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Websites must be accessible according to the ADA

Author: | Category: ADA Compliance

The ADA prohibits any private businesses that provide goods or services to the public, referred to as “public accommodations,” from discriminating against those with disabilities. Federal courts have ruled that the ADA includes websites in the definition of public accommodation. As such, websites must offer auxiliary aids and services to low-vision, hearing-impaired, and physically disabled persons, in the same way a business facility must offer wheelchair ramps, braille signage, and sign language interpreters, among other forms of assistance.

All websites must be coded correctly to be compatible with electronic screen readers, which read the visual elements of a webpage aloud for sight-impaired users. Additionally, all live and pre-recorded audio content must include synchronous captioning for hearing-impaired users.

Websites must accommodate hundreds of keyboard combinations, such as Ctrl + P to print, that people with disabilities depend on to navigate the Internet.

Litigation continues to increase substantially. All business and governmental entities are potential targets for lawsuits and demand letters. Recent actions by the Department of Justice targeting businesses with inaccessible websites will likely create a dramatic increase of litigation risk.

Are there well-known companies that have been sued?

Several well-known companies have faced lawsuits related to ADA compliance for their websites. Some of these companies include:

  1. Netflix: Sued for not providing closed captioning on all streaming content.
  2. Target: Faced a lawsuit because its website was not accessible to blind users.
  3. Amazon: Targeted by lawsuits claiming its website was not fully accessible to people with disabilities.
  4. Nike: Sued for website accessibility issues, particularly for not being accessible to visually impaired users.
  5. Domino’s Pizza: Faced a high-profile lawsuit for its website and mobile app not being accessible to blind users.
  6. Beyoncé’s Company (Parkwood Entertainment): Sued for its website being inaccessible to visually impaired users.
  7. Target Corp.: was ordered to pay $6 million – plus $3.7 million more in legal costs – to settle a landmark class action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind.

Other recent defendants in these cases have included McDonald’s, Carnival Cruise Lines, Netflix, Harvard University, Foot Locker, and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Along with these large companies, thousands of small businesses have been subject to ADA website litigation.

What are the penalties for an ADA non-compliant website?

Penalties for having an ADA non-compliant website can vary depending on the nature and severity of the violation. Potential consequences include:
  1. Legal Fines and Settlements: Organizations may face fines, which can be substantial, especially if the case goes to court. Settlements can also be costly if the issue is resolved out of court.

  2. Injunctive Relief: Courts can order businesses to make their websites compliant by a certain date. This may include hiring accessibility consultants, redesigning the website, and implementing new policies to ensure ongoing compliance.

  3. Attorney’s Fees: If a plaintiff wins the case, the business may be required to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees, which can be significant.

  4. Reputational Damage: Being sued for ADA non-compliance can harm a company’s reputation, leading to a loss of customer trust and potential decreases in revenue.

  5. Business Disruption: The process of making a website ADA-compliant can be time-consuming and disruptive to regular business operations.

To avoid these penalties, it is advisable for businesses to proactively ensure their websites meet ADA accessibility standards.

 

Why is web accessibility so important?

Web accessibility is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Inclusivity: Ensures that people with disabilities can access and interact with websites, fostering an inclusive online environment for everyone.
  2. Legal Compliance: Many countries have laws and regulations, such as the ADA in the United States, requiring websites to be accessible. Non-compliance can lead to legal consequences.
  3. Broader Audience: Accessible websites can reach a larger audience, including people with disabilities, older individuals, and those with temporary impairments.
  4. Improved Usability: Enhancing accessibility often improves overall usability for all users, making the website easier to navigate and interact with.
  5. SEO Benefits: Accessible websites are typically better structured and more understandable for search engines, which can improve search engine rankings.
  6. Corporate Responsibility: Demonstrates a company’s commitment to social responsibility and ethical business practices by valuing all users.
  7. Economic Benefits: People with disabilities represent a significant portion of the market. Making websites accessible can lead to increased customer loyalty and revenue.
  8. Technological Advancement: Promotes innovation and the adoption of best practices in web design and development, benefiting the entire industry.

