Website accessibility and ADA compliance are not typically the first two things anyone thinks of when creating a website. Both are connected to the fundamental idea that society should accommodate the needs of disabled people so that they can enjoy the internet in the same way as a non-disabled person.
It makes sense that the government mandate an accessible internet for all citizens, particularly because it is quickly becoming an invaluable resource in many aspects of daily life. As such, website accessibility allows for equal opportunity for those who have physical or mental limitations. Website accessibility means how easy the site is to use for someone who is disabled, and ADA compliance refers to following the precepts laid out in federal law.
This is an altruistic conception, but it isn’t without its challenges. This is evident when you consider The Americans with Disabilities Act:
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that was enacted in 1990. The purpose of the law is to prevent discrimination against disabled people in all areas of public life. Under the protection of this law, disabled people can expect to receive the same civil rights protections as any other minority group.
The ADA contains five titles. Title One refers to employment opportunities, Title Two ensures that disabled people are not subjected to discrimination in state and local government services, and Title Three is concerned with the treatment of disabled people in public spaces.
Common questions about the ADA often revolve around the wording of Title Three. Title Three prohibits discrimination due to disability in places of public accommodation. A public accommodation is a very vague term that is now being used to include websites and apps as well as actual buildings. This means that even companies who operate solely online have to make their website accessible to people with disabilities. The openness of a definition has led to a rise in the amount of lawsuits being filed against companies with websites deemed to be inaccessible to disabled people.
Titles Four and Five provide disabled people with civil rights protections in the areas of telecommunications and miscellaneous provisions. Title Four states that telephone and internet companies have to provide services for people with hearing and speech disabilities that enable them to communicate over the telephone. Title Five is notable in that it addresses conditions which are not to be considered as disabilities.
ADA Lawsuit Abuse
While the ADA is certainly necessary in order to protect disabled people from discrimination, some businesses have been faced with lawsuits in recent years over unintentional violations of the act. The justice system is currently swimming in lawsuits filed throughout a variety of industries and sectors. We have seen this already in brick-and-mortar businesses, where the regulations have become so rigid that honest mistakes like the height of a bathroom mirror can destroy a company’s reputation.
ADA Title Three lawsuits increased by 37% in 2016. This means that over six thousand lawsuits were filed in federal court last year. California and Florida are the two states who had the highest number of filings: 2,468 and 1,663 respectively. The most common type that is filed is for physical accessibility. This means that a disabled person had trouble accessing a public building.
Additionally, website inaccessibility is becoming a hot topic for these lawsuits. More than 250 were filed in 2016 about websites or phone applications that were not accessible enough, and this doesn’t factor in the amount of demand letters sent to businesses that never came to fruition in court.
Furthermore, there are times when an individual can help to fuel the skepticism of lawsuit abuse. A woman in Kansas who has filed 286 lawsuits in more than one state begs the question: when do things become too ridiculous? Where do we draw the line between equality and special treatment? The woman in question has genuine disabilities, but one has to wonder how effective a law is when it is taken advantage of in such a manner.
Accessibility Guidelines for Websites
Accessibility guidelines for websites are outlined and developed by the World Wide Web Consortium. Their Web Accessibility Initiative is the authoritative voice on what’s acceptable for disabled web users, and how developers and website designers can create a site that meets all the criteria.
The criteria are based on a number of principles. An accessible site should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. The specifics of these principles include the need for an accessible site to provide text alternatives, time-based media, simpler layouts, and even avoid using color as the only visual means of conveying information. The four key principles are divided into a long list of subdivisions, all of which aim to address thorough website details which may impact a disabled person’s browsing experience.
The Potential Risk of Non-Compliance
If you are a business owner and are not familiar with website accessibility and ADA compliance, you need to act now so that you can protect your website and business prospects. It’s tempting to think that you’ll get away with it because the web is extensive and promises a degree of anonymity. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
The potential risk of non-compliance with the ADA is an appearance in federal court. The Department of Justice has specifically stated in cases that have already been won by the disabled plaintiff that accessible websites are a high priority. At the very least, the Department of Justice expects an accessible website to be designed with vision, hearing, and physical disabilities in mind.
Protect Your Business
Creating an ADA-compliant website is no small task once you start to research the details of the Web Accessibility Initiative. Full ADA-compliance comes standard with any website build from 321 Web Marketing. While you’re busy looking after your business, we’ll help you achieve your revenue goals and ensure you have your bases fully covered regarding website accessibility and ADA compliance.