There are multiple rules and guidelines set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regarding website accessibility. Learn what they are and what the ADA means to your business.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) provide guidance on making the Internet more accessible for people with disabilities. The term ‘accessibility’ encompasses various disabilities, including:
Working hand in hand with the WCAG 2.0 to improve the welfare of people with disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law in America that protects against the discrimination of people with disabilities in all walks of life. These include work, schools, public places and transportation areas. Codified in 1990, the ADA has continually expanded to include even the World Wide Web.
The WCAG 2.0 in a Nutshell
Since the World Wide Web must also offer equal opportunity and protection for those with disabilities, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 was also created. These recommendations provide accessibility to different types of disability to make them usable for everyone — regardless of their challenges.
These guidelines are not written in a technology-specific way, but they are testable statements. These statements must be satisfied with the success criteria to prove accessibility for the disabled.
The WCAG 2.0 has been developed using the W3C process together with organizations and individuals around the world that are stakeholders in the issue of accessibility. The goal is to create a shared standard for web accessibility guidelines for the world as a whole.
This builds on WCAG 1.0, which was first recommended in May 1999. It is designed to adapt to different online technologies today and in the future. Its testing system is a combination of human evaluation and automated testing.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
The legal framework that protects people with disabilities in America is encompassed in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. It provides equal opportunities and rights for all those with disability challenges wherever they may be — whether in school, work, private, or public.
This civil law gives protections to individuals with disabilities, similar to people’s rights based on gender, race, orientation, ethnicity, and religion. It is divided into five titles to address various aspects of life.
Of particular interest to web accessibility is Title III that covers private entities that are considered places of public accommodation. Websites are included in this title description.
The Impact of the ADA on Websites of Businesses
So why is the ADA an essential aspect that businesses must attend to? Since websites are included in the description of “places of public accommodation,” they must also comply with the Americans’ requirements with Disabilities Act. The interpretation is that websites that are inaccessible for people with disabilities can be considered discriminatory based on the ADA provisions.
Note that the ADA is a strict liability law. This means that ignorance is not an excuse or defense for any violation. If you neglect this aspect and people with disabilities lodge complaints against your website because of its inaccessibility, the business or organization can face exorbitant fines and stringent penalties.
WCAG 2.0 is vital because courts typically reference it for cases of web accessibility. This is why businesses must be aware of its provisions so that they are in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The general rule of thumb is to ask if your websites are accessible for those that may have difficulty reading, hearing, or physically navigating the site. The site must offer full and equal use for its users, from navigating its content and engaging in its interactive elements.
This may seem like an overlooked aspect of websites. But there are many plaintiffs’ lawsuits that refer to “effective communication” when it comes to complaints that websites are not accessible. Courts and even the Department of Justice use WCAG 2.0 to reference if a website is accessible or not. This has 38 requirements individually called success criteria.
If you meet all these success criteria, there is a strong defense for your business because your website will be accessible for people with disabilities.
You should not think of compliance as a burden. Aside from following the laws of the land, there are positive benefits and boosts to your company.
In America, consumers spend an estimated $500 billion in digital activity. If websites are not accessible to people with disabilities, it will exclude 60 million Americans with purchasing power. 71% of consumers with disabilities will instantly leave the website if it does not meet their accessibility needs. Accordingly, 80% of these persons with disabilities will spend more time on a website if they can access it. It can vastly improve the appeal of your brand across several demographics that include people with disabilities.
Be Mindful of Vulnerabilities
When working towards compliance, it’s best to have an industry expert’s guidance.You can encounter several vulnerabilities when you don’t have the experience and expertise to sort through the chaos.
There are several scams out there that market compliance and automated accessibility. Usually, they have cheaper prices, but ultimately you will just be purchasing a worthless collection of widgets. Note that there are no silver bullets or magic solutions to keep up with ADA compliance. There are no instant toolbars, plugins, widgets, or apps that can solve all these deficiencies. It needs to be a comprehensive systematic approach.
There are those that masquerade as expensive accessibility audits, but in actuality are just automated scan results written in a PDF. There are also digital marketing agencies that boast ADA compliance but know close to nothing about accessibility.
There are also several opportunists that will prey on your deficiencies when it comes to meeting the demands of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Plaintiff lawyers are looking to file lawsuits as fast as possible (be it California or New York).
Apart from the Americans with Disabilities Act, other laws are being used to sue businesses because of deficiencies in website accessibilities. If you think you don’t need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act because you have less than fifteen employees, you’re getting it wrong. Your business will still need to comply regardless of how many employees you have.
