More than 11,000 lawsuits were filed against companies in 2021 – including many restaurants – because their websites did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). More specifically, these websites did not offer tools that adequately serve people with disabilities such as visual, hearing, cognitive, and/or other impairments. This number marks a 350% increase in lawsuits of this kind since 2013.

And the number of lawsuits doesn’t include demand letters, which can be ruinous to a small business. According to one estimate, the number of demand letters – where the recipient of the letter may be threatened to pay a fee into tens of thousands of dollars and comply with the law or face an even costlier lawsuit – increased from 40,000 to 265,000 between 2018 and 2020. In fact, in some communities, law firms are targeting swaths of restaurants that may be out of compliance.

Not complying with ADA guidelines is a potentially costly proposition. The good news is that the innovative MenuLabs website builder and accessibility feature can dramatically reduce your litigation risk while also making your restaurant, café, pizzeria, or food truck website ADA compliant in a snap. This accessibility feature provides technology that automatically assists people with disabilities anytime they visit your website and provides your business with an official compliance certification statement as proof of accommodation.

What Is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a landmark civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including school, work, transportation, and other spaces that are open to the general public. The ADA grants similar protection from discrimination to people with disabilities as those afforded based on age, color, gender, nation of origin, race, religion, and sex. It also guarantees equal opportunity and access for those with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, telecommunications, and state/government services.

Title III of the ADA addresses businesses specifically. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation, which include restaurants, private schools, sports stadiums, office buildings, and more. Under Title III of the ADA, businesses are required to provide “reasonable modifications” to serve people with disabilities.

Does the ADA Apply to Websites?

Although the ADA does not specifically mention web accessibility, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has regularly stated that websites qualify as “places of public accommodation.” In March 2022, the DOJ published guidance on web accessibility and the ADA, stating:

The Department of Justice does not have a regulation setting out detailed standards, but the Department’s longstanding interpretation of the general nondiscrimination and effective communication provisions applies to web accessibility.

Over the past 20 years, numerous lawsuits and DOJ settlements have supported this interpretation. Put simply: If your website is intended for public use, it should be accessible for all users.

What Is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility is the practice of making sure that websites and web-related tools and technologies are usable by everyone, regardless of ability.

Like wheelchair ramps and Braille elevator controls, which are commonplace in the physical world, digital concepts such as image alt text and closed captions remove online barriers for those with disabilities. When it comes to compliance with the ADA, business owners must prioritize accessibility – both in-person and on the web – or face hefty consequences.

How Does the ADA Determine Web Accessibility?

Because the ADA does not have technical standards for web accessibility, the DOJ recommends that businesses use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to evaluate the accessibility of their websites and digital content.

Published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG 2.0 consists of 61 success criteria, which are written as pass-or-fail statements that address common accessibility issues like low-contrast text, missing or non-descriptive alt text, and keyboard accessibility issues. Although it isn’t codified into law, past rulings have set WCAG 2.0 Level AA as the standard for web accessibility.

WCAG 2.1 (which was released in June 2018) incorporates an additional 17 success criteria, for a total of 78 success criteria.

How Do You Make Your Website and App ADA Compliant?

Here’s where it gets easy: MenuLabs can take all accessibility issues off your plate with our new and innovative MenuLabs website builder and accessibility feature. It’s a bit technical behind the scenes, but that’s for us to handle so you can stay focused on building great menus, satisfying customers, and keeping your staff motivated. To learn more, contact MenuLabs at (email) or (phone), and we’ll have you ADA compliant in no time.