For Once, Don’t Be Like Beyoncé

By: Kate Penrod  | 01/09/2019

Beyoncé, and her many fans, followers and social media trolls, are learning a lot about ADA compliance this week. Last Thursday, a visually impaired woman from New York decided to sue the artist’s management company, citing that her website is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because the site is inaccessible for individuals with visual impairments.
The complaint states, “The one and only form of entertainment that truly presents an even playing field between the visually impaired and the sighted is the joy of music.” It went on to document that when the individual affected, who is legally blind, went to use the site, it lacked alternative text, prompting information, accessible drop-down menus and more. All of which are required for those who are visually impaired.
As of this moment, there are no valid laws citing that Title III websites (or websites in the private sector like Beyoncé’s) need to be in compliance with the ADA. On the other hand, Title II (websites for state or local governments), must comply with certain rules and regulations to ensure those with any type of disability (cognitive, visual, hearing, etc…) are able to use the site.
In fact, in September of this past year, the DOJ released a statement after being prompted by members of the House of Representatives to clarify their position on the ADA with respect to websites. They said, amongst other things, that, “Absent the adoption of specific technical requirements for websites through rulemaking, public accommodations have flexibility in how to comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication. Accordingly, noncompliance with a voluntary technical standard for website accessibility does not necessarily indicate noncompliance with the ADA.
This is starting to all be part of a larger problem, one that shows a lack of commitment to be as inclusive as possible. But, when 20% of the world’s population lives with some sort of disability, why would you NOT want to have a compliant website? Why should we make someone, who already may have to go above and beyond to do everyday tasks, work harder to experience a website?
And if that doesn’t move you to consider updating your website, think about all the money you can potentially lose to lawsuits. Even though we have the DOJ’s take on this, the lawsuits are continuing to happen, and at an increasingly alarming rate. Take the 50 lawsuits that were filed at the end of 2018 against different universities for not having compliant websites. These lawsuits are likely to continue until clear legislation is established.
Beyoncé is not the first to be sued over an inaccessible website and she will probably not be the last. She just happens to be the first high-profile celebrity to be involved in a website lawsuit as public as this one (thanks, BuzzFeed!). All we can hope for is that this will open a door that leads us to a place where we won't think twice about creating compliant websites, we will just do it.
Everyone (from healthcare to B2B) can benefit from a more usable and ADA-compliant website. So, the best advice we can give you moving forward… be better than Beyoncé and update your website.
If you want to learn more ADA website compliance and how it can affect your bottom line, check out The Age of Accessibility: ADA Compliance for the Web or contact us today for more information.  


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