Website Accessibility: The Plaintiff and the PDF

Mary GillenWe asked Mary Gillen, Associate Member and web developer for clients throughout the United States, to provide information for you, our readers, of the importance of having an ADA Accessible website. Her valuable information follows:

A few months ago, one of my clients called me…in a panic.

“We received an accessibility demand letter about our website. I know you have been warning us that we should make our website accessible for quite some time, but we didn’t listen. Please tell me what we have to do! The letter says we only have 10 days to comply before we are sued.”

Yep. It’s happening…more and more. The attack of the serial plaintiff.

REALITY: There are serial plaintiffs out there.

Businesses are being sued in alarming numbers! People who have disabilities are alleging that the websites they are visiting and/or mobile applications they are using are not accessible to them.

In 2017, more than 800 federal lawsuits were filled in response to web inaccessibility. And, there were more federal lawsuits filed in the first six months of 2018 (over 1000) than in all of 2017.

Your business could be at risk.

If you have a public-facing website (meaning if anyone on the planet can access your site), your online content needs to be accessible to folks who are blind, have low vision, are deaf or have hearing loss, have learning disabilities, experience cognitive limitations, have limited movement and speech disabilities, or photosensitivity.

And do you know what is causing one of the biggest problems with website content accessibility? PDF files!

REALITY: PDF content needs to be accessible, too.

Non-compliant PDFs is one of the most common accessibility complaints that plaintiffs have when filing suit.


Example One: One restaurant client had his menus in PDF format, and received a demand letter that complained that the plaintiff could not access the menu choices via an accessibility reader.

Example Two: Another client offered discount coupons in PDF format that were not accessible. Winn Dixie and Dunkin Donuts were also sued for not providing accessible discount coupons.

Example Three: A software company received a demand letter because they did not provide product information as accessible PDFs.


Have your website content tested now for accessibility. Having a fully-documented test can help you prove that you are working towards ADA compliance should you receive a demand letter.


Find out by visiting this website to learn about Mary Gillen’s accessible website services. Then either call 508-768-8418 or email her to discuss how you, too, can have an accessible website.