Penalties, Fines and Lawsuits
Non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can hamper the financial outlook of any company. The fines and penalties in place are indicated in Section 504 and Section 508. These monetary impositions will skyrocket further if the lawsuit is under Title III of the ADA because of attorney fees, settlements and court fees.
Fines can reach up to $55,000 for the first transgression and $110,000 for the second and subsequent violation. Those that are under federal funding can have the financial support revoked if proven to be non-compliant. These are not to be taken lightly.
According to Seyfarth Shaw, the lawsuits about federal website accessibility tripled in 2018. Most of these cases, or about 96% were lodged in New York and Florida.
Whether the business is small or large, there have been instances where people with disabilities have filed lawsuits because websites have not implemented assistive technology for their disabilities. Some of these issues include keyboard-only navigation, screen readers, and color contrast, among others.
The ADA primarily protects against discrimination in public spaces such as schools, recreation facilities, daycare facilities, movie theaters, banking, hospitality, retail and self-service. But public spaces have come to include digital realms and e-commerce stores. There have been lawsuits that have been filed against these digital spaces.
It is quite tricky because the ADA is a law that has been signed without taking into consideration the World Wide Web. President George H.W. Bush signed this civil law on July 26, 1990. Today, the Internet dominates the entire world.
Some influential lawsuits about ADA Web Content Accessibility includes the 2016 landmark case Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores. The plaintiff was a blind person who pointed out that the retail stores’ website was not accessible to those without sight. Since the website didn’t offer equal opportunity and use for the blind, this was deemed discriminatory.
Mr. Gil, the blind person in question, wanted to use Winn-Dixie stores’ website to fill prescriptions and find coupons. The court ruled that Winn-Dixie must update their website. According to the decision, only business websites with a “nexus” or a link to a physical location can be subject to the ADA.
Navigating ADA Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
Events have changed drastically since then. And navigating the rules is onerous.
Yes, Winn-Dixie stores have a physical location. But some lawsuits have been decided which featured only an online presence and no physical location. Because there are no established laws for website accessibility, courts have been settling in favor of the plaintiff — putting businesses and their websites at a disadvantage.
Netflix featured in another prominent landmark case about website accessibility for people with disabilities. In April 2016, they added audio descriptions to the soundtrack of videos to help blind viewers understand its context. In that case, Judge Michael Ponsor, U.S. District Judge for the District of Massachusetts, made the following remarks:
“While such web-based services as Netflix streaming video did not exist when the ADA was passed in 1990 and, thus, could not have been explicitly included in the Act, the legislative history of the ADA makes clear that Congress intended the ADA to be adapted to changes in technology.”
Thus, even though Netflix doesn’t have a physical structure, they are still subject to the ADA’s Title III.
Another critical case is Robles v. Dominos. It was first tossed out of court, but when it reached the appeals court, a ruling reversal came into effect, saying that the case was relevant because the ADA covered websites and mobile applications.
This created a ripple effect because it sparked a need for:
- compliance certification firms.
- Insurance companies will require a certification sign-off first before they give preferred premiums.
- Companies will need designers with knowledge of WCAG 2.0 before they can hire them.
- A higher demand for UX experts who are well-versed in website accessibility.
That’s a lot of things to navigate when it comes to compliance for website accessibility. Without proper guidance, it will be challenging to keep up with all the technical requirements and specifications. Getting expert help will prove cost-efficient in the long run.
Choosing RSI Security as a Partner in Compliance
RSI Security extends its experience and expertise to help companies navigate their online platforms’ content accessibility guidelines. – to achieve cost-efficient compliance. We analyze. Our team of experts will analyze your website’s accessibility to determine if it meets the website compliance guidelines, as stated in the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is crucial to pinpoint gaps, errors, or vulnerabilities to not show up during a website compliance audit.
As trusted consultants, we will immediately enumerate a list of solutions that will help your business meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Our team will conduct an ADA website compliance test for the monitoring and management of your site accessibility. RSI Security will use the latest testing tools to attend to errors or gaps.
Avoid any unnecessary penalty or legal violation by meeting the compliance requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act as soon as possible. Here is a complete task list of services that RSI Security can help you get over any ADA struggle:
- Website compliance checklist
- Website compliance training
- ADA website certification
- WCAG standards checklist
- Compliance audit
Speak with an ADA compliance expert today – Schedule a free consultation