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A recent lawsuit filed by a visually impaired man against the website Pokemon Center is a small reminder of just how inaccessible the modern world can be, even with all the modern technology available. After all, the ADA was passed before the Dotcom boom, and has been the law of the land for nearly three decades.
The Pokemon Center website lawsuit illustrates just how easy it is for a website, even one run by a large and sophisticated company, to be out of compliance with the ADA, leaving disabled customers unable to use the website. This kind of action (or lack of action) can subject a business to costly litigation and potentially costly legal damages as well.
Pokemon for All
In short, the Pokemon Center website is being sued because images did not have descriptive "alt-text," and was missing other elements to allow the site to be accessible to individuals who rely on screen reading software. In case you don't know, that text that appears when you hover your mouse pointer over an image is the"alt-text." The plaintiff in the case was unable to navigate the website, which sells Pokemon merchandise, even with the assistance of his screen-reading software.
Though many businesses are aware of the requirements to make sure that their brick and mortar businesses are wheelchair accessible, website accessibility is one of those things that often falls by the wayside. Notably, the ADA requires businesses to make the goods and services they offer be accessible to all, unless one of a few rather limited exceptions apply. But when it comes to websites, the visually impaired are fighting an uphill battle, as even prominent magazines such as Playboy had to be sued before coming into full compliance.
Fortunately, when it comes to ADA compliance, website accessibility may be among the cheapest and easiest fixes for businesses to complete. In addition to making sure that pictures on the website are compatible with screen reading software, websites will want to ensure that any other content, such as PDFs, or other image files, are compliant as well. The Department of Justice has a guide on website accessibility as well.