The internet continues to spark innovation and propel businesses to greater levels. It is now becoming standard for most businesses to have websites and use social media to engage with their consumers. With this kind of progression, there is a need for measures to be taken to ensure that everyone plays ethically and responsibly on the internet.
As such, websites should be accessible to everyone and to make this a reality, stakeholders have come up with guidelines and laws that will help everyone have access to websites. Such guidelines include the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, also known as WCAG 2.0 or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
In this article, we are going to focus on ADA compliance.
The aim of the article is to take you through a simple ADA crash course and help you understand what you need for your website to be ADA compliant.
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act came into law in the year 1990. It was revised severally in 1991, generating Titles II and III. Basically, the law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life.
As of January 2018, all federal institutions’ websites had to meet ADA compliance on all items in WCAG 2.0, sparking a spectacular series of successful lawsuits against the federal institutions. Lawyers began cashing in on suits involving ADA compliant websites. The lawsuits quickly involved businesses’ websites, making it a big thing globally, hence the urge for most websites to be ADA compliant.
The ADA law requires certain businesses to accommodate people with disabilities. This can range from wheelchair access, access to service animals as well as the use of braille. Currently, in addition to Title III, businesses are also required to maintain an accessible website.
Businesses with 15+ employees are required to have their websites accessible by people with disabilities. Even though there are no clear guidelines about website accessibility for businesses, this still does not let them off the hook.
Making Your Website ADA Compliant.
At this juncture, the question is where to begin to make your website ADA compliant?
Accessibility means that your website can be navigated by users who are deaf, blind or those who need to navigate by voice to meaningfully engage with the content on your website. You could achieve this in many ways, including those that are not immediately obvious to you.
However, before you begin, you need to understand that revamping your website to be ADA compliant will come at a hefty price. If you’re a smaller organization, say a blogger, it may be cheaper but larger organizations generally spend more.
There are no clear regulations and statutes that define ADA compliance as regards to websites. However, website developers can refer to federal websites and have an idea of what they are supposed to do.
Despite the challenges you can get towards revamping your website to become ADA compliant, here are some ways you could address the problem:
Alt Tags for Content
You could create alt tags for all videos, photos and audio files. These allow the user with disability read or hear alternative descriptions of material they are not otherwise able to view under normal circumstances.
An alt tag describes the object itself and the purpose that that same object plays in the website.
Create text transcripts for all video and audio content on your website. The objective is helping hearing-impaired people to understand video and audio content that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.
You could identify the site’s language using header codes. A header code makes it clear what language the site should be read in helping users who utilize the use of text readers. Text readers can identify the header codes thus able to function accordingly.
Alternatives and Suggestions
You could also offer alternatives and suggestion when a user with a disability encounters input errors. If your website receives input errors because of a user’s need to navigate your site, it should be capable of automatically offering recommendations for an alternative way to navigate the site.
Consistency and Organization
You should create a consistent and organized layout on your site. Menus, buttons, and links should be organized in a way that they are clearly outlined from one another as well as easily navigated throughout the entire website.
These are some of the clear steps you could take towards website ADA compliance, though this is not exhaustive. For more info on ADA compliance, you should consult with an attorney that specializes in disability law, as well as reading the ADA requirements. Digital Authority Partners also has a very comprehensive website ADA compliance guide here (but scroll to the second half of the article to see good/ bad ADA web implementations).
Liability If You Fail to Comply
Failing to comply with the stipulated ADA regulations puts your business at risk of a lawsuit. It is common for attorneys to seek out businesses that are not ADA compliant, both online and in the physical world. Other than the lawsuits, it’s simply unethical not to be compliant and this could also attract criticism towards your business, with the possible net effect of losing your customers.
According to Statista, online sales reached $2.3 billion in 2017 and $2.8 billion in 2018. With such access on online platforms, having accessibility issues for the disabled to your website makes you lose on potential business.
Lawsuits are expensive and would definitely put a dent to your business operations. The ADA and the Unruh Act allows a successful plaintiff to recover attorney’s fees against the defendant. For example, on average, plaintiffs get damages of $5,000 to $20,000. They can still claim attorney fee refund that could cost you $100,000. This recent healthcare news article shows 4 large companies who unfortunately had to pay a huge price over ADA website compliance. Same with famous singer Beyonce who only 2 weeks ago was sued over the same issue.
While regulatory guidance for website compliance with ADA for businesses does not yet exist, it is not too complex to understand what is meant by reasonable accessibility. By taking it as a leap of good faith, businesses can come out in front of regulatory authorities and avoid potential lawsuits.
Work with great website developers to make your website ADA compliant.
Digital Authority Partners works with medium sized businesses and enterprises to ensure their websites are ADA-compliant. Contact them today for a free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 600-5433.