The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that ensures that people with disabilities (PWDs) are granted the same opportunities as everyone else. Title III of the ADA specifically states that businesses must make their establishments accessible to PWDs. While the word website is not explicitly mentioned, Title III has recently been interpreted by the law to include websites. This means, if your website is not ADA compliant, you could run into some major lawsuits.
An easy way of avoiding this would be to consult ADA compliance services. They can offer advice on what changes need to be implemented to guarantee that your website is ADA compliant. The cost of hiring these services is well worth it if it means dodging legal fees and bad publicity, but if you really don’t have the resources to hire professionals, this article can serve as a basic guide on how to make your website more ADA compliant.
The good news is, due to the lack of explicit laws surrounding website accessibility, there is a good degree of flexibility in court in terms of how ADA compliant your website is.
Since the ADA makes no explicit mention of websites, and there is no revision or addendum to the law as of 2020, there is no clear-cut answer to what is “legally” required. While resources like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Chapter 5 of the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments exist, they are not laws. A good compromise would be to make an honest effort towards modifying your website and its contents to be more accessible.
Assume that a visually impaired person accessed your website. Would they be able to navigate your content with the same ease as any other person? Would a person hard of hearing be able to enjoy your video content just as much as your other viewers? If the answer to both these questions is no, then you’ll need to make some adjustments. Besides adding closed captions to videos or letting users modify font size and color, there are more ways you can improve site accessibility for PWDs. This leads us to the next question.
The WCAG and ADA Toolkit are comprehensive guides on what concrete actions to take for maximum website accessibility. However, these are very long documents, and since they were made for web developers, the technical jargon may be difficult for laymen to understand. Here is a quick summary of the most crucial steps you can take when getting started on website accessibility.
This may already seem like a long list, but it still doesn’t cover everything you need to make your website 100% accessible. If you feel these steps aren’t enough to accommodate all of your prospective users, there are endless online resources that can offer advice on the subject. You can also enlist the help of ADA compliance services so they can audit and remediate your website. Consulting reputable and qualified professionals is a surefire way to get a good foundation on website accessibility.
You may be looking at all the requirements and restrictions in #3 and despairing at how much work needs to be done. You may be wondering if the effort will be worth it. You may even think that you can coast by and leave your website as-is since there are no legal requirements.
Currently, there are 50 million PWDs in the US alone. If your website is not accessible to these people, that’s 50 million potential consumers that you’re instantly alienating. By maximizing the accessibility of your website, you’re also expanding your target audience.
Additionally, if you neglect website accessibility on the assumption that you’ll be fine since there’s technically no law specifying websites, you’re mistaken. Every year, more and more lawsuits are being filed based on ADA non-compliance, and to avoid going to trial, businesses often pay settlements amounting to $50,000. If you want to avoid such fees, take the initiative to make your site as accessible as possible.
Now. Anytime your website sits there being ADA non-compliant, you could be hit with a lawsuit. Not even small businesses are safe. In fact, small businesses are being pursued by plaintiffs more because they know they can’t put up as much of a fight as big corporations. The sooner you get started making your website ADA compliant, the sooner you can be protected from predatory lawyers looking for an easy target. If you happen to get hit by a lawsuit before you can take any action, making the necessary changes to your website immediately can get the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds of mootness. This doesn’t mean you should only take action when faced with a lawsuit. It would still be preferable to avoid these kinds of confrontations completely.
Ensuring your website is ADA compliant may seem like a daunting task, but you’ll find that improving your website accessibility has multiple benefits for your business. Besides avoiding potential lawsuits, it is also a way to show your consumers that you are mindful of PWDs. By accommodating PWDs through your website, it could boost your reputation as a brand and improve your overall site traffic and sales.