Executive Overview: ADA Compliance
What is it?
An ADA compliant website enables people who have disabilities, such as sight and hearing impairment access your website. The ADA applies to organizations and companies in the United States.
Who is this for?
If you are 1. A government organization or 2. A company with 15 or more employees, the law is clear that you are required to be compliant. If you have 14 or fewer employees, the answer is less clear, but it could be yes as well, the courts have had mixed opinions on different types of companies.
In the United States, all people have the right to equal treatment and should not experience discrimination because they happen to have a disability.
How Do I Get My Website Compliant?
There are different options for how to become ADA compliant. Some websites require a manual audit and development, other websites can use artificial intelligence to automate most of the ADA compliance.
Contact The Story to discuss your situation and the best approach for getting your website compliant.
What Makes a Website ADA Compliant?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protections for people who have disabilities, providing them with equal opportunity to access information, products and services. This includes websites.
Some people think that you just need to have descriptions (meta tags) for images, graphics and pages, and you are ADA compliant. That’s part of it, but there’s a lot of different things that can be a challenge with some websites.
Here’s a few things that a must be addressed in order to make a website ADA Compliant:
ADA Website General Principles
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content
- Help users navigate and find content.
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
ADA Website Requirement Highlights
- There needs to be text alternatives for non-text content (such as images and video)
- The text must be able to be increased in size to 200% while maintaining the format of the website.
- Make all functionality available from a computer. There must be no dead ends with keyboard navigation, where a keyboard only user is stuck.
- Errors must be descriptive and not rely on visual or audio.
- High contrast must be used for text to make it more readable for those with partial visual impairment. No text on images
- No content that causes seizures.
- Video captions are explicitly required for federal government entities and anything aired on television. Video captions are not explicitly required for other organizations, although it is possible that this may be inferred and it’s recommended to have video captioning
There is extensive documentation available on the federal government website. You can access standards document from ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
Am I Legally Required to have an ADA Compliant Website?
The U.S. Department of Justice, in 2010, passed the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design. This Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires electronic and information technology, including websites, to be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes (but is not limited to) people with vision impairment and hearing loss.
What the ADA Act says about required organizations:
According to the ADA act, any organization with 15 or more employees is required to have an ADA compliant website. Additionally, any of the following organizations and businesses are required to have ADA compliant websites, no matter how many employees they have.
- Federal, Provincial, and Local government organizations
- Employment Agencies and Labor unions
- Hotels, banks, public accommodation, and public transportation
Public accommodation is defined broadly and may include the following types of businesses or locations:
- Retail Stores
- Healthcare Facilities and Hospitals
- Train/Rail/Subway Stations and Terminals
- Resorts, Hotels, and Motels
- Sports Stadiums/Arenas
Risk of Litigation
Perhaps more important than legal requirement is the threat of litigation. Many companies that are being sued for not having ADA compliance for their website.
There’s a lot of litigation related to Websites and ADA compliance. While there are differing opinions about companies with less than 15 Employees.
Here’s what Law.com had to say about litigation over ADA.
“Even before the pandemic, over 10,000 ADA lawsuits were filed in the federal courts alone. That inventory of litigation will only increase as businesses throughout the United States race to build out new online ordering, communication tools, mobile apps, and other digital service offerings.”
Failing to comply with the ADA means your business is susceptible to lawsuits, and according to Engelhardt, the costs of an ADA lawsuit add up quickly.
“Failing to comply with the ADA means your business is susceptible to lawsuits, and it’s common for attorneys to seek out non-compliant businesses both in the physical and digital space. According to Engelhardt, the costs of an ADA lawsuit add up quickly.
“Other than a business being forced to comply, which is costly, the business will have to pay attorneys’ fees, which can be tens of thousands of dollars,” Engelhardt said. “Depending on the state, the business owner can be looking at a $50,000 bill.”
Search Engine Journal has some additional thoughts about ADA compliance and risk of litigation
1. ADA Laws in the U.S. as They Pertain to Websites Remain Unclear
There is a lack of precise ADA guidelines on websites up to this point.
The exception is Section 508 for government and GSA contract websites.
2. Serial Plaintiffs Look for Websites to Sue
Decisions differ by state and plaintiffs can sue outside their own state.
Serial filers are sometimes known as “testers of compliance” and plaintiffs do not need to use your website to be able to file a complaint.
Also, there is no limit on cases.
One well known serial plaintiff with a physical disability filed approximately 500 cases since October 2019.
3. What to Do After Receiving a Demand Letter
If you receive a demand letter, contact a lawyer who specializes in ADA and accessibility law immediately.
4. There Is No ADA Law in the U.S. Enforcing the WCAG Standard for Public Websites
However, related laws and various circuit court judgments are chipping away with decisions based on ethics and non-discrimination.
How Do I Know if My Website is Compliant or Not?
If you haven’t been intentional about making your website compliant, it’s not. However, if you want to test it to see if it’s compliant, test it with Achecker. Please note that Achecker will likely catch a majority of the issues but will not catch all of them.
Options for Getting ADA Compliant
There are three main options:
Do it Yourself
You can make your website compliant yourself. There’s resources and tools that can help you, however it can be a lot of work.
- Section 508 – providing guidance to Federal Agency IT staff
- Guidance on the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
- Statement of Regulatory
Audit and Remediation Company
You can get a company who will do the audit and remediation for you. Note that if you have an older website, it will probably make financial sense to redesign and develop the website.
AI Web Accessibility Tool
There are a few Artificial Intelligence tools available that automatically scans, analyzes and updates your website. It is important that these tools will get your website 70-90% compliant with not additional effort. No AI tool can get everything on your site fully compliant. The AI Accessibility tool that you choose should provide you with a report of anything else that needs to be updated in order to be compliant.
Get ADA Compliant
The Story Web Design & Marketing can help you understand what your options are and provide you with the solution that best meets your website and organizational needs.