The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination based on disability. Businesses and organizations with public services or spaces must provide accommodations and equal access for people with disabilities. If they fail to do so, they can be held accountable in court for violating civil rights laws.
Because they have been deemed to be virtual public spaces, websites must comply with ADA regulations as well. Cannabis and CBD businesses must take even greater precautions, especially those without brick-and-mortar locations. As such, their websites are consumers’ only means of accessing services and purchasing products. Many have failed to provide this accessibility, and the industry has experienced a wave of lawsuits as a result.
Accessibility for Blind or Visually Impaired Users
Blind or visually impaired consumers rely on screen-readers, which allow them to navigate the site and access content. The screen-readers can only function, however, if the website has proper code and title elements that can be rendered into text. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) outlines website standards to properly accommodate for these users. If cannabis or CBD businesses fail to meet these standards, blind or visually impaired consumers have no means of accessing their products and services.
Between 2017 and 2018, the rate of website non-compliance lawsuits tripled. One consumer has filed lawsuits against more than 60 different businesses, several of which are cannabis or CBD companies, and all because they failed to comply with ADA regulations.
But complying with website-access regulations is not easy—especially because the Justice Department has not officially created guidelines. Additionally, updating an entire site to meet standards can cost thousands of dollars. The risk of a lawsuit, however, is likely not worth the attempt to save money—especially since many businesses have been sued multiple times in recent years.
Fortunately, W3C provides in-depth explanations and tutorials to help you build a website with critical tools, including:
- Page titles and headings
- Image text alternatives (“alt text”)
- Sufficient color contrast ratio
- Text resizing capabilities
- Multimedia alternatives
- Keyboard access
While complying with ADA standards may not be a quick or straightforward process, it protects you from potential lawsuits, opens your business to more potential revenue, and, most importantly, keeps you from unintentionally discriminating against your customers or clients.
Contact Our Firm for One-On-One Support
At Purdy & Bailey, LLP, our cannabis law attorneys have more than 50+ years of experience counseling and representing business owners. We can help you develop compliance plans, avoid lawsuits, and build the foundations your business needs to thrive for years to come. If someone has filed suit against your business, we can build an aggressive defense strategy to protect your rights in court.