Most business owners know that the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requires businesses to ensure access for people with disabilities. What you may not know is this: ADA access goes beyond just the physical business location (if any). The business website must also be accessible for the deaf, the blind, and individuals using assistive technologies, like screen readers.
As a recent Supreme Court ruling, and even more recent appellate court rulings make clear, if your website does not contain disability accommodations, your company could be vulnerable to an ADA compliant website lawsuit at the state or federal level.
A lawsuit for ADA non-compliance might put you out of business–and your website’s accessibility counts. Heed our tips on how to avoid ADA website accessibility problems, as we help you understand the (still evolving) meaning of ADA website compliance, 2020 version.
Who Must Comply with ADA Regulations?
Enacted in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, the original ADA did not account for specific website rules for disabled access, and it still doesn’t. One thing is clear, however, businesses operating under Title I or Title III of the ADA, like those listed below (along with their websites), must be ADA compliant:
- Businesses falling under Title I of the ADA are those employing 15 or more people full time, and operating for a total of 4 months annually (specifically: operating for 20 weeks per year or more).
- Businesses under Title III are “public accommodation” businesses, including businesses like movie theaters, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, banks, lawyers, doctors, accountants and more.
What Does ADA Compliant Mean for Websites?
Businesses with physical locations must provide accommodations, like allowing access for service animals, providing wheelchair ramps and more. But what is required of your business website for proper ADA compliance?
Although ADA website compliance in 2020 is crucial for business success, there are no specific governmental regulations detailing which features constitute proper website accessibility. Rules stipulate only that reasonable accessibility must exist, and that the DoJ will continue to evaluate the changing ADA regulatory landscape.
ADA Website Compliance Benefits
- Helping to protect your business from ADA-related lawsuits or penalties.
- Establishing a good business/brand reputation.
- Improving SEO. (Search engines reward popular and properly coded websites.)
- Pleasing customers with smooth website functioning.
How to Check if Your Website is ADA Compliant
We suggest following specs set out by the website governing body, the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). The WCAG 2.1 rules for website development and coding lists 3 levels of compliance, (level A, AA and AAA). Of these, the medium level (AA) is being recommended currently. The W3C ADA website testing tool can help you test for compliance, however, it’s best understood by website developers and page authors.
Bottom line, to help protect your business from issues related to ADA compliance for your website:
- Make a good faith effort to ensure access for everyone. Every website visitor should be able to read your content, understand it, and perform functions like ordering products. To help with this, include alt tags succinctly describing images and videos, along with text transcripts, for example.
- Ensure your website is coded to work with common assistive technology for individuals with disabilities. Developers should follow the WCAG 2.0 Checklist and comply with web design rules outlined in WCAG 2.0, 2.1 and its future versions.
- Perform a preliminary ADA compliance website test. Basically, you must be sure your website works with current assistive software (like screen readers), and that nothing is broken on your website.
- Hire a trusted ADA website expert to test and make necessary changes to your website.
- Provide a method for individuals to contact you if they have trouble with your website.
Get Local Website Marketing Experts On Your Side
Use our tips to help protect your company by including website access for people with disabilities. When you need top-quality website marketing services, tailored to your business needs, contact Ballantine.
I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!