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The Dangers of ADA Non-Compliance and Fines

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ADA History

In 1990, the United States passed a comprehensive civil rights law to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination called The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is why we have disabled parking requirements, service counter height requirements, and wheelchair ramp mandates in building codes. This act came one year before the first web page went live on August 6, 1991. Since then, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been tasked to keep up with the ever-evolving worldwide web, constantly updating ADA compliance.

Note: If you'd like a team of developers to asses if your website is ADA-compliant and ensure it is, you can learn more about our agency here and reach out about working with us here.

ADA Compliance + Websites

So, what happens when a business fails to meet the changing rules and regulations? Let’s check out what’s happening in one New York industry: art galleries. In 2018, over 75 galleries were sued for not maintaining ADA-compliant websites. This trend is only growing. In the U.S., the number of federal website accessibility lawsuits reached 2.2K in 2018. That works out to a 177% increase from 2017. This tremendous increase in compliance cases is in large part a result of vague descriptions of the ADA. However, regardless of why a website is not compliant, the penalties can be steep.

Comparison chart of ADA Compliance lawsuits from 2017 vs. 2018

ADA Non-Compliance Penalties


Organizations and businesses can be fined up to $75,000 for a single ADA violation, raising that fine to $150,000 for additional violations. This is a pretty large bill for most businesses and can have devastating effects.

Compare the cost of upgrading your website to a hefty ADA fine and suddenly affordable website migrations don’t seem expensive in the least. When hiring a web developer, it is important to choose a company that understands the laws in your state and knows how to ensure a compliant migration.


The ADA states, "No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation."

As the Internet has become a major source of goods and services, many courts have shifted to include websites as places of “public accommodation”. This interpretation has varied among courts, resulting in a circuit split regarding whether a website must have a brick-and-mortar store tie, such as a physical restaurant, to fall within the scope of the ADA.

The only way to avoid the negative outcomes of neglecting to meet ADA standards is to maintain the compliance of your site.


Beyond the financial risk of ADA compliance, one must ask the moral question: why should resources and information be inaccessible to select groups? ADA compliance is centered around providing impartial services to all citizens, regardless of their ability. Making websites accessible to all only takes a few simple adjustments, but can make a huge difference in people’s lives.


Guidelines for maintaining ADA compliance are posted here.

Beyond this, our web developers here at O8 offer an extensive audit of your website to determine if it meets ADA compliance criteria. We assess if the site provides the best possible user experience for people using assistive technology.

Our audit process will identify any and all issues that might be affecting website navigation for people using assistive technology and offer detailed recommendations on how to address each one. Reach out to us now for an ADA Compliance Assessment.

About Seth Viebrock

In no particular order, Seth has built websites for famous artists like Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey, led a team as CTO at a social network startup company, co-presented at Stanford and the International Society for Neuronal Regulation Conference on an EEG study in consciousness, traveled to Tokyo for data center network security assessments, worked on world-class e-commerce software as a software engineer, and provided Drupal expertise for Estee Lauder and their many international brands. Seth grew up with the web, starting his first web design company at the age of 16, and this company in...
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