How ADA Compliance Trolls Are Influencing Web Development and Marketing

ADA compliance trolls are taking their extortionary tactics to the digital realm in the latest attempt at what is called “drive-by-lawsuits”. Trolls are looking for websites that do not meet ADA compliance regulations and taking the opportunity to sue them.

In short, your website must accommodate those with disabilities. This was a law created to help make sites more accessible, but this law has been abused. This directly affects web designers, programmers, and digital marketers who must ensure the sites they build and work on are compliant. If not, ADA compliance trolls could be lurking, ready to sue you or your client.

The Technical Stuff

Starting January 18, 2018, all technology that falls under Section 508 standards will be required to meet new ADA accessibility standards, which are meant to make sites more accessible for users with visual disabilities. Websites fall under Section 508 standards. It’s mandatory for the public sector, but essentially any business that regularly serves the public is considered a public accommodation.

“To state a private claim under the ADA, a plaintiff must allege (1) that she is disabled within the meaning of the ADA, (2) that the defendant owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation, and (3) that the defendant discriminated against her by denying her a full and equal opportunity to enjoy the services the defendant provides.” 1

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is part of a series of web accessibility guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium. 2.0 is the latest version. It has 12 guidelines that are organized into 4 major components of ADA compliance for websites:

  • Perceivable: Making text and media perceivable for everyone
  • Operable: Helping users navigate content easily
  • Understandable: Making and media text understandable
  • Robust: Maximizing compatibility

Less Technical for the Rest of Us

This is where ADA compliance trolls get you. Small design functions of a site that web developers create can be used against you. If the site is not easy to navigate, you could be sued.

But, if you have skilled SEO specialists who studied hard during their digital marketing course, then the ADA compliance trolls will have a tougher time getting to you.

“In general, ADA compliance and SEO exist harmoniously, as both aim to improve the functionality and usability of web pages. For example, SEO best practices and WCAG guidelines both dictate that HTML code should validate, that images should use alt text, and that website navigation should be intuitive and usable.”2

Tools to Ensure a Site is ADA Compliant

Each guideline has a success criterion which consists of 3 levels – A, AA, and AAA. Here is a simple checklist that can give you an overview on what each component consists of: https://webaim.org/standards/wcag/checklist.

The first suggestion is to run an ADA audit on your site. These are some free tools recommended to use:

Here is the guideline to make your website ADA compliant: https://www.ada.gov/pcatoolkit/chap5toolkit.htm




[1]: Lexology – House of Representatives Passes Changes to ADA to Curb “Drive-By Lawsuits”

[2]: Search Engine Journal – ADA Compliant Website