Tag: Website

Website Accessibility

Most businesses, including banks and financial institutions, have websites.  It would be fair to say that today a business without a website is an anachronism.  Now, most businesses must face a new regulatory framework regarding website accessibility, something that has been on the horizon for years but as of late is coming to forefront.  Not only must websites be easily navigable, simple to operate and robust — for obvious business reasons — now they need to be accessible to people with disabilities.  And, the issues raised here can also be considered in the context of employee use of websites and computer access generally.

What is Web Accessibility?

People who use the web have a growing variety of characteristics. Any business with a website cannot assume that all users are accessing content using the same web browser or operating system or using a typical smartphone, common computer, or traditional monitor, keyboard or mouse. The following circumstances must now be considered:

  • Individuals who are blind may use audible output such as screen readers that read web content using synthesized speech or refreshable Braille devices.
  • Individuals with learning disabilities may use audible output, along with software that highlights words or phrases that are read aloud using synthesized speech.
  • Individuals with physical disabilities that affect the use of their hands may be unable to use a mouse, and instead may rely on the use of assistive technologies such as speech recognition, head pointers, mouth sticks, or eye-gaze tracking systems.
  • Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and unable to access audio content may need video output that is captioned or audio that is transcribed.

The U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) recently presented its viewpoint in “Statements of Interest” filed in June 2015 in two lawsuits originally brought by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) against two universities about the alleged inaccessibility of videos on their websites. DOJ filed Statements of Interest in these lawsuits brought by the NAD against Harvard and MIT under Title III of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act alleging that they had failed to caption the thousands of videos posted on their websites.  Both of those cases are pending in court, and DOJ stated that a proposed regulation is scheduled for publication in Spring 2016.  There is little doubt that there will be more website accessibility cases across the country.

In the meantime, though, DOJ continues to pressure businesses into making their websites accessible by threatening enforcement actions.  In light of these developments, it may be wise to assume that the obligation to make websites accessible exists now — even prior to the publication of new regulations.

Making Your Website Accessible.

The international website standards organization, World Wide Web Consortium (also known as WC3), has published version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, commonly known as WCAG 2.0 AA.  WCAG 2.0 AA has been endorsed by DOJ and federal courts.  It would be wise to review these standards and consult with a web content consultant familiar with these standards and website accessibility generally. As a starting point, there are also free online tools that will check web pages for accessibility.

The key takeaway for now is that the law is far from fully developed in this new arena, but in order to stay ahead of the curve and avoid potential costly litigation and, more importantly, to adequately serve customers with disabilities, consider web accessibility issues now.

If you have any questions in this area, please contact:

Jonathan M. Weis at:

jweis@lgattorneys.com or 312-368-0100.

Protecting Your Business From Trolls: Internet Anonymity is a Thing of the Past

The internet has long been a safe harbor for trolls and ne’er-do-wells of all sorts to unleash their scorn on whatever unsuspecting business lands in their crosshairs that day.  Yelp, Glassdoor and many similar web-based services provide a valuable mechanism for consumers to rate companies based on their experiences; but they also provide a virtual soapbox from which the less scrupulous can publish false information and materially damage a company’s reputation.

An actionable defamatory statement arises where there is an unprivileged publication of a false statement, made to a third party, that causes damages. See Solaia Tech., LLC v. Specialty Pub. Co., 221 Ill. 2d 558, 579, 852 N.E.2d 825, 839 (Ill. 2006).  By providing a voice to the masses, the internet has made it easier than ever before to publish false statements to third parties and it is now well established that statements made online can be the basis of a defamation action. See Hadley v. Doe, 2015 IL 118000, 34 N.E.3d 549 (Ill. 2014).