 

Which businesses have to comply with ADA?

In the United States, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) applies to a wide range of businesses and organizations. Here are the key categories of businesses that must comply with ADA requirements:

  1. Public Accommodations: These include businesses that are open to the public, such as:
    – Retail stores
    – Restaurants and bars
    – Hotels and motels
    – Theaters and concert halls
    – Museums and galleries
    – Recreation facilities, such as sports stadiums and gyms
    – Private schools and daycare centers
    – Medical offices, hospitals, and other healthcare providers
  2. Commercial Facilities: These are non-residential facilities whose operations affect commerce, including:
    – Office buildings
    – Factories and warehouses
  3. State and Local Government Facilities: All programs, services, and activities provided by state and local governments must be accessible, including:
    – Public transportation services
    – Government offices
    – Public schools and universities
    – Parks and recreation centers
  4. Employers: Companies with 15 or more employees must comply with Title I of the ADA, which includes providing reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities and ensuring non-discriminatory practices in hiring, promotions, and other employment-related activities.
  5. Telecommunication Services: Providers of telecommunications services must ensure that people with hearing and speech disabilities have access to communication services that are functionally equivalent to those available to others.
  6. Internet-based Businesses: Although the ADA does not explicitly mention websites, courts have increasingly interpreted it to apply to online businesses, especially those that have a physical presence or offer goods and services to the public.

It’s important for all these businesses and organizations to ensure compliance with ADA regulations to avoid legal issues, promote inclusivity, and provide equal access to all individuals.

ADA Compliance Checklist

Adhering to this short checklist is a basic requirement for ADA compliance:

  • Reading law documents
  • Having an ‘alt’ tag for all media files and maps
  • Including descriptive HTML tags in online forms
  • Using descriptive anchor text in hyperlinks
  • Including ‘skip navigation’ links on all web pages
  • Having accessible PDF files
  • Using proper heading tags in web content
  • Including subtitles, audio descriptions, and transcripts in videos
  • Using accessible fonts
  • Easily locatable contact information on all web pages
  • Keyboard navigation accessibility
  • Written captions for all audio files
  • Testing website accessibility based on WCAG guidelines
  • Automating website accessibility checks to prevent important accessibility issues

 

FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions many website owners ask about ADA accessibility.

 1. What is an ADA-accessible website?

ADA-accessible websites are designed to ensure that people with disabilities can access and interact with them without any barriers. These websites are perfectly designed, edited, and developed to ensure all their visitors have equal access to the website’s information and functionality.

2. Is ADA compliance mandatory for websites in 2022?

Websites are not explicitly included in the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, as they are considered places of public accommodation, most sites people visit every day have to be ADA-compliant.

As many courts in America consider ADA compliance mandatory, ADA compliance is compulsory for websites in two categories:

  • Websites that state and local governments fund
  • Business websites

While most of the ADA website lawsuits are made against businesses considered to be places of public accommodation, even government sites, commercial websites selling goods or services, and websites open to the general public need to be ADA compliant.

3. Is ADA compliance necessary for my website?

There are still no clear instructions on how and whether all websites must be ADA-compliant. However, it is better to be safe than sorry by being more cautious with your website being accessible to people with disabilities.

The best way to build an ADA-compliant website without any clear definition is by periodically scanning your website for accessibility errors.

4. Can a website be 100% ADA-compliant?

No, a website can’t be 100% ADA-compliant without accessibility issues. However, this doesn’t mean businesses can neglect ADA compliance, and they must take the necessary measures to ensure their website complies with ADA requirements as much as possible.

This includes eliminating all and any barriers to real-life users, like digital accessibility barriers. And with the number of web accessibility lawsuits increasing every day, a business should have and follow a compliance plan.

Website owners need to audit and remediate their websites. An audit helps ascertain all the accessibility issues on your website. Remediation then helps fix all the problems found in the audit and makes your website accessible.

Contact us at ADA Site Compliance as your #1 source for ADA website accessibility compliance assistance today.

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