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How to Avoid “Surf-By” Lawsuits

The Guha Law Firm May 10, 2024

In this digital age, websites serve as the front door of businesses, welcoming customers from all walks of life. But what if this virtual entrance is not accessible to everyone? This question lies at the heart of so-called “Surf-By” lawsuits, a growing concern for businesses operating in the online space. 

“Surf-By” lawsuits refer to legal actions taken against businesses whose websites are deemed inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. These cases claim that such inaccessibility violates civil rights under laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  

At The Guha Law Firm, our disability discrimination attorney is experienced in guiding businesses through the ins and outs of ADA compliance, ensuring that your website meets current web accessibility standards and is inclusive to all users. We understand the nuances of the ADA and how it applies to the digital space, offering comprehensive legal advice and practical solutions to safeguard your online presence against possible litigation.  

Understanding Compliance

Compliance with ADA standards for web accessibility essentially boils down to ensuring your website can be used and navigated by everyone, regardless of their physical abilities.  

This includes making sure your website is navigable by keyboard for those unable to use a mouse, providing text alternatives for non-text content, and ensuring multimedia is accessible, among other requirements defined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). 

Over the past few years, there has been a significant uptick in digital accessibility lawsuits. Courts across the United States are divided on whether the ADA applies to websites, but recent rulings increasingly favor accessibility.  

For instance, some rulings have established that if a website is integral to a business offering goods and services, it must be accessible to people with disabilities, echoing the ADA's broader intent. 

The Risks of Non-Compliance

Ignoring web accessibility carries significant risks, including legal and financial consequences. The increasing prevalence of "Surf-By" lawsuits, where individuals sue companies for not having accessible websites, can lead to costly settlements or judgments against businesses. These legal challenges not only result in financial loss but also consume valuable time and resources in litigation.  

Beyond the immediate financial impact, failure to comply with web accessibility standards can severely damage a business's reputation. This disregard for inclusivity can alienate a substantial segment of the market, including people with disabilities and those who prioritize inclusivity.  

Consequently, neglecting web accessibility not only risks legal repercussions but also jeopardizes a company's standing with a socially-conscious customer base, potentially leading to lost revenue and diminished brand loyalty. 

Steps to Avoid “Surf-By” Lawsuits

To safeguard your business against the risk of "Surf-By" lawsuits and to ensure your website is accessible to all users, it is critical to take proactive steps. These measures not only help in compliance with ADA guidelines but also enhance the overall user experience on your website.  

Below are key strategies to consider implementing: 

  1. Audit Your Website: Conducting an accessibility audit is a crucial first step in identifying potential issues on your site. 

  1. Implement Changes: Address the identified issues promptly. Consider the WCAG as your guide to making necessary adjustments. 

  1. Adopt Inclusive Design: Make accessibility and inclusivity a core part of your design philosophy moving forward. 

  1. Train Your Team: Ensure that everyone involved in your website's development and management understands accessibility principles. 

  1. Regularly Review: Accessibility is not a one-time fix; it requires ongoing attention and adjustments as your site evolves. 

The Future of Web Accessibility

The momentum toward digital accessibility is only growing, with advancements in technology continually opening new doors for inclusivity. Looking ahead, businesses should not only aim to comply with current standards but also stay abreast of emerging trends in technology and accessibility to remain forward-thinking and inclusive. 

Accessibility is not just about avoiding legal pitfalls; it's about extending your business’s reach and demonstrating a commitment to all customers. 

Seek Trusted Legal Counsel for Your Business

Don't wait for a “Surf-By” lawsuit to prompt action. Making your website accessible is a proactive step towards a more inclusive and successful business. Seek professional help to audit your website, implement necessary changes, and ensure ongoing compliance. 

An attorney can play an essential role in approaching web accessibility and ADA compliance. With their expertise, they can provide invaluable guidance on how to align your website and business practices with current legal standards.  

Beyond just avoiding litigation, an attorney can help devise strategies to proactively make your website more inclusive. They can assist in interpreting the ADA and similar legislation as it applies to digital spaces, ensure that your accessibility measures meet legal requirements, and represent your business in the event of a lawsuit.  

By working with our disability discrimination attorney at The Guha Law Firm, businesses gain an ally in their efforts to create an accessible, inclusive online presence, safeguarding against potential legal issues while enhancing their service to a wider audience. We’re proud to serve clients in Orange, California, and throughout San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, and Riverside County.