1st 6 Steps to ADA Website Compliance

Do you know someone who has a disability?

Perhaps you, yourself struggle to completely participate in everyday life because of a disability.

Chances are one of the above is true.

According to a CDC report, approximately 1 in 4 U.S. adults- 61 million Americans live with a disability! In an increasingly digitalized age, the internet is central to how to majority of us work, shop, socialize, and stay informed. This huge segment of the U.S. population is unable to participate. No one would wish to be restricted from entering the arena where much of the world chooses to spend their time, but many Americans, those with a disability, don’t have a choice.

This is where ADA web compliance comes in. The purpose of the ADA is to protect this huge segment of the U.S. population against discrimination, so that they can equally participate in this essential aspect of daily life. Although the accessibility regulations that govern ADA violations are not concrete, our courts have consistently ruled that the ADA requires commercial websites to be accessible to disabled users.

Website accessibility includes modifications like having an option to make the font size larger or smaller so it’s easier for those who are visually impaired to read or having closed-caption subtitles for videos to enable those who are hearing impaired to read along while watching the images.

Not all businesses and companies are aware of the ADA website accessibility requirements, however. In recent years, lawsuits resulting from ADA incompliance have exponentially increased. And these cases are only increasing with 2017 having a 16% increase in lawsuits from 2016, and 2018 with a 34% increase from 2017.

Possibilities for monetary damages in California and New York unsurprisingly make these states hotbeds for ADA filings ; California was number one for ADA filings with close to 3,000 in 2017, followed by Florida’s 1,488 and 1,023 in New York.

It is crucial to ensure ADA website compliance so that citizens living with disabilities have the same access, but also to avoid the hefty price tags that come as a result of incompatible websites.

At this point you may have a few questions:

  • Who exactly has to comply?
  • I just have a small law firm, do I still have to comply?
  • How exactly do I comply?

In this article we are going to cover all these questions and more including:

  • Who exactly has to comply under the ADA requirements
  • The difference in the two main titles pertaining to web accessibility
  • Reasons why compliance is specifically necessary to doctors, lawyers, and nonprofits
  • A few celebrities who have encountered ADA lawsuits
  • The 6 steps needed to ensure website accessibility

Who Must Comply with ADA Guidelines?

Titles I and III of the ADA are the sections most relevant for matters of web accessibility.
Under Title I of the ADA, a business with at least 15 full-time employees that operates for at least 20 calendar weeks every year is covered by the law, meaning the law in its entirety applies from physical adaptations to digital accommodations.

However, businesses that are entirely owned by federally recognized Native American tribes as well as tax-exempt private membership clubs are exempt from Title I.

Under Title III, any business that falls into the category of “public accommodations” such as hotels, banks, public transportation, and doctor’s offices are also required to comply.

The federal law provides the following non-exhaustive list of businesses considered public accommodations :

  • Inns, hotels, and motels
  • Restaurants, bars, or other establishments serving food or drink
  • Motion picture houses, theaters, concert halls, stadiums
  • Auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls
  • Bakeries, grocery stores, clothing stores, hardware stores, shopping centers
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners
  • Barber and beauty shops
  • Banks
  • Accountants and lawyers’ offices
  • Health care providers’ offices
  • Public transportation
  • Recreation venues such as parks, zoos and amusement parks
  • Public displays such as museums, libraries and galleries
  • Schools
  • Social service centers
  • Places of exercise or recreation, such as gyms, bowling alleys, health spas, and golf courses

Virtually all businesses that regularly serve the public are considered public accommodations with the exemption of private clubs or religious organizations.

It is important to note that Titles I and III work in parallel with each other. The provisions under Title I (as mentioned above) pertain to employers which the ADA defines as someone “engaged in an industry affecting commerce”. However, these provisions do not apply to the “public accommodations” mentioned in Title III. Title III applies to nearly any business that serves the public, regardless of size.

