UPDATE: Since writing this post in August 2017, several important changes have taken place in the laws regarding ADA compliance for websites. On December 26, 2017, the Department of Justice announced that they have withdrawn the Obama-era Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking mentioned in this article which intended to require ADA website compliance. The DOJ’s withdrawal announcement stated, “The Department will continue to assess whether specific technical standards are necessary and appropriate to assist covered entities with complying with the ADA.”
The text in the ADA did not originally mention websites since this technology was not widely used in 1990. But now that most businesses have a website, they need to make sure it’s accessible to everyone. Since we’re past the ruling date, all updated pages on your website are required to be at least grade A complaint, with grade AAA being the highest.
EVCS installed at public buildings, public accommodations, commercial facilities and public housing are required to comply with the accessibility requirements in CBC Chapter 11B. Compliance with these provisions is not required where EVCS are not available to the general public and intended for use by a designated vehicle or driver (see CBC Section 11B-228.3.2 Exception 1).
Hello, we are thinking of leasing the second floor of a renovated Victorian home for our business. The business is an office where we service insurance claims but the nature of the business is such that we would not have business invitees (such as insureds and claimants). The building has an exterior stairway to access the level we are going to lease. There is no elevator and one is not contemplated. For our use, it is fine but does it have to have an elevator just for the sake of use as a business, despite the lack of being for actual “public” use? Thank you!
Enforcement of the ADA, is typically left to private individuals and by necessity their attorneys. When an individual with a disability encounters a condition that inhibits their access or use of a building or facility in 49 states other than California, they are able to file suit and obtain correction of the condition. If an individual with a disability encounters the same condition in California, they are immediately eligible for $4,000 in statutory damages under California’s Civil Code Section 52, which makes any violation of the ADA (no matter how small) a violation of an individual’s civil rights. This has unfortunately created a significant cottage industry in California, where attorneys (operating under the umbrella of “facilitating access for the disabled”) will go after businesses with ADA violations, to simply pocket the $4,000 in statutory damages with an additional couple of thousand for attorney’s fees.
Specific accessibility barriers that blocked claimants access to the site were a lack of alt text or a text equivalent embedded into graphical images; empty links that cause confusion for users of screen-reading software; redundant links that cause navigation issues and repetition for users of screen-reading software; linked images without alt text to inform the user about the function of the link.
Aside from attempting to compliant for compliance’s sake, having an ADA accessible website can improve the overall user experience and site traffic. An ADA compliant site can increase your target audience (by making it easy for those with disabilities to navigate around), improve your SEO efforts (by helping search engines to more easily crawl your pages and content), and help your overall reputation.
With this legislation, California joins state and municipal entities in other parts of the country that have similar web accessibility requirements for governmental entities and contractors. This legislation fills a small part of a void the federal Department of Justice has decided for the time being not to fill, when it put its pending regulations that would set an accessibility standard for state and local (as well as private entity) websites on the inactive list.
Voluntary compliance is an important component of an effective strategy for implementing Title III of the ADA. Private businesses that voluntarily comply with ADA accessibility requirements help to promote the broader objectives of the ADA by increasing access for persons with disabilities to the goods, services, and facilities available in our respective communities. Certification facilitates voluntary ADA compliance by assuring that certified state accessibility requirements meet or exceed ADA requirements. In this regard, business owners, builders, developers, architects, and others in the design and construction industry are benefited because, once a code is certified, they can refer to certified code requirements and rely upon them for equivalency with the ADA.
In short, the ADA currently offers compliance suggestions for sites, but there aren’t currently any standards that you are obligated to follow. The proposed law would make sure that websites follow WCAG 2.0 guidelines, which were designed and set up by the World Wide Web Consortium, an international group aimed at creating global website standards.
The lack of regulations here has led to the absolute worst-case scenario. People with disabilities have not been served since most companies are unaware this is an issue. Most don’t even realize this is something they have to consider until they receive a demand letter. That has certainly been the case for some of my clients. This leads to a scramble to get compliant. Unfortunately, it can take up to a year to do so depending on the complexity of the site. Meanwhile, plaintiffs’ attorneys across the country are taking advantage of the confusion. More than 260 website accessibility lawsuits were filed in 2016, and significantly more were filed by the end of 2017. But these numbers do not even begin to cover the cases that are settled pre-litigation.