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Darren Guarnaccia Posted by Darren Guarnaccia April 10, 2019

Website accessibility lawsuits triple, yet Fortune 100 companies are still falling down on the basics

US companies are experiencing an epidemic of website accessibility lawsuits brought under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). When I wrote about the Inexorable Rise in ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits last year, I cited research by law firm, Seyfarth Shaw projecting the number to tip 2,000 by the end of 2018. Well, the numbers are in, and the total far surpassed that, reaching over 2,250 federal website accessibility lawsuits – nearly triple that of the year before. And the trend shows no sign of slowing down.

Given the increasingly litigious climate and the reputational risks and costs of organizations involved, it’s not surprising that digital accessibility is climbing the corporate agenda. Every day at Crownpeak we’re hearing from companies at the sharp end of legal exposure, either proactively seeking help from website accessibility companies to optimize their digital accessibility or playing catch-up in response to a legal challenge. 

Accessibility compliance: Failure on a grand scale 

We’re seeing movement on the streets, but how well are global enterprises responding to these new pressures as a whole? We joined with independent business intelligence firm, Ovum, to find out, and their new whitepaper, ovum-logoFailure at the Top: Websites of America’s Largest Companies Plagued by Accessorily Issues, Risking Litigation and Loss of Market Share, revealed that America’s biggest websites are dropping the ball on accessibility compliance on a grand scale.

The study, based on audit data supplied by Crownpeak, used our Digital Quality Management (DQM) platform to scan the corporate websites of the Fortune 100 for accessibility compliance. The sites were tested against 40 checkpoints which map to selected success criteria from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, including important factors that contribute to keyboard accessibility, navigability, and screen reader compatibility.

A massive 815,600 WCAG compliance issues were detected across the Fortune 100 sample pages. Alarming. But, even more alarming, the vast majority (705,300) – that’s 86% – of issues detected were Level A, the minimum level of conformance. WCAG guidelines are divided into three levels of urgency based on their impact on accessibility: Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA, where Level A issues indicate areas where a site is providing significant barriers to access to a wide range of users with disabilities and potentially violating disability protection regulations. 

The challenge: Implementing the basics

It’s clear that for many global companies, the challenge isn’t to optimize, or “fine-tune” the accessibility of their digital experiences, it’s to implement the basics. With WCAG Level AA increasingly becoming the de facto standard for accessibility compliance cited in legislation, the sheer scale of basic issues on the websites of the Fortune 100 should be causing alarm.

So, the big question is why? Why, given the risks and revenues at stake, and faced with an unprecedented legal spotlight on improper website accessibility, companies still fail to meet their accessibility compliance obligations? 

Download the Ovum white paper to find out. You’ll learn what’s going wrong, why the issues are urgent and how enterprises can turn the ship around with successful protocols for implementing an effective accessibility program that will mitigate risk and build competitive advantage.

(If you’re curious to check the accessibility status of your website and find out whether your company might be at risk, sign up for a complimentary accessibility healthcheck).