In 2019, ADA website lawsuits rose 181% over those filed in 2018. Targeting 2285 websites operated by companies such as Sephora, Helzberg Diamonds, The Home Depot, and Chick-fil-A, the ADA sent a firm message.
The internet was but a mere infant when Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Most folks would not have considered the new set of guidelines applicable to the worldwide web. But all of that changed when a California federal judge ruled in 2006 that the ADA applied not only to brick and mortar establishments, but to websites as well. The Act was amended to include websites in 2008, with effects made effective in 2009.
And now, warns Jon Taggart, “ADA website lawsuits are on the rise. A non-compliant website makes you potentially liable for fines of thousands of dollars, if not more. And these fines aren’t uncommon either.”
According to the law, ADA compliance applies to any private sector business employing more than 15 employees. However, suits filed in the recent past proves that any publicly accessible business can be held accountable to comply with ADA laws.
So, what does ADA compliance look like for websites?
Unfortunately, the Department of Justice has established no hard-fast rules, but rather guidelines and regulations. The most common set is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG), with sixty-one guidelines to be exact.
“It sounds scary, having to comply with 61 different elements for ADA compliance, but most websites already meet most of the requirements without even thinking about it,” states Marina Turea. “A lot of the guidelines have to do with readable text, alternate text, descriptive language, and the ability to use a screen reader with the website.”
Luckily, the WCAG is easily obtainable, and advice prompts business owners to procure this valuable information. Software applications that scan for ADA violations and compliance, such as WAVE and Lighthouse, provide a beneficial service.
- Turea shares these tips for manual evaluation of a site’s compliance with ADA.
- Begin with clean and organized HTML coding and tags
- Include headings and titles
- Utilize text size, color, and fonts to distinguish sectioned information
- Include alternative text with visuals
- Check for readability with a screen reader
- Add ‘closed caption’ for videos
Considering the role which the internet plays in the daily lives of the average person, it must not exclude those with disabling conditions from accessing the vast services and opportunities available on the web.
Kris Rivenburgh shares these highly recommended—though not yet legally required—best practices based on consent decrees between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and private companies found to have inaccessible websites.
- Appoint a web accessibility coordinator
- Hire a qualified, independent consultant
- Conduct web accessibility training twice a year
- Adopt an accessibility policy page
- Invite and solicit feedback
While such measures may be cost-prohibitive for smaller businesses and organizations, larger entities will benefit from the appointment of one person to oversee digital accessibility concerns.
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