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Is your website ADA accessible?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently released a letter that may provide some comfort to craft brewers and other small businesses regarding an explosion of lawsuits filed against owners of non-handicapped accessible websites in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Such lawsuits can cost small businesses $20,000 to settle and much more if the case goes to trial. One enterprising attorney sued 25 breweries claiming (in one example) that the brewery’s website was “inaccessible” because it did not work with a screen-reading program used by the visually impaired to read text aloud. In response to a congressional request and after hundreds of lawsuits were filed against business owners alleging that their websites were not ADA accessible, the DOJ issued a letter, which said in relevant part that businesses have some “flexibility” in how they decide to comply with the ADA and just because a website does not use accessibility technology does not per se mean it is not compliant. While this appears to provide some comfort for small businesses, it’s important to note that the DOJ letter does not tell businesses exactly how use this new flexibility standard, or what would constitute compliance.

So what to do?

There are several websites that allow you to input your web address and will then provide some feedback as to whether the site is compatible with screen readers. If that sounds too techie for you, call your web developer and have them look at your code. While it may seem like a hassle for small business owners, making websites accessible is the right thing to do and, not terribly expensive or time-consuming.  Furthermore, if you are are supporting screen readers, the murkiness of this DOJ letter is less of an issue to you.

This document has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. © Blackgarden Law

Seth Gardenswartz