ADA Compliance for Websites: What It Is and Why It’s Important
What is ADA Compliance?
In July of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed into law by President George H. W. Bush. This legislation provided a foundation for definitive, legal requirements for government agencies and all types of businesses regarding the accommodation of people with disabilities. Changes, updates and amendments have followed in the years since 1990, further refining the Act and making living and working in the U.S. easier for those with disabilities.
Title III of the ADA provides legislation intended to prevent discrimination for those with disabilities in both the public sector and government. While originally focusing on physical items such as allowing service dogs into buildings, providing wheelchair ramps and signage to assist the visually impaired, in recent years the Department of Justice has increasingly addressed Internet issues. In 1998, Section 508 of the 1973 Workforce Rehabilitation Act was amended to ensure accessibility of digital information to those with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities. This currently applies to federal agencies, but it is increasingly being used to guide decision making for nonfederal agencies.
In 2010, the Department of Justice made public an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to provide a warning about future changes that would make it clear ADA legislation applies to website compliance for those with disabilities. Those changes are expected to be released in 2018.
In 1999, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, known as WCAG 1.0, were published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In 2008, the consortium published WCAG 2.0, currently the gold standard for evaluating website accessibility.
What Are the ADA Compliance Guidelines?
The WCAG 2.0 fundamentals focus on four principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust. These principles refer to the technology, architecture and content of websites. They are broad terms, so what do they mean for your website? Here are a few ways sites are accessible:
- Text alternatives for non-text content such as images and videos are provided
- Captions for multimedia are displayed, and a text of the transcript is available
- Content color, color contrast and font size need to meet minimum standards
- Site should be accessible via keyboard controls only, providing users with ways to navigate without the assistance of a mouse or trackpad
- Site should provide adequate time for users to consume content
- Content that doesn’t cause seizures; flashing or blinking elements in images or video need to be slow so as not to trigger seizures
- A “Skip Navigation” link needs to be at the top of pages so users can skip the top-to-bottom, left-to-right navigation and get directly to the meat of the page’s content
Why Should I Pay Attention to ADA Compliance?
Recent court cases brought by the DOJ have made it clear that website accessibility is an issue for everyone, from colleges and e-commerce sites to hospitality and banks. Companies need to address the issue of accessibility in a proactive manner. Although the official guidelines aren’t expected to arrive until 2018, claims against organizations are already in full swing. Multiple sources report that In 2015, the DOJ received 6,391 accessibility complaints, up about 40% from 2014. The Wall Street Journal, in 2014, stated that Title III lawsuits had gone up 55% from the past year.
ADA Compliance is Important for Customer Service
Businesses that serve consumers shouldn’t take the stance that they aren’t lifting a finger until required to do so. This sends a negative message to their consumers, both with and without disabilities. According to the 2010 census, 19% of the US population, approximately 56.7 million people, reported a disability. In fact, the report, titled “Americans with Disabilities: 2010,” reveals the percentage of people reporting severe disabilities is on the rise. This is a significant part of the consumer base in the U.S., and businesses can’t afford to ignore them.
Risk is a Reality
Patagonia, Bed, Bath and Beyond and JCPenney have all learned the hard way it’s risky to leave website accessibility untended. All have been sued over claims that their websites are inaccessible for disabled users. In a November, 2016 article, the Wall Street Journal reported more than 240 businesses had been sued since January 2015, with claimants alleging websites were inaccessible. A March 2016 Forbes article reported the courts aren’t waiting on the Department of Justice. Judges are handing down rulings, as in the case of a blind plaintiff who was awarded $4,000 plus attorney fees in a case against Colorado Bag’n Baggage for complaints against the website.
Budget and Timing
Outside of the customer service and risk arguments for making sites accessible, it makes sense for businesses to start changing their websites incrementally over time before they are forced into a deadline that might create hardships in terms of timing and budget demands.
Businesses that redesign their websites need to work with professionals who fully understand the current WCAG 2.0 guidelines, which the DOJ have implicitly supported as the current acceptable standard. Making changes over time and ensuring that any website redesign efforts start with an eye towards accessibility ensures that businesses won’t be caught having to completely rework their sites in 2018 and beyond.
Smart businesses will take a proactive, customer-friendly approach to evaluating their websites for ADA compliance and making the necessary changes to communicate with all guests visiting their sites. EnVeritas Group can help you evaluate the accessibility of your website and provide you with a clear path to updating it.
Contact one of our experts, Harris Quinn via email email@example.com or call him at 864-354-0566, today to find out how we can help you.
Note: We at EnVeritas Group are not attorneys. This information should not be considered legal advice. We encourage everyone to read the Americans with Disabilities Act, by visiting https://www.ada.gov and to review Section 508.