADA lawyers that adding Accessibility clauses into new website and App procurement and contracts may be a way for companies to mitigate legal risk. It seems logical that the third party that builds a website or app should be held accountable for the accessibility of what they produce.
Prediction 6- All Major Companies Will Hire Or Appoint an A11y Expert
Accessibility should be as essential to companies as cyber security and it has some inherent similarities in how it should be approached- it requires specific knowledge, there are legal risks involved, and it should be owned across the enterprise, not as a silo in Quality Assurance or at the end of a development process. Many major brands are already listing new Accessibility positions, some as part of compliance teams, some as part of product teams and some as part of the eCommerce team.
Prediction 7- The Digital World Will Become More Accessible!
The good news is that all this will make the digital world more accessible. Private legal actions may seem unfair to some companies that were unaware of their accessibility issues. But the surge of legal action is ensuring action across key industries. As the digital world becomes a larger part of our everyday lives it is essential that it is also accessible to people of all abilities.
Want to hear more 2020 predictions? Check out recording from our recent Webinar, "Analogue Laws Meet Digital Technology: Is your Website ADA Compliant?" with special guest speaker, Lewis Wiener, Partner at Eversheds Sutherland.
Ready to become a part of the new, more inclusive 2020 and beyond? Speak with one of our Accessibility Experts and we can help get you started now.