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The Unruh Civil Rights Act and website accessibility

On Behalf of | Jun 26, 2023 | ADA |

California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh) works hand in hand with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to help ensure accessibility for all Californians. This includes website accessibility.

Unruh has actually been around several decades longer than the ADA. It was enacted back in 1959.

Why businesses outside of California may need to comply with Unruh

Because a website, unlike a brick-and-mortar location, can generally be accessed from anywhere, if you have a website that is available to people in California, you need to comply with Unruh, regardless of where your business is located or registered.

Like all other types of accessibility, website accessibility has been the source of numerous and costly lawsuits. Unruh, unlike the ADA, allows successful plaintiffs a minimum of $4,000 in statutory damages for every violation. This can add up quickly when it comes to accessing a website.

The keys to website accessibility

The accepted standard for compliance with both the ADA and Unruh is best known by the acronym WCAG, which stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – or WCAG.

Under WCAG, a website should be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. That’s another acronym – POUR. Let’s look at those briefly.

  • Perceivable: Website content must be adjustable by changing the font size, color contrast, turning on video captioning and other ways to make it perceivable for those with visual disabilities.
  • Operable: A person must be able to access the website through multiple means. For example, if they can’t use a keyboard, they need to be able to access it via a mouse or voice command.
  • Understandable: Navigation instructions and other information on the site must be easy to understand.
  • Robust: Website content must be accessible via a variety of browsers and assistive technologies (like screen readers and braille terminals)

Obviously, meeting the minimum legal requirements is crucial. However, businesses can gain more customers and increase loyalty by going above and beyond these requirements. 

Having experienced legal guidance can help you stay ahead of the game in compliance to avoid costly litigation and improve your chances of prevailing if you are facing legal action.