ADA Compliance & Website Accessibility: Dangers of Non-Compliance

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In 1990 when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was first signed into law, there wasn’t much concern about the digital world – since the World Wide Web was still in its relative infancy. Beyond the ADA, you may hear talk of 508 compliance – which I’ve written about before. It refers to section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires equal access to federally-funded programs and activities. Section 508 addresses the digital access to those resources. As of January 2018, federal agencies and contractors must meet revised standards, updated to catch up with the evolving digital world. Under the revised rules, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, as set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is considered the industry standard on accessibility for all public-facing (and some non-public facing, official agency business content.

ADA Compliance Image

Danger #1: Alienating a Portion of Your Audience

Did you know that 25% of the adults in the U.S., and 40% over age 65, have a disability? 2015 National Federation for the Blind data shows that more than 7 million adults are affected by some form of vision impairment such as blindness, low vision, and colorblindness. More than 15% of adults in America report hearing difficulties, and two to three children out of every 1,000 are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears. 1 in 68 children are on the autism spectrum, and between 15 to 20% of people are affected by a language-based learning disability, like dyslexia. And this doesn’t necessarily consider those with disabilities that affect motor function that makes things like moving and clicking a mouse or typing on a keyboard difficult to impossible.

By not having a fully accessible website, you risk alienating any number of audience members who fall into those categories. My daughter is blind and her web experience suffers greatly. My desire for her to have an equal experience in all things in life, digital realm included, has made me an outspoken accessibility advocate. I am part of the committee that develops the WCAG in use today.

Danger #2: Being Hit with a Lawsuit for Non-Compliance

ADA compliance lawsuits are on the rise. According to a report by The Seyfarth ADA Title III News and Insights Blog, a legal blog that’s been tracking ADA website compliance lawsuits for a few years, shows that between January 2015 and August 2017, there have been at least 751 suits filed – with 432 of them coming in 2017. There’s no way to be certain all web accessibility lawsuits have been captured, so the numbers are likely higher, and we can expect them to continue to climb. These figures don’t consider demand letters that are solved without going to lawsuit or cases filed with state courts.

Nearly 5,000 ADA lawsuits were filed in federal court in the first half of 2018, and the number continued to climb, reaching a 30% increase from 2017.

The main reason for this is a lack of legal consensus as to which websites fall under Department of Justice and ADA jurisdiction. Websites are generally considered in this category if they are considered a “place of public accommodation” which is an extension of a physical location. But, different courts have differing interpretations of the law and what validates claims of victims of discrimination.

The Winn-Dixie Case

This was the first ADA website compliance lawsuit to go to trial. The plaintiff said that 90% of the grocery chain’s website wasn’t accessible with JAWS, which is a software that reads text on the screen for the visually impaired. Lawyers argued that because it wasn’t a place of publication accommodation it couldn’t be forced to comply with the ADA. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, because the content on the website was tied to store physical location.

The Blick Art Materials Case

A few months later, a legally blind man sued Blick Materials LLC for failing to make their art supplies website accessible to those who are visually impaired. Though the site isn’t attached to a physical store, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff here as well, designating the website as a place of public accommodation, forcing the company to make their site compliant.

Both Winn-Dixie and Blick Arts lost their cases, but for contradictory reasons, which is why the legalities surrounding the issues are so gray.

The Avanti Hotel

The Avanti Hotel website is under fire for claims that the website cannot be used by people who have trouble seeing or hearing. This is one of many businesses that have been caught up in the recent wave of ADA websites. The case has yet to be resolved.

Other organizations that have had ADA website accessibility suits brought against them include Domino’s Pizza, Inc., Harvard, and MIT Universities.

Danger #3: Legal Fees for ADA Non-Compliance

As a website owner, your choice generally comes down to spending the money to ensure your website is compliant, and taking the chance that you will not be sued in court. If you are sued by someone with a disability, paying for legal representation may only be a portion of your legal fees. Depending on case outcome, you may also have to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees, and still have to spend money bringing your site to compliance. For small businesses, this could be enough to force closure, so ti makes more sense to invest in getting your site compliant with the ADA and section 508 using WCAG.

Danger #4: Damaging Your Brand Reputation

Brand reputation is everything these days – and with social media making it easier for people to share both positive and negative experiences with their friends and family, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of any negative press. You may have to invest even more money into a public relations firm to do damage control if you are party to an ADA compliance lawsuit. 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting your website, and 67.7% of purchasing decisions are affected by online reviews.

