How To Align Your Website With The ADA Requirements
The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, and even now it still surprises some people how this law affects them when they start a business. This law requires business to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities, and this is why wheelchair ramps are much more common and why service animals are allowed in commercial premises.
You’d think that the ADA is just for brick and mortar businesses, and that as an online business it shouldn’t have any impact on you. But you’d be wrong.
The Possibility of ADA Lawsuits
The ADA’s aim is to ensure that a person with disabilities can enjoy not just the facilities of a business, but also a business’s benefits and services. So if your business is based online, it actually means that you need to take steps to allow disabled people to use your website to do the same tasks and access the same info as the non-disabled customers.
If you fail to do this, you can then be sued just as a shop can be sued for being inaccessible for the disabled. Lawsuits of this type are becoming more popular. On 2015, there were 57 such suits, but there were 814 of these cases in 2017. Now in just the first half of 2018, 1,053 ADA cases have been filed.
According to the National Retail Federation, businesses in 38 states have faced either lawsuits or threats of lawsuits involving their websites. These cases were often resolved with monetary negotiations ranging from $10,000 up to more than $90,000.
These payouts still don’t count your legal fees, which can increase the longer you fight off these claims. What’s more, your brand will endure massive negative publicity from which you may never recover.
How to Adapt Your Site to ADA Requirements
You can be next, but you can take steps to prevent your site from being targeted. So here’s how you can make your website more accessible:
- Build your site with code that allows for compatibility with various helpful technologies like screen enlargement programs and voice recognition software.
- Your site should be more accessible to people with cognitive disabilities. So the layout and design should be clear, and your language should be easy to understand. If you need to use technical terms, it must come with handy definitions and explanations.
- You may want to have text alternatives to help those with hearing disabilities understand your videos and podcasts.
- Your site should be keyboard-accessible, to help those who have difficulties with using a mouse to navigate.
- Use large links, buttons, and controls, and offer text resizing options.
- Put in text to speech technology for those who are visually impaired. At the very least, use strong color contrast to make everything more discernible.
- Use alt text to indicate to visitors what you’re showing in an image.
Basically, the information you have on your website should be easier to perceive and understand. The operations should be easier as well, so that disabled persons can still navigate and find content on your site without too much difficulty. The site should also be designed in a way that’s compatible with common (or even future) assistive technologies.
The current problem with designing websites with the ADA in mind is that there are no clear guidelines regarding steps that must be legally taken. “Making websites more accessible to disabled persons” may be a worthy goal, but legally speaking it is quite vague. It’s subject to various interpretations, and differences in interpretation can lead to the very lawsuits you’re trying to avoid.
The government isn’t helping either. The Department of Justice has promised to issue a set of legal ADA requirements for websites, but it has yet to do so despite making this promise in 2015.
So what you can do is to do as much as you can in regards with the ultimate accessibility of your site for the disabled. It may help if you get legal assistance from a law firm with experience with ADA cases. Their advice regarding which steps you need to take can prove invaluable in the long run.
In the end, it’s not just about complying with the letter of the law. It’s about working with the spirit of the law. It’s simply ethical to treat people disabilities in the same way you’d treat people without disabilities. What’s more, you increase the size of your potential customer base. People with disabilities have needs, and they have money too!