The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990 to prevent discrimination based on an individual’s or a group of individuals’ disabilities. At that time, this sweeping civil rights legislation was focused more on ensuring physical access to public places, buildings, and common business establishments like restaurants and medical clinics.
In recent years, advancements in technology have required upgrades to the ADA Compliance standards that your web design & development company should implement ADA best practices. This includes a guideline for ensuring that a website can be accessed and used by disabled individuals.
Please note we are not offering legal advice. We suggest you contact a lawyer to know specifically how this can affect you and your business.
What Is ADA Compliance?
ADA compliance under the Americans with Disabilities act is a wide range of standards to ensure disabled individuals have equal access. It has been updated to include equal access to websites and technology for disabled individuals. Precise regulations for business websites have not yet been created by the government, so businesses rely on industry guidelines.
Is ADA Compliance The Same As 508 Compliance?
It’s important to note that ADA compliance is not the same as 508 compliance, which requires that all Federal Government buildings procure, create, use and maintain ICT that is equally accessible to individuals with disabilities, regardless of whether they work for the Federal Government or need to access a Federal building.
While ADA compliance and 508 Compliance standards have many things in common, they are different in several ways.
Do ADA Compliance Standards Apply To Me Or My Business?
Some stipulated criteria are used to determine if a small business or institution needs to be compliant with ADA standards. This includes the following.
- State & Local Government Agencies
- Businesses that operate for the benefit of the public
- Nonprofit organizations
- Privately owned businesses with 15 or more employees
It’s important to note that ADA compliance extends to the physical business location if the operating space is open to the public, as well as websites and other forms of communication technology.
Is There A Penalty For Not Being ADA Compliant?
If your organization or business doesn’t meet ADA compliance, then you can technically be held liable, and legal action can be taken against you to enforce compliance. Even if the compliance failure is unintentional, you can still be liable and end up with thousands of dollars of legal expenses.
How Do I Know If My Business & Website Are ADA Compliant
ADA standards and guidelines are meant to ensure equal access to disabled individuals and are not meant to be proactively punitive. To that point, there are some very easy-to-use ADA compliance tools and checklists. They help ensure that both your business’s physical location and website meet all the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
What Factors Determine If A Website Is ADA Compliant?
WCAG 2.0 guidelines were implemented to help businesses, organizations, and government institutions ensure that their websites and communication technology are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The WCAG 2.0 guidelines focus on some key principles.
An ADA-compliant website needs to provide users with the ability to perceive the information presented. This includes things like text, videos, images, and special interactive graphics. For example, audio versions of text or descriptions of navigation graphics help visually impaired individuals clearly understand the information presented on your website.
Users need to be able to understand the information being presented on your website. This might include providing additional instructions, or special features to ensure that disabled individuals can process the information being presented.
Users need to have the ability to easily navigate your website. This includes special navigation features as well as things like an online calculator, or other functional site tools.
An ADA-compliant website should provide disabled users with a relatively similar experience, even when using assistive features.
WCAG 2.0 Levels
The WCAG 2.0 Checklist further breaks things up by assigning different levels to help distinguish just how compliant a website is with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
This is a website that meets some, but not all of the ADA compliance standards, to the point that some, but not all disabled users can access and efficiently navigate the website.
This is a website that almost all disabled users can access and navigate. Though there might be some disabled individuals with special needs that cannot make robust use of the site in question.
This is a website that can be accessed and efficiently navigated by all users, offering a fully robust experience regardless of an individual’s disability.
From a legal standpoint, it’s strongly recommended that all applicable organizations meet at least the Level AA requirements.
What Can I Do To Ensure My Website Is ADA Compliant?
There are a few things you can do to ensure that your business or organization is fully compliant with all applicable ADA standards.
There are firms that specialize in ADA compliance. They can assess your website with vigor, and then perform periodic reviews to ensure that your website remains compliant with any ADA updates. This can be done annually, or for some websites quarterly.
If your website is grossly non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards and the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, you might want to embrace a full site redesign. Many web design firms specialize in developing or significantly upgrading the website to meet ADA standards.
Engage in user testing with disabled individuals to gain feedback on the overall functionality of your website, as well as determining how robust the experience is for a disabled user.
Implement Automated Scans
You can have your in-house IT staff or webmaster set up automated scans that frequently monitor your website for accessibility issues.
Provide your in-house IT and web designers with mandatory accessibility training to ensure that anyone who contributes to your website is doing so in compliance with all ADA standards.
Set Up An ADA Committee – Often maintaining ADA compliance is more than a one-person job for an in-house IT staff. Setting up a committee to periodically monitor your website will help catch any non-compliance issues early, so they can be addressed promptly.
Once you are fully ADA compliant, have a third-party firm audit and provide you with a certification of accessibility.
What Is The Penalty If My Website Isn’t ADA Compliant?
At this time, there is no set-in-stone fine amount for a website that is not compliant with ADA standards. Though you could expect a minimal cost for a first-time complaint to run anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 just in legal fees alone.
Can I Be Sued For Not Having An ADA Compliant Website?
In recent years the United States Supreme Court has opened the doors to civil litigation against businesses and organizations with a website that is not in ADA compliance.
Compliance with the American’s with Disabilities Act is increasingly important. Especially when you weigh the costs of civil litigation against the minimal costs to update and monitor your site for ADA compliance. At the same time, disabled people are more likely to do business with a website that meets Level AA or Level AAA standards, which can open up an even larger customer base for your company.