But how do you discover the secret identity of AngryEmployee546 who is presently scouring the internet for additional websites to tell the world that you steal your customer’s money?  In Illinois, one can use a pre-suit discovery tool known as a Rule 224 Petition. A Rule 224 Petition allows the petitioner to request information from the entity that owns the website that is publishing the offending remarks.  Such information can include all the data that the website operator collects from the poster. At a minimum, this usually includes an IP address and an email address and depending on the website, may include much more.  From there, it is generally possible to connect the dots to the offending poster.

In order to sustain a Rule 224 Petition and discover the identity of a poster, the petitioner must present sufficient allegations of a defamation claim to overcome a motion to dismiss that is automatically imposed by the court.  Id.  This means that a petitioner must effectively plead all of the elements for a claim for defamation on the face of the petition in order to obtain the information it seeks.

The one of the biggest hurdles for sustaining a defamation claim for internet published statements is that the statement is an opinion, and thus constitutionally protected speech.  Opinion statements, even if untrue, are not defamatory because they are constitutionally protected under the First Amendment.

Opinion statements also make up a large portion of negative online posts.  For example, if you were to write a review of restaurant and state that the service was slow, the food was terrible and the experience was unpleasant, such statements, even if totally false, are arguably just your opinion and not defamatory.  Whereas if you said that you saw the cook return to work without washing his hands and then saw the server spit in your food, these objectively untrue facts could well be defamatory.

Despite the hurdles, Illinois law provides a mechanism to find out who published defamatory remarks about you or your business so that you can protect your image, should the need arise.  If you or your business has been targeted by false online statements and you wish to investigate your options, please contact:

Robert G. Cooper at:

rcooper@lgattorneys.com or 312-368-0100.

The Importance of Website “Terms and Conditions”

You may have noticed that many of the websites you visit have what are often called “Terms and Conditions” or “Terms of Use Agreements” (“Agreement”).  Links to such Agreements are often found at the bottom of the home page and/or the website, and the user must accept the terms and conditions in the Agreement in order to use the website. Prudent business owners include such Agreements on their business’s websites to make it clear on what basis information, products or services are being provided through the website and, to the extent possible, limit any liability that may arise out of use of the website.  If your business operates a website it is to your advantage to include an Agreement.  Such Agreements are especially important to companies that sell products, distribute content, and permit users to post messages or other content that raises the potential for third-party liability on their websites. The specific terms contained in the Agreement will vary depending on the nature of the website and the underlying commercial relationship between the user and the website owner.

Most Agreements should address some or all of the following: (1) a clear statement that use of the website constitutes acceptance of the terms set forth in the Agreement; (2) a detailed description of the services, products and/or  information provided through the website; (3) any payment terms and return policies for e-commerce websites; (4) the method for creating and canceling accounts, if applicable; (5) general disclaimers and website-specific disclaimers depending on the nature of the website; (6) ownership of the intellectual property rights in and to the website  content; (7) intellectual property rights in and to any submissions by the user;  (8) limitations of liability; (9) any age restrictions; (10) Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbor language; (11) restrictions on the user conduct; and (12) a dispute resolution section, including choice of law and arbitration provisions.

To discuss your website’s “Terms and Conditions” or “Terms of Use Agreements”, or other important disclaimers which may be appropriate for your business, please contact:

Cynthia B. Stevens at:

(312) 368-0100 / cstevens@lgattorneys.com

Levin Ginsburg at the Greater Chicago Food Depository

August 20, 2013 was an exciting day for all of us at Levin Ginsburg as our entire firm volunteered to serve at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Our goal yesterday was to prepare 3,000 pounds of rice for shipment to various GCFD facilities throughout our community. As always, our terrific team was up to the task and we ended our day with 3,312 pounds or rice ready for distribution. We are proud of the great work the GCFD does every day for people in need and very happy to be able to lend our support to those efforts.

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"We've worked with Levin Ginsburg since the 1980s...we have grown with them and have a very high level of comfort and confidence with this firm." Jay Nichols, President,
Badger Murphy
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Walter E. Smithe III, Tim Smithe, and Mark Smithe,
Walter E. Smithe Custom Furniture
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