Why Digital Accessibility Law is Good

A stack of clipboards with printed documents attached

Sometimes you read something online that really makes you think. Today, I read an article from a gentleman named Jordan McGillis, and I have some thoughts.

Firstly, I want to give McGillis some credit. He is clearly super passionate about ensuring that startups can innovate and disrupt markets, which I can certainly relate to.

IA Labs is indeed a startup, so I appreciate that desire for innovation. Jordan makes valid points, but I do disagree with him on some.

Let’s chat about disability legislation, shall we?

What is Assembly Bill 1757?

Assembly Bill (AB) 1757 is a piece of proposed legislation within California that imposes digital accessibility requirements on businesses.

As Jordan points out, AB 1757 entitles people with visual impairment or other disabilities to statutory damages if they can prove that a website or app had “caused them to experience a difference in their access to, or use of, the website as compared to other users.”

Basically, a person with sight loss for example – could file a lawsuit against a business that doesn’t have an accessible app or website. If that person is not able to purchase a product due to the website being inaccessible, then they may be able to seek damages.

Jordan’s Points

I would highly recommend reading Jordan’s article (if you haven’t already), but I’ll give a summary.

To paraphrase; Jordan argues that forcing small businesses to be accessible might prevent new creative ideas from hitting the market, as owners won’t want to risk accessibility lawsuits.

He uses the example of Air BnB who started as a small operation and went on to completely disrupt the market. Jordan’s point is that if similar startups like Air BnB, were forced to comply with the likes of the web content accessibility guidelines, they may not have had the chance to grow and realise their potential.

He quotes Kris Rivenburgh, who has run courses on complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Kris states the new law will “inflame serial digital accessibility litigation that’s already been out of control for years.”

I disagree with these points completely, but first we need to address something.

David, aren’t you a bit biased?

I work for a company called Inclusion & Accessibility Labs (IA Labs for short), a company that could hypothetically benefit from this legislation. We provide accessibility audits of apps and websites – so if businesses want to ensure they comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) they generally come to us.

That does, in fact, make me somewhat biased. But I am one thing before an IA Labs employee.

I am a visually impaired person.

I have been visually impaired since birth and a screen reader user since I was around the age of five or six. Digital accessibility has a real impact for me. It dictates what apps I use and can often dictate things I simply can’t easily do.

This definitely makes me biased and I acknowledge that, but another way to look at this is that I have direct experience of what Digital accessibility means. I feel qualified to discuss the impacts of AB 1757.

Why I think AB 1757 is good news

Digital accessibility is super important. People with disabilities – in my view – have a right to the same stuff as everyone else.

The problem is that many businesses simply don’t think about disabled people. That’s not their fault – it’s simply a given that most people care about what they are familiar with. If you’re not familiar with disabled people you probably don’t think of them all that much.

When someone who does not have a disability walks into a hotel room, their first thought probably isn’t going to be about how inaccessible the thermostat is for visually impaired people, or how hard the towels will be to reach for someone who is in a wheelchair.

Not being aware of this stuff isn’t a bad thing. The truth is it isn’t relevant to many people. However, it should be taken into consideration at some point so for those of whom it does impact, it’s not a point of frustration.

The same is true online. Many people don’t think about screen readers day to day, but they should be considered every once in a while, to ensure that everyone can have a positive experience online.

In my view, what AB 1757 does is force companies to at least consider people with disabilities. In an ideal world, the Internet would be accessible but unfortunately, that’s just not reality.

I think requiring digital experiences to be accessible by law is honestly a good thing and genuinely does make a difference.

Does it slow down business? Sometimes. Do I think that is worthwhile considering the obvious upsides of a more accessible world? I would say so.

Why can’t we wait until businesses find their feet a bit?

It is much easier to consider accessibility from the start rather than trying to retrofit afterwards. Even if companies do consider accessibility at some point, it would be way better for everyone if disabled users were included from the get-go.

Facebook once had a mantra of “move fast and break things”, but is that really the best approach? Sometimes it is better to move at a reasonable pace and do things properly. I believe AB 1757 is a good way to encourage new businesses to take a bit more time to consider potential customers.

Will this stuff stop innovation?

Absolutely not. If you look at technologies like ChatGPT which have taken the world by storm in recent years, they moved incredibly fast but were accessible throughout.

Accessibility isn’t this scary, expensive thing that many of us believe it is. With just a bit of foresight, you can be more than covered.

I fully understand that for some small businesses, digital accessibility is something that can seem like an inconvenience, but ‘kicking the can down the road’ isn’t going to solve the problem either.

I wish we didn’t need laws to make the world accessible but like it or not, I feel that for now at least – we do.

The physical world and digital world shouldn’t be treated differently.

Let’s say a wheelchair user goes to a new restaurant in town. Imagine that restaurant said “Sorry, we can’t accommodate you as the door is too small. Don’t worry though, we may be able to fix that in 2 years when there’s more money available.”

That wouldn’t be very fair now, would it? Is the business wanting to launch quickly a justifiable reason for this? For me, I don’t think so. When laws require accessibility, it brings it closer to the front of our minds and the inaccessible door might not be there in the first place.

The digital world should be the same. We need to ensure that the world of tomorrow is inclusive and I honestly think legislation is one tool that we can use in order to help that mission.

Some people are just looking for lawsuits

This is a point that’s hard to argue with as it’s sometimes true. There are some with disabilities who can be very quick to take legal action, to a point where I’d argue that they are doing disabled people a complete disservice.

What I would say, however, is that these people are a minority. Legal action should never be the first action and should be avoided where possible. That said, it shouldn’t be taken off the table as (sadly) it is sometimes needed.

Maybe we should require individuals taking these lawsuits to have attempted to reasonably assist the business in improving their accessibility. This would reduce the number of serial litigators, and would likely be used more effectively.

Maybe we need to make sure these pieces of legislation are written correctly instead of just striking them down. It is about compromise.

What more can we do?

Maybe there should be the likes of grants available to help small startups in ensuring they are accessible. We instead could start teaching more about inclusion to software engineers and designers within college to make it seem less daunting. I have no objection to anything like that, but I do think we need the digital accessibility legislation to protect the rights of those with disabilities.


Jordan McGillis raises some interesting points and while I disagree with him in some ways, there is no denying that many small business owners look at legislations like this as a pain.

What I would say to those businesses is this. Accessibility comes in many forms. If you try your best, most people with disabilities really appreciate that. Working with your customers is best practice anyway, so talk to your customers about becoming accessible.

Thank you so much Jordan for bringing up this interesting topic. We might not agree totally, but it’s great to have these conversations.

Learn more about IA Labs

We have lots of free resources on this website that can help you learn a bit more about accessibility, and if you need more support, you can always reach out to us.

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