Selling Online to the US: Improve your Website Accessibility to Avoid a Lawsuit

If your business sells goods or services online to customers in the US, it is important to be informed about your legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Categories: Business Insurance
Jul 21st, 2023 | By: CapriCMW

The ADA is a federal law that protects the civil rights of people with disabilities in the US. It prohibits discrimination based on disability and mandates equal access to private businesses and public spaces. The requirement for equal access extends to content and services available online; as such, websites must be accessible in order to be compliant with the ADA.

The ADA lists issues such as a lack of closed captioning in videos, not using text alternatives on images, and mouse-only navigation as barriers that can prevent people with disabilities (i.e., blindness, deafness, limited mobility) from accessing online content.

The ADA notes: "Inaccessible web content means that people with disabilities are denied equal access to information. An inaccessible website can exclude people just as much as steps at an entrance to a physical location. Ensuring web accessibility for people with disabilities is a priority for the Department of Justice.

Acera Insurance advisors have seen firsthand how legal action can be taken in US courts against Canadian companies that are not complying with the ADA.  

In these cases, the personal and advertising injury section of some commercial general liability (CGL) policies may provide coverage for the legal defence; however, this specific section of CGL policies are primarily intended to protect against libel, slander, and copyright infringement. Not all CGL policy wordings are broad enough to cover a claim arising from a violation of Canadian or American accessibility laws.     

Here in Canada, the Accessible Canada Act is our equivalent of the ADA at the federal level. Multiple provinces have also enacted or proposed their own accessibility laws.

To protect your business, we recommend seeking legal counsel to review applicable accessibility regulations and help identify where you may be non-compliant. Take the necessary steps to ensure your website and other parts of your operations are meeting accessibility standards. 

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