After years of inaction by the Department of Justice, courts have begun to address the issue of website accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As one court recently noted: “Web accessibility is about ensuring that all people are able to use the web regardless of any physical or mental disabilities.” It would behoove all businesses that have customer-facing websites to take steps to ensure they are equally accessible to everyone on the internet. In Gil v. Winn Dixie, a federal court in Florida found that supermarket giant Winn Dixie violated the ADA because its website was inaccessible to a sight-impaired plaintiff. The court ordered Winn Dixie to make corrections and to pay plaintiff’s attorney fees for taking the matter to trial. Below, I discuss how companies might avoid Winn Dixie’s fate.
First, website owners should check whether their website and other customer-facing applications meet accessible standards. A simple web search can provide a myriad of online tools for checking accessibility. According to Tony Pizzi, president of TechSpring, an international software development and technology consulting firm that advises law firms and other businesses on technology compliance and security issues, “online web accessibility evaluation tools can be helpful in identifying accessibility issues. These tools provide automated checks and can be utilized throughout all phases of design and development. However, manual review and human judgement are still required, as very often evaluation tools produce false positives and misleading results.”
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