Working on a website can be difficult. Adding new media and updating pages is chore, even though you know your company website needs to evolve and become more accessible to the many users you are trying to reach. Maybe when you first built it, accessibility wasn’t even really discussed. But now you’ve taken a step back, looked at your customer base with a desire to include everyone and you’ve realized just how important it is to make your site accessible. However, the thought of building a robust site that can do all the things you want it to do is overwhelming.

What is Web Accessibility

A practice of designing and coding the website in order to provide complete compatibility in accessing it by people with disabilities. In addition, it is a way to improve search engine optimization only an ADA Compliant Web Designer will help you to make your website Compliant. Is your website compatible? By going through the checklist below, you can get the answer.

Assessing Current Web Pages and Content

  • The website must include a feature like a navigation link at the top of the page. These links have a bypass mechanism such as a “skip navigation” link. This feature directs screen readers to bypass the row of navigation links and start at the web page content. It is beneficial for people who use screen readers to avoid to listen to all the links each time they jump to a new page.
  • All the links should be understandable when taken out of the context. For example, images without alternative text and links without worded as “click here”.
  • All the graphics, maps, images, and other non-text content must provide text alternatives through the alt attribute, a hidden/visible long description.
  • All the documents posted on the website should available in HTML or another accessible text-based format. It is also applicable to other formats like Portable Document Format (PDF).
  • The online forms on the website should be structured so assistive technology can identify, describe and operate the controls and inputs. By doing this, people with disabilities can review and submit the forms.
  • If the website has online forms, the drop-down list should describe the information instead of displaying a response option. For instance, “Your Age” instead of “18-25”.
  • If the website has data charts and tables, they should be structured so that all data cells are associated with column and row identifiers.
  • All the video files on the website must have audio descriptions (if necessary). This is for the convenience of blind people or for having a visual impairment disability.
  • All the video files on the website must have synchronized captions. People with hearing problems or deaf can access these files conveniently.
  • All the audio files on the website should have synchronized captions to provide access to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • All web pages should be designed so that they can be viewed using visitors’ web browser and operating system settings for color and font.

About Website Accessibility Policy and Procedures

  • One must have a written policy on website accessibility.
  • The website accessibility policy must be posted on the website at a location where it can be easily found.
  • The procedure should be developed to ensure that content is not added to the website until it has been made accessible.
  • It should be confirmed that the website manager has checked the code and structure of all new web pages before they are posted.
  • While adding the PDFs to the website, these should be accessible. Also, the text-based versions of the documents should be accessible at the same time as PDF versions.
  • Make sure that the in-house and contractor staff has received the information about the website accessibility policy and procedure to confirm the website accessibility.
  • It should be confirmed that in-house and contractor staff has received appropriate training on how to ensure the accessibility of the website.
  • The website should have a specific written plan if it contains inaccessible content. Also, it should include timeframes in place to make all of the existing web content accessible.
  • A complete plan to improve website accessibility should be posted along with invited suggestions for improvement.
  • The homepage should include easily locatable information that includes contact details like telephone number and email address. This is useful for reporting website accessibility problems and requesting accessibility services with information.
  • A website should have procedures in place to assure a quick response to the visitors with disabilities who have difficulty in accessing information or services available on the website.
  • Feedback from people who use a variety of assistive technologies is helpful in ensuring website accessibility. So make sure to ask disability groups representing people to provide feedback on the accessibility of your website.
  • Testing the website using a product available on the internet is helpful, These tools are of free cost and check the accessibility of a website. They may not identify all accessibility issues and flag issues that are not accessibility problems. However, these are, nonetheless, a helpful way to improve website accessibility.

Checklist of Action Items for Improving the Accessibility of a Website

In addition, while considering the above suggestions, the following checklist initially prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Federal Agencies provides further guidelines on ways to make websites more accessible for persons with disabilities.

This practical advice, as well as another checklist, are available at:

Satisfying all of these items does not necessarily mean that a website complies with ADA, but it will improve the website’s accessibility and decrease the risk of litigation. Again, an Expert or Web Accessibility Consulting & Services provider should be engaged to conduct a comprehensive review of your website.
Nothing brings you closer to reality than actually facing it. This is the premise of my latest attempt to spread awareness about Web Accessibility.
For better understand, here is a link in which a practical example is shown to make the websites’ user experience better by following the guidelines. Also, it tells the issues affecting various users on the internet with solutions.
You can make your website ADA compliant in an easy way by consulting the professionals, who can do this job effortlessly. Also, you can get a quick website audit from To Be ADA Compliant that offers complete web accessibility consulting & services in California, USA.