Got sued over website accessibility?

Don’t count on being able to recoup those costs from someone else.

Person running finger down invoice on laptop screen taking notes on paper in a binder
Person running finger down invoice on laptop screen taking notes on paper in a binder

Litigation insurance

Some organizations carry insurance specifically to cover the costs of litigation. However:

  1. All policies have limits — if your Digital Property accessibility litigation costs are 200K and your policy limit is 50K, you will still be out of pocket the difference even if your insurer doesn’t nickel and dime you over every single line item.
  2. Some policies cap hourly expenses for outside counsel and only cover “reasonable” expert costs. Specialty litigation like accessibility can easily exceed those caps.

We paid someone to develop/manage our Digital Property. Aren’t they the ones responsible for litigation costs?

Unfortunately, even when other organizations contributed to inaccessibility, they aren’t always the ones who end up paying for it.

  • Lawyers only care that they get paid. Whose pockets the money eventually come from is irrelevant to them.

My subcontractor committed to WCAG compliant work.

Organizations who are sued over inaccessibility may have the possibility of a counter-suit if the contract with the subcontractor expressly included WCAG compliance. However, even if there was a WCAG compliance clause in your contract:

  • The remedy for breach of contract is likely a remediated Digital Property, not financial damages.

There is no specific WCAG clause in the contract, just a general statement saying the subcontractor will follow all laws. Is that sufficient?

Most contracts have a boilerplate clause that says the contractor will follow all federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

  • WCAG compliance litigation resulting largely in plaintiffs’ victories is NOT the same as “law.”

But the widget/overlay/plugin company told me that all we had to do was install their solution, and that would make our digital property accessible. Won’t they be responsible if we lose?

There is no widget, overlay, or plugin that can make your Digital Property 100 % WCAG 2.1 level AA compliant (or lawsuit-proof) without human intervention and remediation. It just isn’t possible.

Blogger, disability advocate, nerd. Bringing the fire on ableism. A11y Architect @ VMware. Wheelchair user w/ a deaf daughter. CS, Law, and Business background

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