In addition to the two relevant titles of ADA, there are also state and local statutory claims that are being asserted in specific jurisdictions, such as in New York, that make the claim that certain websites violate local human rights laws that guarantee equivalent access for people with disabilities. Similarly, in California, several plaintiffs also alleged that a website transgresses the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act that specifically outlaws discrimination based on disability.

Therefore, in spite of the federal guidelines, it is important that companies of all sizes that fall under Title I, even ones with less than 15 employees, take steps to review their websites to ensure they comply with the ADA and/or local human rights laws. Small businesses can still be vulnerable to being sued under one or more of the state-specific or local human or civil rights statutes previously mentioned.

Of the public accommodations mentioned above, a large portion of ADA lawsuits are comprised of lawyer’ offices, health care providers offices, and social service centers.

Celebrities and ADA offenses

Celebrities are no exception to ADA website compliance and in recent years, there have been numerous lawsuits involving celebrities.

In January 2018, Victor Lopez sued Pharrell Williams for violating ADA rules for visually impaired users. The singer’s company sells his clothing lines on websites without software that makes them audible to the visually challenged.

In January 2019, Beyoncé’s company, Parkwood Entertainment, faced a legal battle for violating ADA regulations. According to the lawsuit, the violation denied the plaintiff and other visually impaired users their right to learn about Beyoncé, her tours, and music. It also denied them the right to buy tickets, purchase other merchandise, and take advantage of other features.

In December 2017, Kylie Jenner’s makeup brand was targeted when a blind plaintiff, claimed the website was not compatible, and she could not buy any products. While these lawsuits are reputation-damaging and costly, their impact on celebrities is not nearly as significant as the huge impact on smaller businesses and public accommodations.

The 6 Steps to Website Accessibility

Hopefully by now, you have a good idea of why ADA website compliance is the right thing to do, but also a worthwhile investment for your business.

Follow these 6 steps to make your website accessible today:

  1. Review the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1)
    These guidelines provide recommendations on how to make your website accessible.
  2. Find a suitable ADA website developer
    Website compliance is a legal and moral issue that requires a digital agency that is suitable and competent to help you build a website that complies with WCAG standards.
  3. Audit your code
    If you have an existing website, here you can work with an ADA specialist that will audit your website to establish your compliance level and determine which areas of your website require alteration in order to comply with WCAG standards.
  4. Establish the cost of compliance
    Complying with the ADA provisions requires time, money, and human effort. Based on the audit results, you will be able to understand the timelines, money, and effort needed for investing in compliance. With these facts in hand, you can begin to plot out a budget for the above three forms of cost- time, money, and effort, which requires a clear blueprint.
  5. Implement your ADA compliance plan
    After completing your compliance blueprint, secure a deal with your preferred ADA agency to implement it. You will need to execute your plan based on the needs identified by the audit.
  6. Stay up to date on ADA’s dynamic compliance standards
    ADA compliance isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it thing. ADA compliance standards are constantly evolving, and you therefore must keep yourself up to date with its changing provisions and regulations to ensure proper compliance.

Contact one of our website accessibility consultants to get started on this process today.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0816-disability.html

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2016/06/30/health/americans-screen-time-nielsen/index.html

[1] https://www.adatitleiii.com/2018/02/ada-title-iii-lawsuits-increase-by-14-percent-in-2017-due-largely-to-website-access-lawsuits-physical-accessibility-legislative-reform-efforts-continue/

[1] https://codes.findlaw.com/us/title-42-the-public-health-and-welfare/42-usc-sect-12181.html

[1] https://codes.findlaw.com/us/title-42-the-public-health-and-welfare/42-usc-sect-12187.html

[1] https://www.websitecompliancewithada.com/wcag-2-1-and-ada-website-compliance/

Frequently Asked Questions
Creating an ada compliant website?

I can't quote specifics, but the basics of ADA require that reasonable attempts be made to provide access to information. In the case of a website, that would probably mean that information is accessible to screen readers and other assistive technologies.

Have you read [this](http://www.ada.gov/pcatoolkit/chap5toolkit.htm)?