Understanding ADA Website Compliance in 2019
When you think of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), you may think about a department store, restaurant, a hotel or even public housing, such as a condo or apartment building. What you may not be aware of is the fact that the internet is now being included as a place of public accommodation based on Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
What This Means for Your Website
If the website has components which are seen as significantly inaccessible, it can be considered discriminatory and be deemed to be in violation of Title III of the act. No excuse is allowed for the violations even though there is no current legal prescription to determine web accessibility.
New standards for accessibility to the web have been published. At the same time, attorneys are filing lawsuits based on the ADA against websites that are noncompliant. To prevent this from happening to you, it’s important to make sure your website is compliant.
Website accessibility can be confusing for the average site owner. It can mean two separate but related things. First, it may mean that all content and functions of the site are accessible to those with a disability. Secondly, it may mean how accessible the site itself is, which is the technical aspect of the issue.
Website owners must be concerned with the legal side of this issue, but they can’t forget about the technical side either. They not only need to be compliant but accessible.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA is considered the standard for accessibility by the court system and the Department of Justice (DOJ). This guideline includes 38 requirements.
What Should You Do?
If you’re like a lot of website owners, just the mention of a lawsuit has you in panic. However, you don’t have to worry about meeting all 38 requirements in the next 24 hours. The best place to start is with your images. Make sure you have alt text to each image. Begin working on the Homepage and the most trafficked pages of your site.
The WCAG 2.0 is rather complicated to understand and it’s a long document that makes you feel lost the more you read. There is also the Web Accessibility Standards from Accessible.org, which provides information in bullet points.
While the determination of website compliance with ADA hasn’t been settled in court, Stephen E. Boyd, the Assistance Attorney General, has stated that most sites have some flexibility for how they can comply with accessibility.
Some of the things covered in WAS include the following:
- Website presentation, including uniform labels, clean code, descriptive text and nested headings
- Website appearance, including color contrast and having a consistent layout and navigation
- Content Alternatives, including no images of text, closed captioning, table data and text transcripts
- User Control, including no automatic pop-ups or video, no unexpected changes, and the ability to adjust time limits
- Website Usability, which includes only the keyboard, the ability to skip navigation and the search function
Accessibility is a Continual Process
Getting your website to be compliant isn’t a one-time thing. It is impacted every time you create new content and upload media. There is already a set of legal best practices to maintain compliance, which includes creating a web page which explains your accessibility policy, training on compliance, and hiring a consultant and an accessibility coordinator.
An independent consultant won’t do much to help you. They will tell you what’s wrong, but they won’t do the job of fixing your website. Don’t rely on automated scans because they will only tell you part of what’s wrong with your site.
If you decide you need an audit, make sure it’s a manual one. It takes hours of time, but it’s the only way to know if your entire site is compliant. However, the best option is to work with a web development company to make the necessary changes for compliance.
If you want to make changes immediately, make sure all your images have alt text and your videos include closed captioning. These are two changes which are simple and effective for your website going forward.
Since the lawsuits involve the ADA, it means there are no excuses for noncompliance. You can’t say things like:
- I never heard about this issue
- I just hired a developer to fix the problem
- Part of my site is compliant
- I only missed a couple of things
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a big Fortune 500 company or a Mom and Pop store. Anyone can be hit with a lawsuit. Now is the time to act before you get dragged into court. Digital 1 can not only let you know if your website is in compliance today, but we can also fix the issues so you don’t have to worry tomorrow.
To learn more email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 424.452.8484.