Federal and international regulations regarding websites are evolving rapidly. Overlooking these changes could cost you time, money, and reputation.
At NüPOINT Marketing, we’re seeing two trends that threaten to impact any organization with a website. One of our clients has already been impacted. Some law firms are threatening to sue companies whose websites do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or the European Union’s Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been US law since 1990. The law applies to any company with 15 or more employees. The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of life, including any public or private place that’s open or available to the general public, like a website. A growing number of companies are being sued by attorneys for websites that appear to be out of compliance with ADA law. These suits allege violations of Title III of the ADA, claiming that these sites are discriminatory because they are not accessible to people with vision, mobility, hearing, or other disabilities.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union regulation that requires any organization whose website collects personal information about any citizen of the European Union to provide notice that such data collection is occurring. The tricky thing for companies in the US is that the GDPR regulation applies to all companies processing or controlling the personal information of EU residents, regardless of where they’re located. So, unless you intend to block EU residents from your website — something likely unworkable in the long-term — the GDPR requires companies to comply with certain notification procedures (as seen below).
In most cases, a plaintiff’s attorney will file dozens of lawsuits against many different companies, alleging that a website (or websites) is in technical violation of Title III of the ADA, the GDPR, or both. These lawsuits target businesses across every industry. Neither the Courts nor Congress have provided clarity as to how the ADA law applies to websites, and some plaintiff’s attorneys take advantage of the confusion to file what some might call “nuisance suits.” Most of these lawsuits are not intended for trial. Law firms are seeking a settlement instead, essentially extracting cash from the companies they are targeting. However, the threat of the lawsuit must be taken seriously.
There are several steps you can take to avoid this trouble. To ensure that your site is ADA-compliant:
- Confirm that it is fully navigable using only a keyboard.
- Double-check to see if every image has titles and alt text.
- If your site uses video, be sure that each video has closed captions and text transcripts.
Regarding the GDPR:
- You must gain a user’s consent before collecting any of their data.
- Notify all users of any breaches.
- Respect their right to be “forgotten” (meaning that you must delete their data upon request).
These are just a few remedies. We understand that just as every business is unique, so is every website. Chances are, you have neither the time nor the expertise to audit every aspect of your website to ensure compliance. We suggest you consult your attorney for additional guidance on how both the ADA and GDPR pertain to your business. After that, contact us. Here’s what NüPOINT can do:
- Help you address ADA compliance. We offer a low-cost ADA assessment that can quickly identify areas where your website may be out of ADA compliance. If your website needs attention, we can propose a cost-effective program for bringing your website into full compliance. This includes training your staff on ADA considerations for ongoing website content management.
- Help you address GDPR compliance. We can assess your website to help you understand how/where your website is gathering information on site visitors, and (with your attorney’s input) place an appropriate “opt-in” statement on your website. We can also assist with data security / encryption, and assist with building “opt-out” processes and workflows.
Contact us to discuss how we can help you minimize risk with regards to your website’s ADA or GDPR compliance. ADA and GDPR compliance is not going away. Neither are the lawsuits. You can avoid this problem by acting now.