ADA Requirements for Websites
As many companies and businesses are now aware from recent webinars provided by the FDCC, a group of US and international civil defense litigators, there has been a sharp upward trend in lawsuits filed against websites which are not compliant with the ADA guidelines stemming from Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA Compliance).
Courts have recently concluded that a company’s website is considered a public accommodation, (attorneys included) and as such runs the risk of a legal violation.
A number of aggressive law firms have started sending out demand letters against companies, alleging the websites are inaccessible to disabled individuals.
Previously, retail locations were (and still are) the main targets of these lawsuits, however the trend is on the upswing and spreading to more places of public accommodation, including attorney websites which are non-compliant with ADA guidelines. Ecommerce websites not in compliance with ADA requirements continue to be targeted and fined when found in violation.
Important to note, Title III of the ADA does not allow plaintiffs to recover monetary damages against companies in violation of the law. Rather, plaintiffs are entitled only to injunctive relief, however, DOJ can assess monetary penalties of up to $50,000 for the first violation.
People start lawsuits against businesses because their websites are not sufficiently accessible to the disabled; the websites lack assistive technologies for the blind or hearing impaired, for example.
Also, there are a limited number of website designers who are knowledgeable about WCAG 2.0 standards (Website Content Accessibility Guidelines), so it may be difficult to find a competent web company to help you become compliant with ADA guidelines.
Understanding Website Accessibility – Made Easy
As a simplified way to understand website accessibility, the video below illustrates the use of a screen reader by a blind person. For the screen reader to work, the website must have certain features on the page tagged, for example, images must be tagged with understandable text that can be read by the screen reader and ‘spoken’ to the visitor. Navigation items must be properly tagged, so a blind person would be able to navigate the page easily and not have to ‘listen’ to every word (and link) on the page to find the items he/she is looking for. There are many features which need to be considered to help each page satisfy the ADA requirements.
How to Meet WCAG 2.0 Requirements – ADA Web Compliance
To meet WCAG 2.0 requirements, it is necessary to perform an extensive audit of the site to identify areas where the site is deficient. Businesses are required to ensure that all their customers have access to the same services, regardless of their physical limitations. People with disabilities that affect their sight, hearing, or mobility may have difficulty accessing certain parts of website and other online properties unless certain accommodations are made.
WCAG 2.0 requirements are grouped in four (4) core principles deeming content must be:
- Text alternatives
- Time-based media
- Keyboard accessibility
- Enough time
- Input assistance
- Compatible with user agents
This is an abbreviated list of requirements. For a more complete breakout of the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines, you can chick here: https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/.
Assistive Technology – What is it?
Assistive technology is a phrase that describes tools people with disabilities can use to accomplish tasks, like reading a web page, in this case.
Types of Assistive Technology
- Screen readers – as shown above, is software used by blind or visually impaired people to read the content of a web page.
- Screen magnification software – enables users to control the size of the text and images on the screen, and its use is similar to holding a microscope of the screen to assist with reading.
- Text readers – this is software used by people with learning disabilities that will read with a synthesized voice and use a highlighter to emphasize which word is being spoken.
- Speech input software – provides those with difficulty typing an alternative way to input text and control mouse function.
Other types of assistive technology exist, however one criterion for meeting WCAG 2.0 Guidelines is that the features of the web page cannot break or interfere with current or future user agents (assistive technology being one) and support their use. To learn more about assistive technology, visit: https://webaccess.berkeley.edu/resources/assistive-technology
ADA Compliance Tax Incentives
Congress has provided two types of tax incentives for businesses to help them offset the cost of compliance with the ADA. Businesses can take advantage of these incentive year after year to help continue to make their products and services more accessible to Americans with disabilities.
If your business has 30 or fewer employees or total revenues of $1M or less, a credit of up to $5K per year can be obtained. Businesses of any size may take a deduction of up to $15,000 each year under section 190 of the IRS Tax Code for removing barriers.
For more information on tax incentives, visit: https://www.ada.gov/reachingout/lesson81.htm
Get Help with ADA Website Compliance
If you would like an evaluation of your business website to see if it’s in compliance or what would need to be done to become complaint, feel free to contact us. Our team has experience with helping businesses meet the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines and satisfy the requirements of the ADA.
ADA Compliance Resources
- Can Your Company’s Website Lead to a Lawsuit? https://www.fisherphillips.com/resources-newsletters-article-can-your-companys-website-lead-to-a-lawsuit
- How to Meet WCAG 2.0 Requirements https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/?showtechniques=141%2C247
- Website Accessibility Checker https://achecker.ca/checker/index.php#output_div
- Website Accessibility Lawsuits Set to Increase Under Trump https://dynomapper.com/blog/27-accessibility-testing/443-web-accessibility-lawsuits-set-to-increase-under-trump