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Serial Plaintiffs and Click-by Lawsuits: The Rising Threat to Digital Accessibility

The landscape of digital accessibility is shifting rapidly. As online platforms become increasingly vital to everyday life, ensuring their accessibility for all individuals, including those with disabilities, has become a pressing issue. However, this increasing focus on digital accessibility has given rise to a troubling trend: serial plaintiffs and ‘click-by’ lawsuits.

Serial plaintiffs, individuals or organizations that file multiple lawsuits, have turned their attention to the realm of digital accessibility. Using freely available accessibility scanning tools, these plaintiffs identify non-compliant websites and file lawsuits en masse, often from the comfort of their homes. The resulting ‘click-by’ lawsuits – so-called because they’re as easy as a few clicks – have surged in recent years and pose a significant risk to businesses with an online presence.

These lawsuits are not just numerous, but they can also be costly. The average settlement cost for a digital accessibility lawsuit is estimated to be around $20,000, not including legal fees or the subsequent costs of website remediation. With thousands of these lawsuits filed each year, the collective financial impact is significant.

The number of digital accessibility lawsuits has been increasing year on year. According to a report by Seyfarth Shaw LLP, federal ADA Title III lawsuits increased by nearly 30% in 2020, with a significant portion of these suits related to website and app accessibility. And this trend shows no signs of slowing down. As long as websites remain non-compliant, they are vulnerable to these lawsuits.

Unlike ADA physical lawsuits, where plaintiffs must physically visit a location to claim inaccessibility, digital lawsuits require no such effort. The internet’s omnipresence allows plaintiffs to sue any business with a digital presence, regardless of their location. This convenience, coupled with the potential for substantial payouts, has created a lucrative avenue for serial plaintiffs.

This trend underscores the importance of proactive website accessibility remediation. Businesses can no longer afford to treat digital accessibility as an afterthought. True compliance involves more than just ticking boxes on a checklist; it requires a concerted effort to understand and implement the standards that make a website truly accessible. In conclusion, the rise of serial plaintiffs and ‘click-by’ lawsuits represents a potent threat to businesses with a digital presence. However, it also presents an opportunity for businesses to prioritize accessibility, both as a means of protecting against litigation and as a way of fostering inclusivity in the digital world. After all, an accessible website is not just a legal requirement – it’s a signal that a business values all its customers, regardless of their abilities.

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