Web developers unaware of ADA accessibility standards, business owners face lawsuits

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Business owners are finding themselves in the middle of lawsuits because their websites are not ADA accessible. However, many website templates don’t offer accessibility and many developers aren’t aware of the rules.

Ben Tundis, owner of Island Comfort Footwear in Clearwater, was recently sued by a blind woman in south Florida. She claims she couldn’t buy shoes on his website because it wasn’t accessible with her screen-reading software.

The woman who sued Tundis has sued 175 business over webstie accessibility over the past two years.

“Now they’re attacking mom and pop stores, small businesses. We just can’t just write some big check and walk away,”  Tundis said.

Our recent Better Call Behnken report highlighted thousands of ADA website cases filed in federal courts in 2018. Business owners, web developers and activists are looking into what can be done to improve accessibility and avoid lawsuits.

Shawn Warmouth, a web developer with Thirteen05 Creative in Tampa, says there needs to be clear ADA regulations.

Currently, there is an industry standard that has been recognized by courts, but Warmouth says most clients don’t ask for ADA compliance sites.

“If you build a building it has to be ADA compliant and there’s an inspector who comes out and tells you, ‘hey, this light switch isn’t right,’ so you know exactly what is and isn’t. With a website, it’s the wild west. We don’t know,” Warmouth said.

Chris M. Law of Accessibility Track says those standards are rarely included in basic website templates businesses buy. He advises consumers to ask questions of their web developer. If they are not willing to learn how to make your site accessbile, he says, find another developer.

“The onus for accessibility is on the small business owner, not on the people who provide the services for the owner,” Law said.

“If you’re a small business owner and you’re going to have your parking lot redone, no one is going to ask you any questions about the blue paint for the wheelchair spaces. It’s all just built in,” Law said.