Should Your Website Be ADA Compliant?

ada compliance logoThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law established in 1990 for the purposes of protecting those with disabilities against discrimination. It addresses a full range of accessibility issues covering everything from transportation to education to accessing public services. Believe it or not, the law also covers website access.

You might be wondering whether or not your website should be ADA compliant. In a word, yes. The challenge is actually getting it done. This post will explain why. If you are a website owner considering the possibility of upgrading your website for ADA compliance, this post is for you.

ADA Compliance Requirements

A good place to start is discussing who is actually required to comply with the ADA. The law addresses those businesses and other organizations that fall under Titles I and III of the ADA. Title I organizations are those with a minimum of 15 full-time employees and active operations for at least 20 weeks per year.

Title III organizations are those engaged in public accommodation. Examples include bus companies, hotels, entertainment venues and the like. Any and all outlets through which customers avail themselves of public accommodation must be ADA compliant.

It is fairly easy to make a company's physical premises compliant. Federal law is very clear about everything from accessible restrooms to adequate means of entrance and egress. Making a website ADA compliant is not so easy. The root of the problem is the fact that there are no clear guidelines for website owners to follow.

Accessibility Creates Loyalty

We believe website owners should seriously consider ADA compliance despite a lack of clear guidelines. Even if an organization is not a Title I or Title III organization under the law, offering disabled customers accessibility is good for business. In simple terms, accessibility creates loyalty.

It goes without saying that disabled people face many hurdles the fully-abled never have to consider. Something as simple as opening the door to a public restroom becomes immeasurably more difficult when you're in a wheelchair. The same types of challenges translate into the digital space as well.

You and I take navigating the internet for granted because we can see everything clearly. Yet a visually impaired person doesn't have such an easy time of it. He must rely on screen readers to get around online. If websites are not set up in such a way as to increase screen reader accuracy and efficiency, visually impaired visitors have to work that much harder to make sense of what you and I easily see on the screen.

Provide that same visually impaired visitor with an ADA compliant website and he will have a much easier time navigating. You can bet he will return to that site next time he needs access to the same information or services. Doing so is human nature.

Compliance Protects Organizations

Another good reason to make a website ADA compliant is the simple desire to avoid trouble. The popular Domino's pizza chain knows all too well what trouble looks like. They were sued in 2018 by a visually impaired customer who was unable to order pizza online because Domino's site was not compatible with his screen reader software.

A federal court ruled in favor of the plaintiff late last year. Rather than accept the ruling, Domino's appealed to the Supreme Court. Their appeal was denied when the Supreme Court let the lower ruling stand. Domino's must now revamp its website to make it ADA compliant.

Like it or not, failing to comply with the ADA can lead to civil litigation. Furthermore, there are attorneys whose entire practices revolve around ADA litigation. Website owners should understand that civil litigation can be rather costly. It is not uncommon for defendants to end up paying tens of thousands of dollars just in legal bills alone. The cost only goes up when lost cases result in fines and other penalties.

Complying with the ADA protects organizations from lawsuits. It is just that simple. While your company may have to invest in making its website compliant, the investment could end up paying for itself by keeping you out of trouble.

Typical Compliance Strategies

As previously mentioned, there are no hard and fast guidelines explaining how to make a website ADA compliant. Yet there are certain industry standards we can look to. For example, applying alt tags to all images, videos, and audio files goes a long way toward compatibility with screen readers.

An alt tag is a bit of hidden code that tells web browsers more about a particular website element. Assigning an alt tag to an image would tell a browser about that image even if said image could not be loaded. The same tag would tell a screen reader about the image as well. The screen reader could then describe the image to the user based on information in the tag.

Creating a simple and organized layout is another common strategy. A good example is a main menu designed so that each item is distinct and separate from every other item. Distinct and separate menu items are easier to navigate for people with impaired vision. Along those same lines, navigating menus is made easier when disabled guests can minimize the number of clicks necessary to get where they are going.

Other strategies include:

Creating text transcripts for videos and audio files.
Embedding automatic tips that help improve navigation.
Including a meta tag that defines a website's language.
Limiting the use of complicated language that screen readers might have trouble with.

The key to all of this is understanding how disabled people might use your website. This can be difficult. However, consulting an attorney who specializes in ADA compliance is always on the table. Attorneys are the most qualified to help you understand what the ADA requires of your business. Sound advice from a qualified attorney could prove to be your most valuable tool for maintaining compliance.

Website owners can also take a look at the federal government's ADA Best Practices Tool Kit website. It lays out all the ADA best practices state and federal agencies are expected to employ.

ADA Compliance Without Recoding Your Website

Coastline Marketing Group can help website owners in their quest to make their websites ADA compliant. We offer an advanced website accessibility solution without you having to refactor your website's existing code and ensure a comprehensive legal & regulatory compliance framework covering ADA, section 508, WCAG 2.1 AA, and much more.

Take a test run of our ADA Compliance Widget in the bottom left corner of our website.

If you'd like more information about adding our ADA Compliant Website Widget to your site, call us at 831-789-9320 or visit our Contact page.