The World Wide Web has revolutionized the way in which consumers access information about the businesses and services available to them. On the Web, companies can share their stories – what they stand for, what they offer, and how they can improve consumers’ lives. This interaction between consumer and business has become so commonplace that many of us take it for granted. Unfortunately for those with certain physical or cognitive disabilities, company websites may not provide the features or functionality needed to make purchasing decisions. Website accessibility compliance, then, makes smart business sense. Here is how businesses can implement an ADA accessible website.
What Does “ADA Compliance” or “ADA Accessibility” Mean for My Website in 2020?
First enacted in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive civil rights law that focused on providing reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, including both physical and mental disabilities. ADA can be seen as an extension and improvement over previous laws designed to protect citizens with disabilities. Establishing standards of compliance for accommodations to improve accessibility to people with disabilities, particularly for business owners, is the core of the Act.
For the purposes of websites, ADA website compliance means that all functions and display of a given website must be accessible to those with disabilities, including for people with disabilities in vision, hearing, and physical mobility.
ADA Website Accessibility Guidelines
Over the past 20 years, assistive technologies to improve the web accessibility experience for people who are blind or deaf have been developed. These technologies often include screen readers, refreshable Braille displays, screen magnification systems, and alternative input devices. Together with national standards, accessibility has improved dramatically. Complexities and challenges remain, however; the Americans with Disabilities Act is continually evolving, and standards have changed substantially over the past decade. For website accessibility, however, there are a few basic guidelines that site owners and web content developers should keep in mind. These guidelines include:
- Adding text equivalents to images used in webpages, such as taking advantage of alt tags.
- Ensuring that all downloadable documents are posted in multiple accessible formats, including PDF, RTF, and HTML to ensure access with assistive technologies.
- Specifying colors and font types/sizes for readability and contrast, or creating web content that allows web browsers to automatically make pages readable, depending on the needs of the viewer.
- Eliminating web content that does not have accessibility features, such as high-bandwidth videos and multimedia.
- Minimizing distractions and features that blink or flash.
- Simplifying navigation, or including redundant navigation in web pages.
There are many more considerations for web developers. Website accessibility can be a substantial challenge; for more tips, the ADA website offers a toolkit for state and local governments. These tools can also be used by business owners.
Can My Business Get Sued without Proper ADA Accessibility?
For those who develop and maintain publically-available websites, ADA website compliance is not as clear as other guidelines in the Act. In simple terms, while the ADA did not specify website accessibility standards, many courts have interpreted the Act to include websites as entities requiring accessibility. In some cases, companies have been the target of legal challenges, with lawsuits claiming that business owners did not include accessibility standards or that additions of these standards was insufficient to ensure website accessibility for those with disabilities. In 2019 alone, there was a 12% increase in ADA Title III lawsuits filed in federal court. This number does not include lawsuits at the municipal and state levels.
Even celebrities are not immune to legal challenges; singer and entrepreneur Beyonce Knowles, owner of Parkwood Entertainment, was sued by a blind woman who claimed that the company’s website violated standards of the ADA. The lawsuit is attempting to collect compensatory damages as well as attorney fees and is still making its way through the court system of New York State.
A Quick Way to Check Your Website for Compliance
Website owners concerned about meeting ADA accessibility standards and may be wondering “is my website ADA compliant?”. Here is a quick way to check that your website is compatible. Google Chrome browser has a free tool called uTester: ADA Website Compliance Checker. This tool, along with many others found online, can be of good value for developers, but it is not a perfect solution.
How to Make a Website ADA Compliant
In general, there are two main options for website owners when it comes to establishing ADA website compliance.
- The first is to employ custom coding for the site. This must be constantly updated to meet changing guidelines and standards. Not recommended for average users.
- The other option is a system where compliance is handled automatically and which auto-generates updates as needed.
Neilson Marketing’s AI-Based Website ADA Solution
A better solution to the tools described above is to seek the assistance of experts in ADA compliance. Neilson Marketing, the insurance industry’s leading marketing firm, has developed a suite of ADA compliance services that meet standards established by the WCAG, ADA, and Stanca Act. Neilson’s AI-based ADA web accessibility services offer automated functionality, providing remediation for helping to ensure that web content meets standards while improving access for those with disabilities. For an ADA accessible website, contact Neilson Marketing today to get your business’ website secure tomorrow.