Digital Accessibility Lawsuits Increased in 2020

By: David Titmus
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The number of digital accessibility lawsuits increased by more than 20% in 2020, amounting to almost 10 lawsuits every day, according to a new report from digital accessibility company UsableNet.

“Companies are adding stores, websites, and digital content at a rapid pace,” UsableNet’s Jason Taylor wrote in a blog outlining the survey. “Unfortunately, companies’ accessibility initiatives are not keeping up.”

Chart noting the number of website accessibility lawsuits filed in 2020, 2019, and 2018.

Total digital accessibility lawsuits in 2020 exceeded 3,500.

The report shows that retail continues to be the number one targeted industry with almost 2,000 retailers being sued in 2020, accounting for more than 75% of the digital accessibility lawsuits last year. Other industries making the list include the food service, education, entertainment and leisure, banking and finance, insurance, healthcare, travel and hospitality, automotive, fitness and wellness, real estate, and telecommunication industries.

New York and California continue to be the top states for digital accessibility lawsuits. New York accounted for 1,756 cases (49.5% of the total filings), while California saw 989 cases for 27.9% of the filings. Florida (542 cases), Pennsylvania (187 cases), and Illinois (32 cases) rounded out the top five. The top three states make up over 90% of cases. (Of note: the filing state does not represent where defendants live. Rather, a company can receive lawsuits in any state where that company does business.)

The survey also notes that there is a one in five chance that a company will receive a second lawsuit within 12 months of the first. In 2020, 3,550 companies were sued and 651 were sued multiple times. (In 2019, 2,890 companies were sued and 496 were sued multiple times.)

“Companies and brands are receiving multiple ADA-related lawsuits,” Taylor writes. “Sometimes the first is for a website and then for a mobile app. Other times the second is for an extra brand website or, in some cases, the same website is targeted again by a different plaintiff.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities and assures equal opportunity for access to businesses, employment, transportation, state and local government programs and services, and telecommunications.

Many businesses, schools and universities, event centers, and government entities, just to name a few, employ captions to become and remain ADA compliant, and provide greater access to those who are deaf and hard of hearing.

And as more people have worked remotely and the need for accessible communications has increased over the past year, so, too, has the number of companies showing a renewed focus on inclusion. Many of these companies, too, have quickly realized that adding captions benefits everyone and not just the individual requesting the service.

As a full-service captioning provider with more than 30 years of experience, VITAC offers live and offline caption, subtitling, and multi-language subtitling services, and a wide variety of caption integration solutions. We also offer audio description services, a narrative description of onscreen actions, visual cues, and text that appear in graphics or videos that makes content more accessible to people who are blind or with low-vision.

Click to learn more about how VITAC can help make content more accessible.