18 Nov What You Need to Know About ADA Web Compliance Law
Two years ago, almost exactly to the day, Governor Jerry Brown signed A.B. 434, the first law to address ADA compliance online. A.B. 434 requires state agencies and state entities to post a certification of compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA, or a subsequent version, on their website home pages.
Last year, there were 2,285 ADA website lawsuits filed in federal courts across the nation, an increase of 181 percent from 2017. Although these laws are only directed towards state agencies and entities, lawsuits are also being filed against other businesses that offer services or products online.
The disabled plaintiffs refer to themselves as activists working to improve society for the disabled, one lawsuit at a time. But critics believe it is “legal distortion”, targeting small business owners who have no clear guidelines on how to become ADA compliant.
Striving towards accessibility online is one of the most important issues facing online businesses today. Yet still, it remains surprisingly under the radar amongst many brands. Web accessibility refers to ensuring that all online content can be readily consumed by people with disabilities, whether they be physical, visual, or cognitive.
This process may generally cost around $4000, which is quite an expense for a small business. Oftentimes businesses must also pay damages to the plaintiff on top of this cost to achieve compliance—which is why it is cheaper for a business to settle rather than fight these suites in court.
Small businesses are especially a target for these lawsuits because they are advised to just pay the fee and settle outside of court. This is why it is crucial to get ahead and make your website ADA compliant in order to avoid a costly lawsuit.
Why ADA Compliance?
As a business owner, it is important to make your website easily accessible to all consumers. The ultimate goal of the ADA is to eliminate exclusivity and offer an equal experience to all people, thus taking away any type of struggle or barrier for those with disabilities. Not to mention, this will ultimately benefit your business by increasing the reach of your services.
There are many people who use different types of devices to access websites, such as text readers and audio scanners. Those tools need special instructions to help translate or convey the information on the web page to the user.
If you’re wondering whether your business website needs to be ADA compliant, evaluate your answers to the following questions:
1.Are you a business that benefits the public?
2. Are you a local, state, or government agency?
3. Are you a private employer with 15 or more employees?
If you answered, "yes" to any of the aforementioned questions - your website should be compliant with ADA regulations.
Even if you don’t fit into these three categories, you are at risk. They are referred to as nuisance lawsuits, because there is no point in fighting them.
The Risk Of An ADA Lawsuit
The ADA is a civil rights law, meaning all areas that are open to the public must make adequate accommodations for those with disabilities. Facilities that fail to comply with these regulations open themselves up to serious potential legal consequences.
Some attorneys are insisting that this battle can’t be won. They recommend that you just write the check and avoid a lengthy and expensive trial. Typically, if one plaintiff is filing a stickful of lawsuits, they are working with a handful of lawyers who are gaining notoriety for these types of cases.
ADA lawsuits, filed in federal and state courts, have targeted the websites of retailers (including Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. supermarkets), restaurants (including Domino’s Pizza Inc.) and universities (including Harvard and MIT).
Domino’s has recently made headlines because of its decision to fight a lawsuit that was filed after a blind man was unable to order pizza, because its website wouldn’t work with a standard screen reader. Domino’s efforts to fight the lawsuit have thus far only resulted in negative PR attention for the brand.
The Hooters restaurant chain was sued last year, even after the chain agreed to fix its website as part of a settlement of a previous lawsuit. A federal appeals court ruled that Hooters remained vulnerable to lawsuits until it fixed the website under the previous lawsuit settlement.
ADA Compliance Increases Your Target Audience
Individuals with disabilities represent a large portion of the population. In fact, data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that nearly one in five people are living with a diagnosed disability, and more than half of those with a disability describe their condition as severe.
You don’t want to turn away great potential customers simply because you forgot to update your website.
For instance, if you have a video that displays the benefits of your product, but it doesn’t have captions, then people who are deaf or hard of hearing will not get to find out how great your product is. The same applies for having images with no alternate text.
The point of the alternate text is to allow screen reading tools to describe the image to someone who is blind, so if you don’t have that text, some of your audience will miss out.
Similarly, it’s important to ensure your website is fully accessible without a mouse so that people with physical limitations can use it.
Not only is ADA compliance something that’s required by law and a benefit to society, it can also be a benefit for your business. Strive for total accessibility on your website to give the message that you want to be inclusive of any and all potential clients and customers.
ADA Compliance Improves Your SEO Efforts
Now more than ever, search engines are evolving to crawl pages with more human intention. A key element of WCAG is accessibility to screen readers, and these readers crawl your website pages similarly to search engines.
If your website meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, it will likely appeal to users, search engines, and screen readers alike, ultimately improving your SEO endeavors. For this reason, meta tagging, alternative image text, and video transcripts should be seriously considered.
Be Proactive to Protect Your Business
So, what can you do to avoid potential lawsuits and lost customers? Proactively addressing any web accessibility issues facing your brand should become a top priority for this year and beyond.
To be ADA-compliant, a site must meet standards within four categories:
Choosing the right graphics is key to creating an accessible websites. When you’re including graphics, they should not flash more than three times per second. Any more flashing, and you could inadvertently induce a seizure in someone who is browsing the page.
Graphics should also have a description that can be read aloud to the visually impaired. If you have informative or fun visual content, you want everyone to be able to enjoy and learn from it!
Making your website accessible to all potential users takes a lot of thoughtful choices. A variety of things fall under the umbrella of perception. To get started, provide alt-text for all images in your code. Alt-text captions allow site readers to describe your images audibly.
Fonts are another crucial component to accessibility. Use fonts that are easy to read, such as:
- Open Sans
Avoid putting a light font color on a light background; a combination like yellow text on a pale background causes people to strain to read it. Equally problematic is a pale font on a stark black background. Stick to light backgrounds with dark for most of your content. You may also opt to give visitors the option to toggle the colors to what is most readable for them.
The primary function of the “operable” category of ADA standards is to make sure your site can be navigated using a keyboard alone. Some users are not able to interact with a touchscreen or grip a mouse.
This category also relates to the overall navigation. For instance, readers should be able to pause content or slow down automatic scrolling/slideshow movements. Eliminate any videos that auto play and have a time-limit. And, of course, make sure that all video interactions and pausing can be completed using keyboard functions.
Get in Touch with An Expert
Of course, these tips are only the beginning of providing full website accessibility. To ensure your website is protected from legal suites, you should consider having an expert redesign your website to fit the WCAG guidelines.
Do you know someone who could benefit from our services? Refer them to us today! Our team is eager to connect with businesses in any industry. We serve the local needs of Ventura County and Santa Barbara as well as anywhere in the United States.