Is Your Website ADA Compliant? If Not, It Could Cost You

Is Your Website ADA Compliant? If Not, It Could Cost You

The idea that businesses need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is nothing new. Yet making sure that your office has handicapped parking and wheelchair access is just part of the equation. It also means making sure that your website can be accessed by people who have hearing or vision impairments.

It’s a much bigger deal than you think. Why? Because businesses that aren’t fully compliant run the risk of being sued.

Cautionary Tales

In November 2018, the Los Angeles Times published a story about the Avanti Hotel, a 10-room dog-friendly boutique hotel located in Palm Springs, CA. The hotel, the Times reports, was sued for not being ADA compliant. It’s not that they didn’t have wheelchair ramps– it’s because their website wasn’t accessible by people who have problems seeing or hearing.

These types of lawsuits are on the rise in all parts of the United States. UsableNet reports that in 2018, more than 2,250 ADA website lawsuits were filed in federal court. That statistic reflects a 181% jump from litigation filed 2017.

Many of these lawsuits have been against Florida-based businesses.

In February 2019, WFLA News Channel 8 reported that Island Comfort Footwear, located in the Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater, FL, is among those that have been taken to court. The plaintiff in this case is visually impaired Broward County resident Emily Fuller, and as of the time the story was published, she’d sued more than 175 businesses for failing to have websites that are ADA compliant.

According to WFLA, Fueller brought the suit against Island Comfort Footwear because she wasn’t able to use the most recently launched version of their website.

“Fuller uses a screenreader to use the Internet and claims the shoe store’s website lacked coding that would communicate with her software. This excluded her from shopping on the website, which is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the lawsuit.” – WFLA News Channel 8

Data suggests that most ADA website compliance lawsuits have been filed by disabled students who have been unable to apply to college online, customers with a disability who were unable to use eCommerce websites and disabled persons who were unable to complete job applications on a company’s website.

And while plaintiffs are unable to collect damages in these types of lawsuits, the party that loses in court is often liable to pay the other party’s legal fees. Litigation can be costly, and opportunistic plaintiff attorneys have been allured at the possibility of lawyers-fees awards.

Do I Need to Redo My Website?

If your website doesn’t pass muster and you fall into one of the following categories, you may want to look into having it modified. Failing to do so means you’re not in compliance with the law—and vulnerable to litigation.

The ADA applies to the following types of businesses:

  • Online businesses
  • Public facilities and nonprofit businesses
  • Local and stat public sectors, including those with both programmed and physical access to programs and services rendered
  • Private companies with 15 or more people on payroll

ADA Compliance Checklist

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. courts often reference the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), 2.0 Level AA criteria to determine whether websites meet compliance.

Success, as outlined by the WCAG, consists of 38 separate criterion.

Some of what’s recommended includes having website presentation that uses clean code, a layout that’s consistent and easy to navigate and also includes content alternatives, such as closed captioning and text transcripts. WCAG guidelines also recommend not using automatic pop-ups, such as video clips and making sure your website can be used easily. The latter can be satisfied by including a search function and sitemap.

Websites that satisfy all 38 requirements are in great shape. Those that meet most, but not all of them may still fall within compliance guidelines.

Next Steps

Updating your website to ensure it’s ADA compliant isn’t a footrace- it’s a process. If you’re concerned that what you have now doesn’t meet federally mandated guidelines, it’s best to speak with a reputable web development agency.

For more information or to receive a free website audit, contact WBN Marketing today to get started.