The last several years have seen an increase in ADA enforcement regarding website functionality. In 2022, more than 8,694 accessibility lawsuits were filed. You risk lawsuits and hefty fines if your website fails to meet ADA standards. First-time violations, for example, can result in a $55,000-$75,000 penalty. Repeat violations come with a $150,000 fine.
Why is ADA compliance so important when it comes to websites?
Non-compliant web content prevents people with disabilities from having equal access to information. A non-compliant website can be just as exclusionary as steps at an entrance to a physical location. People with disabilities navigate the internet in a variety of ways. People who are blind may use screen readers, which will speak the text that appears on a screen. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may use captions, and people whose disabilities affect their ability to grasp and use a mouse may use voice recognition software to control their devices with verbal commands.
How websites are designed and structured can create barriers that make it difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to use them. These barriers can keep people with disabilities from accessing information and programs that businesses and state and local governments make available to the public online. However, these barriers can be prevented or removed to make websites accessible to people with disabilities.
What are common non-compliance issues?
Quite a few things can require accommodations when it comes to website structure. Some of the issues can be:
- Poor color contrast can create issues for individuals with color blindness or limited vision if there is insufficient distinction between the background color and text color.
- Using color alone to give information can also create issues for people with limited vision or color blindness. An example would be using specific colors (usually red) to show what sections of a form are required.
- Lack of text alternatives (“alt text”) on images as people who are blind will not be able to access information given only in image form.
- Lack of video captions can prevent individuals with hearing disabilities from accessing information.
- Inaccessible online forms. People with disabilities may be unable to complete, understand, and accurately submit forms without additional accommodations.
How does this apply to my business?
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by businesses open to the public. Businesses that are open to the public must comply with ADA requirements. This applies to all businesses, regardless of whether your business is online or in person. The ADA requires that businesses open to the public provide full and equal access to their goods, services, facilities, privileges, and advantages or provide accommodations to people with disabilities. Businesses that are open to the public must take steps to provide appropriate communication aids and services where necessary to make sure they effectively communicate with individuals with disabilities. These communication aids and services include interpreters, notetakers, captions, and assistive listening devices.
How do I make sure my website is ADA-compliant?
Due to the importance of this topic, many resources are available to ensure your access to information and tools to assist you in this issue. Free tools such as WAVE and Lighthouse are available for your use. These tools look at your site’s color contrast, text size, image alt text, and more. The drawback for these, however, is that they only analyze one page at a time rather than your whole website, which can make the process very time-consuming.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) maintains an extensive list of web accessibility evaluation tools that can also assist you in this process. Specific website hosts, such as WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, Wix, Weebly, Drupal, and Joomla, either have their own ADA plugins or permit using outside plugins that can help you with compliance. Additionally, you can hire a professional to conduct an ADA Compliance Audit on your website to look for defects and give you information and resources on how to address them. Proactively ensuring your website is ADA-compliant will protect your business from lawsuits, federal fines, and your brand from bad press. Suppose you need clarification on whether your website is ADA-compliant. In that case, it is best practice to review the above information and take measures to address any issues as soon as possible. We can help you with this crucial issue.
*This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, financial, or medical advice or the forging of an attorney-client relationship. Please retain the services of an attorney to receive legal advice on how the law applies to your business.