Please note, we are not attorneys and the following article is not a substitute for, nor does it constitute, legal advice. Our goal with this article is to provide you with the best digital solutions (that we are aware of) when it comes to ADA compliance for wineries. These options may not prevent your winery from being sued. We recommend you present these options to your attorney and make your decisions based on her/his recommendations.
In late 2018 a flurry of lawsuits began to rock the wine world – specifically, the New York wine world. Fifteen Hudson Valley and Long Island wineries were sued for being in violation of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) rules. The lawsuits were filed on behalf of a visually-impaired woman who claimed the winery websites did not make available to her basic site features (eCommerce, club membership, contact information, etc.) through a compatible screen reader.
Wineries scrambled. These lawsuits were for tens of thousands of dollars, and no one seemed to know how to fix the problem. At Lunabean Media, we received a couple dozen emails and calls, each one asking how to make their website ADA compliant.
We were on it. We looked up ADA website requirements. We sat in on webinars held by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation and their attorneys. We discovered a good number of NY wineries had simply shut down their websites as a precautionary measure, as there were no clear ADA guidelines to follow. Worse, we were told that several of the sued wineries had actually passed ADA compliance checkers. Best case scenario for a sued winery, was a single settlement for $10,000. Everyone else was paying much, much more.
Since then, wineries continue to be sued. In fact, we got word just last week (February 2019) from a Finger Lakes client that a new round of lawsuits had hit some of their winery friends. It’s fair to say, it’s scary times for wineries in New York.
So, what is a winery to do?
We wish we had a perfect answer for you. We don’t. ADA website compliance has no federally codified guidelines. All we know is wineries are expected to take “all steps possible” to meet the high standard of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 AA). Here’s what we suggest to take those steps.
UserWay – Strong baseline ADA compliance for wineries
UserWay provides a great and FREE widget that increases compliance with WCAG 2.1 , ATAG 2.0 , ADA , & Section 508 requirements.
It’s super easy to use (copy and paste a code into your website), it’s slick (check in out in the bottom right corner of this very page), and even comes with an accessibility statement.
Again, this is baseline compliance. No one is saying installing this will protect you from a lawsuit. However, it does legitimately provide web accessibility for those with many disabilities (which is a good thing that’s being lost by many seeking ADA compliance). So, for now, it may be a good option for wineries outside of high-litigation zones that want to address compliance.
However, if you are looking for a bigger solution – one that’s even more likely to protect you from being sued, we suggest *drumroll please*….
User1st – Remediation and monitoring for WCAG 2.0 AA compliance for Wineries
For wineries looking for WCAG 2.0 AA and 508 compliance, we recommend User1st.
User1st is the real deal (like they do the compliance for IKEA, Intel, and the United Nations, real deal). It’s not a free widget (although we love a free widget). It’s a team. A team that audits your website, finds your greatest vulnerabilities, fixes those vulnerabilities FAST, then adds its own ADA tool to your site. In other words, it doesn’t bring your website closer to WCAG compliance – they make it compliant. As far as we are concerned, USER1st is the best defense a winery can have against these lawsuits.
Of course, this defense costs quite a bit. We did manage to negotiate a rate for wineries, but it’s still quite costly (cost depending on the size of the website). Expect to pay between $2000 and $4000 for the first year, and around $1500 for each year following. That said, we hope Congress will help define ADA compliance for websites soon, making additional years of coverage unnecessary. But, in the meantime, while wineries are left in ADA Compliance limbo, we wanted to share with them what we know, after doing hours of research and negotiations.
If you are a winery interested in getting the Lunabean Media negotiated rate with User1st, please fill out the form below and we will connect you with our team at User1st, who will give you the best rate possible.
Please note, we are getting a small commission for wineries that sign up through us. However, that commission offer was suggested by User1st after we had already sent clients their way. In other words, we were recommending them before they offered us a commission.