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How the internet has lead to an explosion in disability lawsuits

| Apr 5, 2021 | ADA |

Fair and equal access for people with medical conditions, injuries and disabilities requires some consideration and investment from both government organizations and businesses. Lawmakers have had to enact rules that compel businesses to accommodate people with disabilities.

Companies should do their best to make their facilities and amenities accessible to those who require reasonable accommodations, both on their staff and among their customer base. Although the law compels companies to accommodate those with disabilities, many don’t bother exploring how to do so unless someone forces them to.

The installation of a wheelchair ramp at a business, for example, may only occur after someone sues because they cannot enter the storefront. Lawsuits allow people to push companies into compliance and help make facilities more universally accessible. Recently, digital infrastructure has been the focus of disability activists across the country. They have begun filing lawsuits against businesses for their websites.

The internet currently does not provide equitable access

In theory, digital communications make the world a little bit fairer for those with physical disabilities. They can interact digitally with people in an environment where their condition doesn’t affect their socialization. They can also patronize businesses that might be difficult to access in person. A digital world is a more level playing field for those with disabling medical conditions.

Unfortunately, businesses don’t always invest in websites that are accessible for those with disabilities. Several significant populations require consideration by web developers for them to be able to use the internet. The technology already exists to make websites accessible for everyone.

Blind people require websites coded to work with screen reading software. These programs turn images on the screen into spoken words. Companies with interactive functions should allow people to perform those functions with keyboard commands and not just with trackpads, touch screens or mouses. Businesses that use videos or audio files on their websites can transcribe them in their descriptions for deaf visitors.

Digital access is a major concern for millions of Americans

A significant number of major websites don’t meet these requirements, and activists have started pushing back. Websites are the reasons that lawsuits filed against businesses under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have surged from 814 filings in 2017 to 2,256 in 2019, with 2020’s final figures likely to exceed 2019’s.

Those who want to patronize a business or access its website should be able to do so regardless of their medical conditions or disabilities. If a company won’t make its infrastructure accessible, a civil lawsuit could compel that business to make its website more accommodating.