Leading-Edge Law: Does your company’s website need to be ADA compliant?

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Businesses are getting hit by lawsuits from attorneys claiming their websites don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
While the ADA was enacted before the commercial internet existed, courts interpret the ADA as requiring businesses that are “public accommodations” to have websites usable by the disabled.
The ADA doesn’t give an exhaustive list of what businesses are “public accommodations,” but any business that sells goods or services to consumers likely is covered. Businesses that sell exclusively to other businesses probably are exempt.
Suing businesses with non-ADA-compliant websites has become popular with attorneys. While such lawsuits rarely lead to compensatory damages payments, the ADA allows a successful plaintiff to recover attorneys’ fees in addition to getting an injunction requiring ADA compliance. The attorneys are after those fees.
If your business gets hit and settles quickly, the company still might pay up to about $20,000 in attorneys’ fees to the other side, plus whatever you spend on website work and on your own attorney.
The federal government has not disseminated regulations specifying what features websites must have to be ADA-complaint.
While it’s not the law, courts have cited the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as the standard to meet. These guidelines are produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3.org).
The guidelines have levels, from single A (lowest) to triple A (highest). Courts cite the middle, the double-A level of disabled-friendly functionality.
The more technologically sophisticated a website is, the more difficult and expensive ADA compliance will be. These appear to be the major compliance items:
  • Many vision-impaired people use screen readers, so make the website work with popular ones.
  • Provide text alternatives to PDF documents, because PDFs are unreadable by screen readers.
  • Have tags for images.
  • Provide captioning for videos.
  • Make it so one can use the website with only a keyboard (no mouse); many disabled people can’t use a mouse.
It’s unclear whether a covered business’s mobile app must be ADA compliant if it also has a website with the same functionality. The safe course is to make the mobile app disabled-friendly also.
I spoke with the head of a prominent Richmond website development firm. He said his company has gotten a few large clients because they were sued over website ADA non-compliance. His company has gotten much more business from companies looking to proactively become ADA compliant, perhaps while doing a website refresh.
He pointed out that doing search-engine optimization and becoming ADA compliant are synergistic tasks.
Building your website in a Google-friendly manner will put you a long way toward ADA compliance. Making your website ADA compliant will help a lot with meeting Google’s standards, which helps in your Google ranking.
Thus, becoming ADA-compliant might be good for business.
He added that making a website ADA compliant will typically add about 15 percent to website development cost, but that can vary greatly depending upon the nature of the website.
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.

Resource: https://dev.to/chinchang/an-interactive-and-practical-introduction-to-web-accessibility-22o1