Seyfarth Shaw LLP published a very interesting article about how the New York State Senate is attempting to develop a legal standard for the accessibility of business websites under New York law. This initiative is being undertaken due to the increasing litigation going forward about website accessibility in that state, and that no federal regulations exist concerning business entities. Governmental agencies and providers are addressed via the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), but not so for private businesses.
Something has to be done, but piecemeal legislation at the state level could prove to do more harm than good. Businesses all over the country are beginning to feel the strain. Litigation is expensive, but so is investing in accessible websites and without clear regulation many businesses are loath to make the investment. It’s a gamble that doesn’t always pay off anymore.
Per Seyfarth Shaw: “According to a recent article published in the New York Law Journal, a committee of state legislators in New York plan to develop a legal standard for website accessibility, in the wake of years of regulatory inactivity by the federal government.”
Businesses are being spurred to action by a concern over the surge of website accessibility lawsuits and their impact on commerce.
Seyfarth Shaw compiled statistics that show that plaintiffs referencing ADA statutes filed 1,564 website accessibility lawsuits in New York federal courts alone in 2018, which amounted to more than two-thirds of all federal website cases filed throughout the country last year, so that state is ripe for intervention.
Many of these accessibility lawsuits are brought by people who are using the legal disarray to look for quick settlements. Costly judgements against them can easily put small businesses into financial problems and even bankruptcy.
Although it is a good start that the states are starting to address this problem, at the end of the day this is a federal issue, and must be resolved there.
Federal courts are addressing website accessibility issues on a case-by-case basis so a body of case law is developing. Any new state laws may create confusion and make it difficult for business to comply with any contradictory rulings.