ADA Website Compliance: What is it And Why is it Important to Embrace?
ADA website compliance is important for businesses desiring to adhere to ADA standards and those wishing to promote inclusive practices, reaching all customers.
The year 1990 marked the origin of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). A subsequent update, called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design was released twenty years later. The 2010 update took what was originally created to address physical locations only and brought it into the cyber realm. Now, web locations, sites and physical businesses need to be ADA compliant in order to avoid a lawsuit. Unfortunately for business owners and website developers, determining what does and does not make a website ADA compliant is a bit murky. However, it’s safe to say the general overarching purpose of becoming ADA compliant is to ensure anyone with a disability is given the same consideration when navigating an online space as they are in a physical building. Due to the vagueness of the 2010 update and the absence of any additional updates, case law often evaluates ADA website compliance on a case-by-case basis.
Why ADA Compliance is Important in The Cyber World
In past decades, most business was conducted face-to-face in a brick-and-mortar building. That is no longer the case in today’s society. Many essential aspects of our lives have now moved from a physical location to a cyber existence. Medical care, banking, grocery shopping and more have evolved from an in-person task or errand into something that is conducted almost entirely online. This means ADA compliance also needs to expand to encompass cyberspace in order to ensure all people have equal access to goods and services.
What Happens When a Company Isn’t Compliant?
The pizza chain Dominos was recently brought under a suit for non-ADA compliance. According to the suit, they were not accessible for specialty ordering. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that “alleged inaccessibility of Domino’s website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises—which are places of public accommodation.”
In other words, this means today’s businesses must become ADA compliant not only in the physical locations but in their online or app services as well. Dominos is far from alone in their predicament, as there were some 2,200 suits filed against various businesses in 2018 according to UsableNet pertaining to website accessibility. The existence of these lawsuits exemplifies the fact that the lack of website compliance must be prioritized to ensure all portions of the population, even those who are differently-abled, have access to online services and goods.
Learning How to Comply With ADA Standards
Obviously, businesses today must focus on complying with ADA standards for a variety of reasons, perhaps the most pressing of which is to avoid a lawsuit. However, even if lawsuits were not a consideration, most businesses want to ensure all of their customers have equal access to their services or goods, which is yet another reason to make ADA compliance a priority. Thankfully, in 2010 website development standards were updated by ISO International Standard when they issued an update to the original Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which was first created in 1999. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 update ensures all public websites are ADA compliant. In June 2018, they issued an additional updated version entitled WCAG 2.1 that specifically outlines recommendations for website content.
Five Key Principles of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
- Perceivable: This could include text alternatives, captions for multimedia and the presentation of content in a variety of ways.
- Operable: User-friendly, graphics or content that does not cause seizures, adequate time for readers to peruse content, functional.
- Understandable: Readable text, no text errors, content operates predictability.
- Robust: Compatible with both current and future user tools.
- Conformance: Satisfies all conformance requirements of the WCAG.
Each of the principles includes specific techniques and examples of failure to meet them. Here is a comprehensive explanation from WCAG. It’s important to note that businesses who are legally required to comply with the ADA standards, but don’t have the ability to bring their current websites into compliance, are given a way to avoid having to comply by providing an accessible alternative that communicates the same information. For example, this could include issuing a staffed phone line so those who cannot access the website due to a disability are able to procure goods and services offered online.
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