León Cosgrove

Updated Accessibility Requirements for Websites and Mobile Applications Forecast Additional Litigation

By: John D. Bosco

The World Wide Web Consortium has now published updated digital accessibility requirements that include new and more specific compliance criteria for mobile applications, websites, and other digital content—the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Level 2.1 (“WCAG 2.1”).  WCAG 2.1 extends WCAG 2.0 by adding seventeen additional success criteria related to mobile devices, disabilities that affect vision, and disabilities that affect cognitive function.  For example, WCAG 2.1 requires a minimum non-text color contrast, that motion animation triggered by interaction can be disabled, and that disabled users are specifically warned with the duration of user inactivity that could cause data loss.  Notably, the new criteria impact elements and barriers not identified by many of the current automated tools used by clients and vendors to evaluate the accessibility of updated websites and mobile applications.

Courts have enforced the WCAG guidelines as the de facto standard for web accessibility.  See, e.g., Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 257 F. Supp. 3d 1340 (S.D. Fla. 2017), appeal docketed, No. 17-13467 (11th Cir. Aug. 1, 2017); Davis v. BMI/BND Travelware, No. CIVDS1504682, Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Bernardino.  This, in conjunction with several courts refusing to dismiss cases filed against companies that previously settled similar matters with other claimants and are in the process of remediating their websites to ensure accessibility, forecasts an increase in the amount of lawsuits filed challenging the accessibility of websites and mobile applications.  See, e.g., Markett v. Five Guys Enterprises LLC, No. 1:17-cv-00788, 2017 WL 5054568 (S.D.N.Y. July 21, 2017).  Indeed, plaintiffs have already asserted more demands and filed more web accessibility lawsuits for the first six months of 2018 than in all of 2017 combined.

What can you proactively do to enhance accessibility and limit liability?  First, audit your website and mobile application for WCAG 2.1 compliance at the AA success level, using both automated and manual audits.  Second, create a web accessibility policy and ensure your web design staff is trained on current web accessibility requirements.  Third, ensure that customer service outlets are available to specifically address issues and complaints related to web accessibility.

For additional information or to discuss the accessibility of your website, please contact John Bosco and Tiffany Anderson at jbosco@leoncosgrove.com and tanderson@leoncosgrove.com.