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generic graph showing suggesting growth of website ADA lawsuits in 2020

2020 Mobile & Website ADA Lawsuits Statistics

David Gibson

UsableNet recently released their study of mobile and web-related ADA Federal plus California (Unruh Act) State lawsuits. The report does not otherwise include the 49 other states. The report also does not include demand letters, which are widely believed to far outpace the number of filed lawsuits.

The topline is that in 2020 we saw a 23% increase in such cases which totaled 3,550 cases. The grand majority were filed in New York (49.46%) and the most impacted sector was retail ecommerce websites (78%).

As we’ve all been curious about, what was the impact of COVID? There was a slow down during April, May and June but quickly rose 50% after the initial slowdown, with peaks in August and finally in December, which more than doubled the numbers seen during the slowdown.

The report also takes aim at the failure of overlays and widget solutions to provide legal protection, finding that over 250 lawsuits were filed against websites using such “solutions”. This approach relies on automated tools to generate overlays that claim to to correct WCAG issues. However automated tools cannot even detect 70% of WCAG issue types.  More so, they fail to address violations in the underlying code, which are left completely exposed until the overlay is turned on by a user. These findings validate the general opposition of their use by the accessibility community, and those in the industry looking to help companies with effective methods of increasing actual accessibility while reducing legal exposure. More on this topic here.

The key takeaway is that the pandemic did not slow the flow of plaintiff lawsuits for websites and now mobile apps. More plaintiff law firms are jumping in to make easy money, and businesses must avoid taking short-cut solutions and address the accessibility of their digital “places of public accommodation” properly or face the legal ramifications.