ADA Compliance: Be Responsible. Be Prepared.
Keeping your company website user-friendly is crucial in providing a positive experience that encourages visitors to engage with your content. However, we often forget that being “user-friendly” applies to ALL USERS, including those with disabilities. Do you know if your site is ADA compliant? It’s a serious question, because the consequences of not being ADA compliant can result not only in alienating users, but legal ramifications for you and your business.
What is ADA compliance?
The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person being disabled. With advances in technology, the Department of Justice passed the Information and Technical Assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design in 2010. This act mandates that electronic and information technology be made accessible to people with disabilities. In simple terms, this means that disabled users should have the same experience on your website as a non-disabled user. They must be able to access all content by traditional means, or via assistive technologies such as screen readers.
Who must abide by ADA Compliance?
All websites representing a public-facing business or service must be ADA compliant. Government-funded websites must also be compliant. However, they must abide by a slightly different set of regulations, called Section 508.
What industries are most at risk, and where are they located?
Businesses that deal primarily in customer service face the greatest chance of being sued for not being ADA compliant. These include retail, travel, healthcare, education, and the foodservice industries. Additionally, states known for being home to great metropolitan areas – including New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and California – are also at greater risk of being sued. The more people, the more prospective lawsuits.
Lawsuits on the rise
As reported in Seyfarth Shaw, there were just over 2,200 website accessibility federal lawsuits filed in 2018. That’s an astounding increase of 177% over 2017, and the trend is expected to continue. Many famous brands have had to settle lawsuits in recent years, such as Apple, Nike, Amazon, Burger King, and CNN.
Small businesses and ADA compliance
If the instantly recognizable names listed above can be sued, any business that’s not ADA compliant can be faced with a lawsuit. Big-name brands may have equally big bucks to settle expensive lawsuits. Small businesses, however, are more vulnerable. As Small Business Trends notes, smaller businesses are challenged by staying ADA compliant, along with following WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), which are guidelines for making web content more accessible – particularly for individuals who have disabilities. There are three levels to the guidelines: A, AA, AAA. Level A is the minimum level of compliance to attain. However, you should speak to a legal consultant to find out what the appropriate level is for your business and audience.
Lawsuits centered on ADA compliance: true or false?
With so many lawsuits, it is reasonable to question the validity of some cases. Critics call this a form of “legal extortion,” and it is easy money for individuals and legal firms that specialize in targeting businesses with deep pockets. But still, what of the smaller businesses? They too can be the targets of lawsuits, regardless of how legitimate. To make matters worse, multiple parties for the same ADA violation can sue businesses – even if they are in the process of fixing the issue.
EGC Group’s take on what to do about ADA compliance.
At EGC, we look at both sides of the topic. We want to protect our clients, but we also have a deep understanding of why ADA compliance is important. It comes down to basic human rights for individuals who are handicapped.
As a policy, the EGC Development team recommends minimum “level A compliance” for all new website projects. We also offer the following service options for existing websites:
- Free risk evaluation reports
- Detailed full site evaluations
- Repair work to reach compliance
- Quarterly ADA maintenance retainers
- Website compliance training for client’s staff
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