Digital access for people with disabilities could mean providing video captions for people hard of hearing or enabling keyboard navigation.
A sighted person, for instance, would know to click on an image of a shopping cart to add items for purchase, said Chris Danielsen, spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, an advocacy group. Someone who uses a screen reader would need alternative text describing the image to perform the same task.
The federation is concerned about the influx of litigation, Danielsen said, adding that it files lawsuits only after working to resolve issues out of court.
Multiple plaintiffs' lawyers who filed suits against dealers did not respond to messages seeking comment.
In September, Esserman Automotive Group in Doral, Fla., settled a lawsuit filed against its Volkswagen store in August.
"We went into this almost instantaneously wanting to get our websites ADA-compliant, because we saw no reason for them not to be," Esserman CFO John Hoctor said.
The settlement was for a confidential amount Hoctor called "nominal." The retailer also agreed to improve accessibility.
Businesses want to comply, said Haas Hatic, a lawyer at Greenspoon Marder LLP in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who defended Esserman. Yet a dealership website has individual vehicle pages that frequently change, he said, and the federal government has not adopted a "good-faith standard" that allows for broken links or accessibility gaps without violating the ADA.
"Websites break down all the time," Hatic said. "That doesn't mean the person is being denied access to goods and services."
Executives at AudioEye and EqualWeb said they can solve accessibility issues online using a mix of technology and human interaction.
AudioEye works on more than 3,000 dealership websites for providers such as Dealer.com, Dealer Inspire and Dealer Socket, said Ty D'Amore, AudioEye's vice president of strategic partnerships. EqualWeb has inked a partnership with dealership software giant CDK Global Inc.