A new start-up is aiming to help protect businesses from legal action.

The internet has transformed how we live and many of us now use it for everything from supermarket shopping and banking to switching energy supplier and booking a restaurant table.

It is now often straightforward to complete these everyday actions from any device – yet up to 15 million people in the UK alone face digital accessibility issues when they use websites from many leading commercial or public sector organisations.

Poor accessibility compliance is one of the fastest growing problems for website owners, who are increasingly at risk of legal action and also face lost revenues from consumers. The value of the so-called ‘purple pound’ in the UK - particularly from consumers who are visually impaired, suffer hearing loss or limited mobility - is estimated to be around £249 billion.

During 2018 in the US, over 5,000 lawsuits were filed against companies of all sizes for non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. European companies are also being targeted, as evident in the case brought against Scandinavian Airlines for ADA non-compliance. Most recently, Domino’s Pizza was found guilty of not making its website app accessible for blind people. In a landmark ruling, the company was forced to make adjustments to improve its user experience for the visually impaired.

AAAtraq aims to give website owners a low-cost, fast-track route to protecting their organisations from the risks of legal action with an easy-to-use managed service. According to Lawrence Shaw, AAAtraq’s founder and CEO, many of the world’s leading brands have websites that fail basic accessibility compliance checks.

“Although much of the legal action for non-compliance currently originates from the US, EU legislation equivalent to the ADA already exists. It is only a matter of time before the same ‘litigation culture’ begins to affect UK-based companies who fail to make their websites accessible to all. It’s similar to the rapid rise in employment tribunals we saw previously in the UK, only now the stakes are much higher.”

As a compliance identification and management service, AAAtraq assesses current levels of risk, provides guidance to demonstrate reasonable adjustment and enables ongoing certification. The managed service simplifies compliance reporting with a free initial summary ‘health check’ that can be performed immediately online by any organisation. Following this, a detailed risk report helps organisations to precisely identify their level of risk and locate areas for improvement within individual pages or content.

According to Shaw, accessibility legislation has become overly complicated. “Organisations are not deliberately non-compliant, but the level of misinformation in circulation coupled with a succession of successful legal cases in the US, has created the perfect storm,” he said.

This is because of three factors: opportunistic lawyers seeking financial rewards, digital suppliers who are not being held accountable by their clients and end user organisations who are too reliant on third party suppliers, and who are unsure of what is legally required to demonstrate ‘reasonable adjustment’.

“Digital inaccessibility lawsuits are one of the fastest growing financial risks for organisations who are literally ‘burying their heads in the sand’ because they don’t understand the accessibility legislation, and mistakenly believe it is both difficult and expensive to comply,” added Shaw.