Website Accessibility Suits move to State Courts

There has been a significant increase in website accessibility lawsuits in New York City, specifically in the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts. Since 2017, visually impaired individuals have initiated many legal actions against businesses, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). By 2022, New York has become the nation’s primary hub for federal website accessibility litigation.

Why is Website Accessibility so common in New York State Courts?

The expansive interpretation of the ADA by district court judges has played a crucial role in New York’s prominence in these cases. In contrast to some other states, New York judges have mostly ruled that the ADA applies to online-only businesses, which means that a physical presence is not necessary to qualify as places of public accommodation under the ADA’s umbrella.

However, plaintiffs are subject to strict pleading requirements when initiating lawsuits in federal courts. Standardized, templated pleadings no longer suffice. In New York federal courts, plaintiffs must provide detailed information, including the timing of their attempts to access the website, their specific objectives on the site, the obstacles encountered, and their future intentions regarding website utilization.

These cases differ from federal counterparts as they allege violations of the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), and the New York State Civil Rights Law (NYSCRL). These statutes prohibit discrimination based on disability and mandate businesses to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled website users.

Perfection in Accessibility is not Necessary

Although businesses cannot be entirely immune to the risk of being targeted by a lawsuit, proactive measures can help mitigate this risk and strengthen a robust defense against website accessibility claims. These measures include conducting a comprehensive ADA compliance audit of the website and digital content, enlisting a vendor’s services to ensure compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and retaining experienced counsel.

Contact the Wright Law Firm at (212) 619-1500 to discuss your options if your business’s website is targeted.