In the year 2020, Title III Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) will turn 30 years old. You might be wondering why a law that’s been in place for so long is suddenly all over the news again. The ADA regulations were designed to ensure equal access to information and products for people with disabilities. Recent lawsuits have set the precedent that websites of any business that employs 15 or more people are “places of public accommodation” and therefore need to be compliant with ADA laws. To be on the safe side, ADA guidelines should apply to any and all websites. Besides, making a website accessible to people with different abilities is the right thing to do. Here are some important facts about being ADA compliant that you need to know.
#1. ADA Compliance For Websites Is The Law
ADA website compliance means making your website accessible to people with disabilities, especially those with poor vision that need screen readers to access information off of a website. Many businesses don’t think about ADA compliance until they are on the receiving end of a lawsuit. Everyone from Netflix to Beyonce has been sued over ADA compliance as the courts try to hash out some grey areas over who all needs to comply with ADA regulations. By law, any private sector business with over 15 employees has to be ADA compliant. Recent court cases, however, have proven that any size business that is made publicly accessible (such as a small e-commerce website) must also comply with ADA laws. According to Digital Authority, lawsuits for these cases are up 8% with hundreds of new ones filed each month. Fines of as much as $75,000 can be handed out for a first-time offense. The Americans With Disabilities Act touches so many parts of operating a business but until recently people were not giving as much thought to how it could, or should, affect the way websites are designed.
#2. There Are 61 Guidelines (Called WCAG 2.0) That Need To Be Followed
It sounds scary, having to comply with 61 different elements for ADA compliance, but most websites already meet most of the requirements without even thinking about it. A lot of the guidelines have to do with readable text, alternate text, descriptive language, and the ability to use a screen reader with the website. There are some software programs that can crawl your site and look for potential problems such as WAVE and Lighthouse.
#3. Healthcare And E-Commerce Are Among The Most Sued Over ADA Compliance
Some of the most high profile lawsuits for non-compliance are in the medical or healthcare fields, as well as sites that sell products (e-commerce). According to Healthcare Weekly, the following healthcare companies were recently sued over their website’s non-compliance.
- WellPoint, Inc. – This health insurance company was sued by two visually impaired employees of one of their affiliate companies, Anthem Blue Cross.
- HCA Holdings, Inc. – This company that owns over 100 hospitals has an open case against it for having websites riddled with problems for the visually impaired, such as not working with screen readers or a lack of alternate text used with photos.
- Tenet Healthcare – The owner of many healthcare facilities and hospitals, Tenent is being used for their website’s inability to use screen readers.
#4. You Might Be Surprised At The People Being Sued For ADA Non-compliance
Singing celebrity Beyonce Knowles’ company Parkwood Entertainment was sued because its website, Beyonce.com, doesn’t provide accommodation for people with significant vision problems. Being sued by your own fans over a celebrity fan site meant to connect with an audience was certainly a wakeup call for anyone that owns a website that they don’t consider a business. Even if you aren’t selling products you could be liable for ADA compliance.
#5. ADA Website Compliance Touches Video On Business And Entertainment Websites
The Atlantic covered an ongoing battle between Netflix and the government over ADA compliance when it comes to closed captioning. The years-long battle ended with the media giant agreeing to add descriptive closed captioning to all of its content. If your website features any video then you should consider doing the same. Visual and audial disabilities are among the most talked-about with regards to ADA website compliance since sight and sound are the two senses we use to access the internet.
#6. The Top ADA Website Compliance Tips
You can easily obtain a list of 61 guidelines of ADA compliance as it pertains to websites, but here are the top tips that can help get your website in shape quickly after a high-level review. You can use a manual checklist or a software application to scan your website for ADA compliance violations and potential problems.
- Use Proper Headings And Titles
- Use Text Size, Color and Fonts To Differentiate Information
- When Using Visuals Include Alternative Text
- Websites Need To Be Easily Navigated With The Keyboard Alone
- Make Sure Your Website Is Readable With A Screen Reader
- Do Not Display Information Using A PDF Which Cannot Be Read By A Screen Reader
- Add Closed Caption For Videos
- An Accessible Website Starts With Clean And Organized HTML Coding And Tags
Making your website accessible for people with disabilities isn’t just the law, it’s the right and responsible thing to do. The internet is a huge part of our daily lives and is often the way we get our news, order products and connect with other people. Millions of people with disabilities should not be excluded from this vitally important part of everyday life. It’s easy to take for granted the sensory experience of seeing and hearing information on the web. Consider how difficult it would be to access your medical information, pay your bills or even learn new things without the help of the things you can read, watch and listen to on the internet. Everyone with a website should be making an effort to be as accessible as possible.
- Marina Turea works as content manager at Digital Authority Partners.