ADA website compliance is a hot topic among any business that has a website (and in today’s world, that really is 99% of them). You’ve likely seen news stories about companies that are getting sued or settling out of court for having a website that doesn’t comply with the American Disabilities Act and you’re also probably wondering if this affects you or your business.
ADA website compliance is about making sure that everyone has equal access to all the elements on your website and apps. That may mean you need to provide alternatives for some of the functions and content on your site in order to meet ADA website compliance standards. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the accommodations that need to be incorporated into your website to meet the ADA guidelines:
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People with disabilities that affect their sight, hearing, or mobility may have difficulty accessing certain parts of websites and other online properties unless certain accommodations are made. Just as businesses may need to make adjustments to their physical location so that disabled customers have easy access to the premises, companies may need to adjust certain aspects of their websites so individuals with disabilities can take full advantage of all the features and services.
No formal government standards exist for private businesses to follow to ensure their websites comply with the ADA, although a consortium of web innovators has created guidelines, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, to make websites more accessible to disabled people. Government websites already follow those guidelines, but private business websites, which are typically loaded with images and video, tend to be more difficult to overhaul to meet the guidelines, experts say.
“I would really like to fight it, but it just comes down to finances,” he said, estimating that he could be forced to pay up to $25,000 in damages, plus lawyer fees, if he fights the suit and loses. In the meantime, several pages of the hotel’s website have been replaced with plain type because “no access is equal access for everyone, per the ADA requirements,” the site notes.
^ Esshaki, Tiffany (July 21, 2015). "Remembering the 'Capitol Crawl'". C&G News. Retrieved January 15, 2016. The event, known as the "Capitol Crawl", was an image that legislators couldn't ignore, Bauer said. She had fought since the 1960s to legally protect the rights of people with disabilities, and with that heroic display, she said, lawmakers simply couldn't go back to their constituents without action.
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This guy is right on! You should learn new skills that are critical to your success instead of focusing on your business. Just making a website is easy, making one that is easy for your users to navigate, captures your users' interactions, feed that back to a CRM so you can act on it and setting up automation to handle each one properly so you don't lose the customer is not. (And do not forget, the design of your site is critical to the effectiveness of Google and Microsoft Ads. Without them, no one will ever see your new, beautiful site.)
Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. was a case that was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 2005. The defendant argued that as a vessel flying the flag of a foreign nation it was exempt from the requirements of the ADA. This argument was accepted by a federal court in Florida and, subsequently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the lower courts on the basis that Norwegian Cruise Lines was a business headquartered in the United States whose clients were predominantly Americans and, more importantly, operated out of port facilities throughout the United States.
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.
The landscape of disabled access litigation related to online services has significantly changed and expanded over the past decade. Initially, the internet was an area of little concern as courts uniformly held that the ADA applied to "brick and mortar" facilities, not to cyberspace. This has changed and online accessibility is presently, and will continue to be, an area of significant investigation and litigation.
The General Services Administration hosts an online course for web developers interested in accessible web design. This program was developed in conjunction with the Access Board, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education and provides an interactive demonstration of how to build accessible web pages. This course is available at www.section508.gov, which also provides information about the Federal government’s initiative to make its electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.
I recently finished a training in ADA compliance for websites. It was illuminating and daunting, as I realizated that there’s a lot of work to be done. It also reiterated—in no uncertain terms—a gospel I’ve been preaching for several years now. Sites need to be accessible for everyone on every platform. Previously I was just focusing on responsive sites (sites that reformat for the device used, such as a phone or tablet.) Since responsive sites are de rigueur these days, I’d like to focus on your site’s accessibility…can it be accessed by people with disabilities? This includes screen readers and other technology. It’s not just a nice thing, it’s a civil law.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, if the government entities receive Federal funding, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, generally require that State and local governments provide qualified individuals with disabilities equal access to their programs, services, or activities unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of their programs, services, or activities or would impose an undue burden. One way to help meet these requirements is to ensure that government websites have accessible features for people with disabilities, using the simple steps described in this document. An agency with an inaccessible website may also meet its legal obligations by providing an alternative accessible way for citizens to use the programs or services, such as a staffed telephone information line. These alternatives, however, are unlikely to provide an equal degree of access in terms of hours of operation and the range of options and programs available. For example, job announcements and application forms, if posted on an accessible website, would be available to people with disabilities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Three defendants were able to dismiss website access lawsuits early because they had already entered into consent decree or settlement agreements with previous plaintiffs which required them to make their websites conform to the WCAG 2.0 within a specified amount of time. That said, not all courts agree that a prior settlement — as opposed to a binding judgment or court order — can be the basis for a dismissal.
Ultimately, the DoJ’s letter has placed the burden back on Congress to legislate regarding ADA website accessibility. However, it is unlikely that it will take any action any time soon. While the DOJ’s letter is helpful for businesses, it will not stop these ADA website accessibility lawsuits. Therefore, businesses should take proactive steps toward making their websites accessible. Employers must also remember that their failure to make online job applications accessible to blind or disabled job applicants may subject them to liability under Title I of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination in hiring decisions, and which carries with it additional remedies such as compensatory damages (to pay a plaintiff for out-of-pocket expenses caused by the discrimination and compensate him/her for any emotional harm suffered), and punitive damages.