Website accessibility – a blindspot to be dealt with

Website accessibility – a blindspot to be dealt with

Written by

Osnat Nitay
July 20, 2023

owner of a brokerage firm decided to increase his income by exposing itself to a larger audience and created a website. The number of requests for service increased significantly following the launch of the website, but one day he was astonished to receive a lawsuit in the amount of ILS 1,500,000 against him and the business, due to the inaccessibility of the firm's website.

The Israeli legislator set that beyond the obligation to make public buildings, shops, cultural centers and businesses physically accessible, there is also an obligation to make accessible websites and applications that offer and provide various services to the public in Israel, including websites for companies which base is not in Israel, but provide services to the country's population. The Commission for Equal Rights in the Ministry of Justice defines as required for accessibility, inter alia, any private entity operating for profit. The law also demands that the information on the provision of accessible services at the physical location of the business appear in an accessible manner on the business's website. In addition, there is an obligation to publish the details of the accessibility coordinator whose existence is required by law in any business that employs more than 25 employees. Because a person with visual impairment or hearing disability requires a specific software to assist in web-surfing, the website must be compatible with such so that the information must appear so that even people with impaired vision and hearing or those with motor disabilities can access it from the website. The legislator even went as far as to establish a binding standard by the Israeli Standards Institute with exact requirements for the adaptation of each required site to the target populations.

Most of the lawsuits filed in this area are class action lawsuits that end in settlement before the date of the first hearing, under which the website owner undertakes to repair and make the website accessible and compensates the plaintiff usually for a significantly lower amount than the original claim amount. For example, in a case discussed in the Haifa district Court in January, 2022, a class-action lawsuit filed for ILS 4 million against a company that manages hotels in Israel on the grounds that the website lacked publication about the accessibility and suitability of the hotels for people with disabilities, and that the chain avoided appointing an accessibility coordinator in beach of the regulations. The claim ended in a compromise with a compensation of only ILS 13,000. In another case discussed in the Tel Aviv District Court in January, 2021, a class action was filed against a college because the college's website was not accessible to the disabled public and no accessibility statement was published on the website. In this case, requests to the college to correct the deficiencies, prior to the filing of the class action lawsuit, were not answered.

Therefore, when a business owner or a private or public company builds a website for the business, it is important to ensure that all the necessary details are in place to comply with the requirement of the law for accessibility for people with disabilities and in bigger business it is recommended to verify with an accessibility consultant or a lawyer knowledgeable in the field that one fully meet the required standards ahead of time, thus covering that blindspot and preempting a remedy for the blow.