Zillow is getting sued for being inaccessible to the visually impaired. A lawsuit was filed against Compass, too. Are you next?
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance is a real thing, sort of. In truth, the only websites required to comply with the ADA are government websites, or key related companies that support government services to Americans.
My favorite broker website’s ADA compliance page belongs to William Raveis – raveis.com – click here to view Raveis ADA Page –
The complaint lodged against Zillow requests that the popular search site deploy the following remedies. From the American Genius Blog:
• Hire a Web Accessibility Consultant (WAC) and incorporate all of the recommendations within 60 days of receiving them.
• Train certain staff on accessibility.
• Submit to a quarterly usability test and a period audit.
• Create a web accessibility policy, provide that policy to certain staff.
• Make a public statement on the policy, with an accessible contact form and feedback option.
• Immediately escalate all usability calls to properly trained staff.
• Submit to a two-year monitoring period.
The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS® (NAR) has been tracking this ADA issue for many years. Guidance that they published as far back as 2017 warns of the threat from unscrupulous law firms hoping to cash in on the federal government’s delay in issuing final rules for how to make websites accessible to Americans with disabilities. More often than not, the law firm offers to settle the complaint for a fee. NAR has proactively addressed these concerns by writing letters to the Department of Justice lending support, and urging them to move forward with definitive rule-making.
Websites did not exist when the ADA rules were constructed, so the laws did not contemplate disability rights. As such, the courts are taking up cases that apply ADA laws to the internet. Today, the courts are split on rulings related to compliance. A federal court in California ruled that there is no requirement to comply (Robles v. Domino’s Pizza) because the DOJ failed to issue clear guidance. In Florida, a federal court (Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores) ruled that that the Store’s website is a “gateway” to the stores, and that there was no contact phone number, suggesting that some sites must be ADA compliant depending on what the website displays.
NAR advises its members that it is important to have on their websites a statement along the lines of “if you are having any trouble experiencing this website for any reason, call 000-000-0000.” NAR has the following statement on their website:
“The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is committed to providing an accessible website. If you have difficulty accessing content, have difficulty viewing a file on the website, or notice any accessibility problems, please contact NAR to specify the nature of the accessibility issue and any assistive technology you use. NAR will strive to provide the content you need in the format you require.
NAR welcomes your suggestions and comments about improving ongoing efforts to increase the accessibility of this website.”
You can think of these issues the following way. These ADA lawsuits are like a bear chasing the easy money. The bigger you are, the more likely you are to be attractive to the bear (think portals, franchises, MLSs, Associations, large brokers). Your goal should be to get into compliance faster than your competitors. The bear will first catch those who have done nothing. Don’t be the last one to address compliance.