Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance

Posted On: April 04, 2019 by

With increased attention from HR departments, media outlets [including the LA Times and the Wall Street Journal] and a historic lawsuit, we have received numerous calls from prospective and current clients who are concerned about their websites being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

What is the ADA?

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability in places of public accommodation. Businesses both large and small are affected by the ADA. While Title III of the ADA is often known for its applicability to physical barriers such as lack of wheelchair access, acceptance of service animals, effective communication for hard-of-hearing individuals and accommodations for the vision impaired, its focus in the digital age has turned to websites. Where a website is heavily integrated with physical store locations and operates as a gateway to the physical store locations, courts have found that the website is a service of a public accommodation and is covered by the ADA. Nat’l Fed’n of the Blind v. Target Corp., 452 F.Supp.2d 946, 953-55 (N.D. Cal.2006).

Why is website accessibility important?

In addition to mitigating the legal risk, there is an upside marketing-wise to making your website more accessible to the 39+ million people that live with a disability in the United States.

ADA Public Accommodations Website Accessibility TrialM

On June 12, 2017, a federal judge in Florida ruled that Winn-Dixie, a supermarket chain based out of Florida, was liable under Title III of the ADA. Its website was not compliant because it could not be accessed by the visually impaired via a screen reader. The Court awarded the plaintiff injunctive relief and attorney fees. The judge also ordered that Winn-Dixie make changes to its website to ensure compliance with the WCAG 2.0 standard. See below. Moreover, the court ruled that the Winn-Dixie website must be accessible by individuals with disabilities who use computers, laptops, tablets and Smartphones. Download and read the case here.
According to the WSJ, since the beginning of 2015 more than 350 US businesses from large retailers to small companies in all industries have been sued in federal court over website accessibility. Most companies settle for between $10,000 and $75,000 for legal fees & costs. They then must take on the cost of modifying their website to be assessable to the disabled. No doubt that the number of federal lawsuits alleging inaccessible websites will dramatically increase because of this ruling.

Is this a demographic I should include?

A recent study by Level Access presented at the CSUN 2017 Assistive Technology Conference found that people with disabilities in the age range of 21 to 64 represented a total market of $810 billion. They accounted for roughly 12% of the market in this age range. People with severe disabilities in the same age range represented a total market of $471 billion as well as accounted for 7% of the market in their age range. Since disability does not discriminate based on race, social class, industry or age a website should always be prepared to accommodate for this important population.
Having an inaccessible website will often result in disabled users leaving the site because of poor customer care and a perceived lack of understanding of their needs. In the same study mentioned previously, 85% of participants limited their web usage to sites they knew to be accessible. They were also more willing to spend money or engage in services with sites that were accessible to them, even if they ended up spending extra money.

How do I make my website compliant?

The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) provides a framework of how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. This was the standard that the Florida Judge used in his ruling on the Winn-Dixie case. It includes 12 guidelines that are organized under four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.

  • A website will provide text alternatives for non-text content. This allows machine readers the ability to describe images to vision-impaired users.
  • A website will provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia. This allows hearing-impaired users to understand the content of videos and other sound-based media.
  • A website will create and provide content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning. This means any user, regardless of level of ability, should be able to utilize the full scope of a website.
  • A website will make it easier for users to see and hear content. This ensures vision and hearing-impaired users will be able to easily access assistive tools and functionalities.
  • All a website’s functionality will be available from a keyboard. This allows users without mouse, touch, or vocal based inputs to use the full scope of a website.
  • A website will give users enough time to read and use content. This means users will not be denied access to content based off arbitrary time limitations that impede their ability to fully utilize a website.
  • A website will not use content that causes seizures. This includes flashing images, visual content with a strobe-like effect, and other visually triggering media.
  • A website will help users navigate and find content. This is done by a clear and concise navigation with proper labeling for machine readers and other assistive devices.
  • A website’s text will be readable and understandable. This means text will not only be large enough to read, but also has a high enough contrast to be distinguishable from its background on a webpage. This also means that text on a website will be readable by machine readers and other assistive tools.
  • A website will make content appear and operate in predictable ways. Navigational menus, buttons and icons will provide clear and understandable messaging to make it easy for any user to navigate a website. Key pages on a website will be easy to access and any forms or interactive content will be usable by alternative methods described previously.
  • A website will help users avoid and correct mistakes. If a user encounters a dead-end such as a 404 page, the content of that webpage should allow the user to find the content they were looking for. Any interactive content requiring text input should have clear and explicit instructive text to alleviate confusion.
  • A website will maximize compatibility with browsers and user tools. A website should be able to be accessed from any web browser. A website will not require or will minimize the usage of tools such as Flash for its operation.

To learn more about conformance, visit W3C.

The Marketing Metrics ADA Compliance Solution

At Marketing Metrics Corp., we assist businesses in making their website accessible and compliant with the WCAG 2.0 standards.

  • Website Accessibility Audit: Our web team will fully audit your website and provide a detailed report on the state of your site’s compliance. This will include estimated costs to bring it up to compliance, a projected timeline of the work, and a detailed plan to correct the violations.
  • Get compliant: Our developers will bring the website up to current accessibility standards and test it (validation) with assistive technology tools and create a Website Accessibility Policy Statement
  • Stay compliant: We will provide future monitoring to maintain your accessibility compliance as new technologies and standards are put into practice