Is Your Website ADA Compliant?
Accessibility for people with disabilities is just as important on the internet as it is in real life. What many people don’t realize is that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that business websites be accessible to all users, regardless of their physical limitations.
The reasons to make your website accessible are both ethical and legal. Foremost, it’s important that everyone does their part to ensure equal access to all people, regardless of their needs or abilities. But if that’s not enough, there’s another compelling reason: lawsuits.
In the past several years, thousands of businesses have been sued for non-compliance with the ADA (including some from right here in Western NY). In order to avoid costly penalties and legal trouble, it is important that your website is confirmed as being ADA-compliant as soon as possible.
What is the ADA?
The Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. Its purpose is to make American society more accessible to people with disabilities of all kinds. It’s a part of our everyday lives now so much that we hardly notice it. From the Braille on ATMs to handicapped restrooms, the changes enforced by the ADA have improved the everyday quality of life for disabled Americans.
The ADA’s mission is to remove “access barriers” in all “places of public accommodation.” While that includes removing literal access barriers–like lowering counter height at stores, for example–it has also taken on a less literal meaning in recent years. Now, with the internet, “access barriers” can be digital in nature.
Why Is The ADA Concerned with Websites?
The internet is the site of the new marketplace. Whereas business used to be done in person, much of today’s business is conducted online. A person who might once have walked in your brick-and-mortar location is now just as likely to do business online.
When the ADA was passed in 1990, brick and mortar businesses had to ensure that they were accessible to people with disabilities. They had to install things like wheelchair ramps, widened doors, and handicapped parking. Thanks to the ADA, people with disabilities were able to participate in their communities more than ever before.
Now, with the internet, we are presented with a new set of challenges for accessibility. The range of disabilities is different when it comes to the web than it was when the obstacles were in the real world. Still, it is just as imperative that your business complies with ADA regulations on websites as it is with physical locations.
The focus online is on making websites accessible to people with sensory issues. Your site has to work just as well for people who can’t see, can’t hear, or can’t read as it does for those without disabilities.
Legal Consequences of A Non-ADA Compliant Website
Because of a lack of awareness about ADA compliance for websites, businesses have been slammed with lawsuits seemingly out of nowhere. In 2018 alone, 2,258 businesses were sued for ADA non-compliance. That number was up 177% from 2017, and the trend promises to continue.
And before you think that being tucked away in Western NY exempts you from vulnerability to lawsuits, don’t forget about the Finger Lakes wineries that were sued for non-compliance last year.
Getting compliant is too simple and affordable to take the risk. By hiring Site Hub to make sure your website is compliant, you could potentially save thousands on legal expenses and fines. Another way to ensure that you’re compliant is to let us design your website. All Site Hub websites are made with maximum accessibility measures in place.
“The legal ramifications for not having an accessible website can be costly. But, having a website with poor user experience can be even more costly, and that includes users with disabilities. When someone visits your website, you should want them to have an enjoyable experience. As more and more accessible technology solutions allow people with disabilities to access the web, there’s a much higher chance than ever before that someone with a disability will land on your website. Much like a sighted person resenting a bad experience on a poorly designed website, blind and low-vision users of screen reading software won’t enjoy visiting a website that hasn’t been optimized for that experience. The potential for being sued is an important factor, but the desire to ensure that everyone visiting your site has an optimal experience should be at the top of the list.”
– Chris Clemens,
What To Do About ADA Compliance
First and foremost, get your website checked out by a professional. There are no comprehensive online scanners that exist today, but there are checklists provided by the ADA. However, this isn’t really a DIY project and requires a good amount of technical know-how.
Secondly, if you find you’re non-compliant, get it sorted out ASAP. This is the sort of thing that can come at you at any time, and lawyers don’t care if you remediate the problem after the fact.
Lastly, if you’re in compliance with the ADA, pat yourself on the back for doing a bang-up job with your site.
Good luck out there, friends!