Facing the Challenges of ADA Website Compliance

Contributed by Curotec.  

The Web has brought a previously unimaginable amount of information, knowledge, and data to our desktops and even to the palm of our hand. Online encyclopedias, up to the minute news, and access to rapid communication are things most of us take for granted.

What if you couldn’t utilize the wonders of the web? For some individuals with disabilities, the web can be difficult, if not impossible, to use. Webpage elements that may seem to add flash or usability for one group can make a site inaccessible to another. 

In 1990, when the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law, the Web was barely a concept in the halls of the department of defense and in academia. As internet access and the web became a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, it became clear that the ADA needed to be updated to include considerations for those with disabilities.

Although the original law doesn’t mention websites, parts of the ADA have been interpreted by the courts to include the web. The result has been a number of companies facing high-profile – and expensive – lawsuits and judgments because their websites weren’t compliant.

This has made companies of every size increasingly aware of their need to accommodate all visitors to their websites. In other words, to be compliant with the ADA, sites must be accessible to users with disabilities. Making a site compliant, however, has its own challenges. How can a company do that? And what are the consequences of not being compliant?

The Difference Between ADA Website Compliance and Accessibility

There is a difference between ADA website compliance and website accessibility, but they are closely linked.

Website accessibility is about making your content available to as many people as possible, regardless of their abilities. An accessible website makes your site usable for people with disabilities or it can make it easier for the tools that disabled individuals use to help them with electronic communications and content. For instance, making your site accessible allows a screen reader to relate its content to someone who is visually impaired.

ADA website compliance, on the other hand, specifically refers to the expectations under the law for your site to be accessible. The problem with ADA website compliance is that the law itself doesn’t actually mention the web. But under the law, websites are considered to be subject to the ADA. 

ADA website compliance can be extremely confusing because there are no hard and fast rules. And yet companies are still required to make their sites as accessible as possible or face the consequences.

The Consequences of Not Being Compliant

In the last few years, the consequences of non-compliance have been severe, and the number of companies being held accountable has been increasing. 

Thousands of businesses have been sued for violating the ADA because their websites lack accessibility – nearly 5,000 lawsuits were filed between January and June of 2018 alone. And that number is expected to climb in the coming years.

In addition to attorney’s fees, court fees, and so on, companies have seen fines up to $55,000 for a first violation and even higher for subsequent infractions. Lawsuits have been broadly aimed and included companies like Blue Apron and even entertainers, like Beyonce

It’s much less expensive to make your site compliant than it is to face a lawsuit for violating the ADA. The question you’re likely asking yourself is – without a set of hard and fast rules, how can I do that?

How to Make Your Site Compliant with ADA Website Guidelines

The good news is that making your site compliant means making your site accessible, and there are a set of guidelines for doing just that. Even better, making your site accessible means opening it up to an entirely new audience who would not otherwise had access to your website or your e-commerce store.

While making your site accessible will take some work, it’s easier to do when you know what needs to be fixed. With a checklist for ADA website compliance guidelines to work from, your team can audit your existing site and pinpoint the areas needing work or changes. You can also contact a web development consultant or agency knowledgeable in ADA compliance and they can help you understand the work that needs to be done to bring your site in line with accessibility guidelines.