How to Ensure an ADA Accessible Website and Avoid Penalties
The U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) recently issued new guidance on web accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure that businesses like yours make their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities in line with the ADA’s requirements. The fact that the USDOJ has turned its attention to the importance of web accessibility indicates the likely possibility of increased enforcement activity by the federal government agency than in years past.
The web accessibility Guidance, which applies to virtually any business that sells goods and services to retail customers, as well as local and state governments, focuses on a range of topics, including:
- The Importance of Web Accessibility
- Barriers that Inaccessible Websites Create for Some People with Disabilities
- When the ADA Requires Web Content to be Accessible
- Tips on Making Web Content Accessible
Overcoming Barriers to Web Accessibility
According to the new Guidance set forth by the U.S. Department of Justice, “Inaccessible web content means that people with disabilities are denied equal access to information. An inaccessible website can exclude people just as much as steps at an entrance to a physical location.”
Examples cited by the USDOJ as common techniques on websites that are barriers to web accessibility include:
- Poor Color Contrast for Website Visitors with Color Blindness or Limited Vision
- Use of Color Alone to Convey Information for Visitors Who are Color Blind
- Lack of Text Alternatives (“Alt Text”) That Convey the Purpose of Each Image for Visitors Who are Visually Impaired
- Lack of Captions on Videos for Visitors with Hearing Disabilities
- Inaccessible Online Forms for Visitors with Disabilities Who May Not Be Able to Fill it Out
- Lack of Keyboard Navigation for Visitors Who Cannot Use a Mouse or Trackpad
It’s understandable if you think you are getting mixed messages because with respect to how to make your website ADA compliant, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Guidance states that “businesses and state and local governments have flexibility in how they comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication” and that the USDOJ “does not have a regulation setting out detailed standards” for compliance.
However, the Guidance notes that certain technical standards exist that may provide guidance “concerning how to ensure accessibility of website features,” which include “the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Section 508 Standards, which the federal government uses for its own websites.”
In addition, the Guidance suggests performing a manual audit of your website combined with the use of automated accessibility evaluation software to give you a better sense of your website’s accessibility under real world conditions.
Browse the entire Guidance on Web and Accessibility and the ADA issued by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Website Accessibility Lawsuits on the Rise
All of this is separate from the civil issues that many companies are facing with the numbers suddenly surging coming out of the pandemic. According to JD Supra, a legal publishing service, every year since 2018 over 2,000 website accessibility lawsuits have been filed in federal courts. For instance, the USDOJ recently reached a settlement agreement with a major pharmacy retailer relating to the accessibility of its vaccine registration portal.
So can you ignore making your website compliant? It’s a legal risk worth discussing with your attorney. The old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is applicable.
Of the companies we’ve helped after being on the receiving end of civil action, there is no pattern – it’s happening to big companies, small companies and heavily Internet dependent industries and brick and mortar dependent industries.
Get Help to Ensure You’re Up to Date with Website Accessibility Guidelines
Navigating your way through the new web accessibility guidelines in this ever-changing landscape can be an overwhelming challenge. A team experienced in WCAG like ROAR! Internet Marketing can help.