4 Proactive Ways to Prevent ADA Demand Letters
It happens to thousands of businesses: one minute you’re humming away at work, and the next you’re opening an ADA demand letter stating your website has accessibility issues. A recent report from Accessibility.com estimates that 265,000 businesses received ADA demand letters last year (the most that have ever been filed federally), costing billions of dollars in legal fees.
No business starts out with the intent to be non-compliant with accessibility standards. You likely want all your customers to be able to enjoy your products, services, and content. To that end, making your website and mobile apps accessible to everyone is part of your overarching business strategy. So, why are ADA demand letters on the rise?
One principal reason is that the pandemic has placed increased importance on accessible website experiences. Digital channels have become go-to outlets for communication and shopping and, as more people than ever are now using digital channels to handle some of even the most routine matters of daily life, deficiencies in website accessibility have become more apparent than ever before.
Don’t panic if you receive a demand letter, but don’t throw it away, either. If you received a letter, you will need to address any accessibility issues that rise to the level of non-compliance. This doesn’t mean you’re being sued, at least not yet. Rather, consider it as an opportunity to make your website more user-friendly.
Follow these best practices to resolve accessibility issues quickly and without undue stress.
1. Identify whether there’s truly an accessibility issue.
ADA demand letters are notifications, not “done deals.” This means that when you receive one, you should first investigate whether there truly is an accessibility issue.
The first step is to take the letter to an attorney, who can provide further insight and guidance. Your attorney can review each case from a legal standpoint, taking note of all the legal technicalities involved, including such factors as who made the complaint and where the complaint is being filed.
2. Bring in a subject matter expert.
Lawyers are subject matter experts on law, but not necessarily on accessible website experiences. Step two is to engage a subject-matter expert in ADA-compliant experiences to further investigate your ADA demand letter. Subject matter experts, like Crownpeak, will know the guidelines and how to test them.
It is important to note that not all “issues” are actual violations. In many cases, your subject matter expert may find that the claim isn’t relevant to your digital experiences, or is not your responsibility to adjust.
Here’s an example: A user reported that it was hard to find a company’s accessibility statement in their website’s footer and included a video showing their experience. However, when we reviewed their case we found that the user didn’t know how to use their screen reader to help them locate the accessibility statement, so we were able to get that demand letter dismissed.
Combined, the legal advice and subject matter expertise can determine how a business should move forward with its ADA demand letter.
3. Make the appropriate adjustments.
If you have a real accessibility issue to solve, you can approach it with confidence based on the details of the letter. Working with subject matter experts like Crownpeak can help you manage this process and conduct testing to ensure proper resolution before any legal action goes to court. This step is also an essential part of your overall accessibility strategy and is a natural extension of your brand's commitment to ensuring inclusivity and accessibility for all.
4. Be proactive in addressing every ADA demand letter.
Last but not least, if your business receives an ADA demand letter, make sure those notices are going to the right people, the people in your organization who are trained and equipped to address them.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but many businesses find that, by the time they receive a demand letter, they may actually have been contacted multiple times via other channels (such as customer support lines, for example) regarding the same issue.
Training any customer-facing employees to be alert to concerns raised about accessibility issues and to bring those issues to the attention of the appropriate internal stakeholders makes for faster resolution and brings greater awareness to potential gaps in accessibility, which can then become learning opportunities for all.
Want to empower your organization against ADA demand letters? Crownpeak is here to help. Speak to an expert today, to hear how our ADA Complaint Response Program can help you swiftly address specific problems, bolster your accessibility strategies, and manage risk.