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October 15, 2021
5 minutes

How to Achieve ADA Compliance in California

California is the largest state in the United States with a population of almost 40 million. Aside from this, it’s also known as the state with the toughest laws.

For instance, California’s gun law is one of the country’s strictest gun laws. The state also has the strictest online privacy law.

That said, Web accessibility in California is no different and lawsuits are on the rise.

So, if you own a website or sell to residents from California, it’s important to ensure that your website is accessible to everyone. The way to become accessible is to follow the WCAG guidelines at level AA.

You can start with a free website scan that takes less than 15 seconds (in most cases)

Accessibility Checker

Scan your website for accessibility related issues for free

Background of ADA Compliance in California

As mentioned, California is a hot spot for lawsuits related to ADA compliance for websites because the state has civil rights acts that align with the ADA.

In this section, we’ll dive deeper into ADA compliance California.

California is committed to providing equal rights for people of all physical abilities.

Besides ADA federal requirements, California has implemented its own accessibility requirements. For instance, businesses aren’t only required to comply with the ADA; they’re also mandated to comply with the California Building Standards Code (CBC).

ADA laws are becoming more stringent in California, making it one of the most active legal spaces concerning website accessibility.

California has a reputation for being especially litigious when it comes to enforcing ADA laws.

According to California law, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights violation. Individuals or businesses that violate the ADA are subject to a minimum statutory penalty of $4,000 and additional attorney’s fees.

California has state laws related to accessibility. 

As we’ve mentioned, it’s not only ADA compliance but also compliance with state laws. For instance, the state has the Unruh Act and the CCPA, which we’ll discuss later.

ADA Lawsuit Rates in California

ADA Lawsuits Rate in California

Between 2017 and 2019, there was a staggering 177% rise in ADA lawsuits across the country.web

Statistics also showed an increase in lawsuits in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, lawsuits have increased by 12% from 2019.

Given the strict mandate in California, many individuals, businesses, and brands have had to face ADA compliance California lawsuits. In 2020, the state recorded 223 ADA website compliance California lawsuits.

While these are a lot less than New York, these numbers don’t include demand letters that reach court.

California AB 434 and the WCAG Guidelines

California AB 434 and the WCAG Guidelines

ADA website compliance California AB 434 requires all state agencies in California to ensure that their websites conform to Level AA standards of WCAG 2.0. This also include contractors working for these agencies.

The level AA standards of the WCAG 2.0 have four criteria:


A website is perceivable if its content and user interface can be perceived by one or more senses.


A website is considered operable if all users can navigate the website effectively.


A website is considered understandable if both its content and user interface are easy to understand.


A website is robust if standard web browsers and assistive technologies can interpret it.

Additionally, California state agencies must display a signed certification on their homepages to conform to Level AA of WCAG 2.0.
You can check where your website stands and if it conforms to WCAG 2.0 for free

Accessibility Checker

Scan your website for accessibility related issues for free

The Unruh Act

The Unruh Act

In addition to ADA compliance California, there is another law to protect differently-abled people – the Unruh Act.

Officially known as the California Civil Code section 5, the Unruh act is the law that prohibits discrimination from business establishments. It was enacted in 1959 and was later amended in 1992 to apply to persons with disabilities.

Because of the Unruh Act, the violation of ADA is a violation of the Unruh Act. That said, any website that is not ADA-compliant will violate federal law and the Unruh act.

If you win your lawsuit, you’re entitled to up to 3x the actual damages and at least $4,000 in statutory damages. Additionally, these damages include emotional distress.

On the other hand, plaintiffs are only entitled to attorney’s fees and injunctive relief under the ADA. Meaning that it’s more lucrative to file accessibility claims in California because the penalties are higher.

California Consumer Privacy Act

California Consumer Privacy Act

CCPA is another law related to accessibility. The CCPA requires that businesses give their customers the right to know how they use their personal information.

These include details like email and shopping history. Though CCPA mainly focuses on consumer rights, notices, and processes, businesses often ignore accessibility requirements.

A clause in the Act requires business privacy policies to be “reasonably accessible” to people with disabilities. Moreover, they should conform to WCAG 2.1 Level AA.

Here are a few examples of the CCPA’s accessibility requirements:
  • A website and its components should function with screen readers;
  • Businesses must provide notices in an alternative format for people with disabilities if the notice is not online; and
  • Websites should provide alternative text for non-text content like videos.

Risk and Benefits of California Website Accessibility Compliance and Non-Compliance

ADA non-compliance in other states requires you to pay attorney’s fees. However, a violation of the Unruh Act can result in a minimum of $4,000 in damages.

On the other hand, you can benefit if your website complies with all accessibility standards. For instance, there is less legal risk associated with meeting Unrah website compliance.

Additionally, there’s the prospect of reaching a larger audience. Not only that, but you also help differently-abled people by providing a great user experience.

How to Know if Your Website Meets California Accessibility Standards

How to Know if Your Website Meets California Accessibility Standards

As a website owner, you must expect that at least one of your visitors might have a disability.

There are several ways to find out whether you website is ADA compliant:

Perform a website audit

Auditing your website helps you identify accessibility issues. Thus, performing one is critical to maintaining an accessible website.

Make your digital assets ADA and WCAG compliant

You can easily comply with the ADA and the WCAG if your site’s elements meet the necessary standards. For instance, you can use proper headings and alt text.

Using ADA tools and resources to ensure ADA compliance in California

Many reputable brands and businesses such as AudioEyeaccessiBeEqualWeb, and Userway provide solutions to assist with website accessibility.

To Wrap Up!

California is a state that places great importance on accessibility requirements. Because of this, they’ll hold you accountable if you’re not interested in adopting these standards on your site.

Making your website ADA compliant and following WCAG guidelines is beneficial for businesses and individuals.

It can increase your number of prospective clients and visitors and also enhance your brand value. Most importantly, it can save you from expensive lawsuits.

It’s important to take all the necessary actions to make your website ADA compliant to avoid any issues. You can begin by conducting an audit of your website on Accessibility Checker.

If you found this article on website ADA compliance California insightful, we recommend checking out our other posts on ADA compliance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is required to be ADA compliant?

The ADA requires all businesses, including those not open to the public, to comply with accessible design standards.

Privately-run companies and nonprofit or charitable organizations serving the public or employing at least 15 people must be ADA compliant.

What happens when you are not compliant?

In California, any violation of the ADA is a civil rights violation. It carries a minimum statutory penalty of $4,000, plus attorney’s fees.

Additionally, the ADA gives people with disabilities the right to file lawsuits in Federal court and obtain court orders to stop violations. Meaning businesses are subject to ADA violations regardless of where they live.

Who is exempt from the ADA?

Religious organizations and private clubs need not comply with the ADA. Additionally, ADA doesn’t apply to entities that are historically exempt from federal laws.

How do you become ADA compliant?

The most important step in becoming ADA compliant is knowing that your website needs to be ADA compliant.

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