Online presence is vital to the success of businesses today. We spend a lot of time and money ensuring our websites are beautiful, clean, and user-friendly. Unfortunately, too many businesses forget to ensure their websites actually appear this way to everyone, specifically, those with disabilities. Forgetting this step increases the risk for every business’s worst nightmare—a lawsuit.
Between 2017 and 2018, website accessibility lawsuits increased over 170%, and they continue to rise. Alarmed by this increase, every business is trying to figure out if their website has to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to federal ADA guidelines, individual states have their own laws for preventing discrimination. For example, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and New York’s New York State Human Rights Law both protect disabled individuals from discrimination.
Since the ADA is a strict liability law that does not allow room for excuses (e.g., my web developer is working on it), the best person to ask if you need to comply with anti-discrimination laws is your attorney. However, here are some things you can consider to help you decide:
- Am I required to provide handicap parking spaces?
- Do I have to allow service animals?
- Do I employ more than 15 full-time employees?
- Am I a grocery store, bakery, school, or restaurant? (List not inclusive)
- Am I a state or local government agency?
- Do I have to comply with Section 508, Section 504, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, or any other anti-discrimination law?
- Do I want to increase my internet presence?
Answering yes to any of these questions means your website must be accessible. If your anxiety level just jumped up a few notches, take action now to get your website out of the danger zone.
What does website ADA compliance mean?
When most people hear the terms accessible or ADA, the first thought that comes to mind are wheelchair accommodations such as ramps. After all, the universal symbol for accessibility includes an image of a wheelchair. Although a website doesn’t need a wheelchair accommodation, a website that is not designed for accessibility is equal to a building without wheelchair accommodations.
There are many factors to consider when providing an accessible website. The main goal is to provide equal access to everyone. “Everyone” includes individuals with low vision or vision loss, hearing loss, cognitive disabilities, mobile impairments, age-related impairments, seizure disorders, etc. Many of these conditions require the use of assistive technology. Here are a few things your website must provide in order to comply with ADA:
- Sufficient color contrast
- Content alternatives such as alternative text for images and captions for auditory and video content
- Consistent layout and navigation
- Keyboard navigation (ability to access everything without a mouse)
- Descriptive links
- Zoom text capabilities up to 200%
While this isn’t a complete list, it is some of the most common barriers to ADA compliance. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide guidelines and techniques for developing accessible web content. Whoever designs, develops, and maintains your website should know and understand these guidelines.
How do I make my website accessible?
If you want the easy route, then this question is the easiest for us to answer. Simply call Biz Webmasters, and we will create an accessible website for you faster than you can read through WCAG or any other accessibility standard. If you decide you want to tackle this yourself, here are some steps you need to take:
Perform a website accessibility audit. Unless you already know and understand what it takes to make an accessible website (in which case, you wouldn’t be reading this), you will need to hire an accessibility auditor. Your accessibility audit should include both manual and automated testing as well as testing performed by disabled users. Since we are accessibility experts, we can provide this service for you. Learn about our accessibility auditing services.
Review your audit and determine the extent of remediation. Unless you are your own developer, you will need to review the audit findings with your current or future developer. If barriers are minimal, you may be able to remediate (fix) your current website (step 3). Otherwise, you will need to develop a new website that is accessible to everyone (step 4).
Work with your development team to perform website remediation. Be sure your team completes digital accessibility training before attempting the remediation. Once your team is trained, edit your website coding to remove all accessibility barriers. Your auditor can verify successful remediation.
If your audit resulted in an extensive list of errors, the fastest and most cost-efficient remediation is to develop a new website. Accessibility should be handled during development anyway, so this is your best option.
Post an accessibility statement, including a feedback form for visitors to use in the event they experience an accessibility barrier.
If you need assistance with any or all of the above steps, we can help. Biz Webmasters makes accessibility a priority for all our clients. All our teams are trained in accessibility and are ready to help you bring your website into compliance with ADA standards. Contact us before the Office of Civil Rights contacts you!