Everybody deserves equal opportunities and rights in order to live a life of dignity and value. However, people with disabilities have often been discriminated against either covertly or explicitly.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 to prevent this discrimination. Let’s give you an overview.
What exactly is the ADA?
The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places that are open to the general public. It gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion.
The ADA guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
Why should this matter to you?
You must be thinking “My business is already attuned to the needs of the disabled and is accessible to them…… how is this relevant to me?”
Well, times have changed. We live in the internet age now and accessibility has taken on a whole new dimension. If you’re thinking that wheelchair ramps and handicapped parking spaces are the means of accessibility to the disabled then think again!
As the internet has gradually become an indispensable part of our lives over the years, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is being interpreted to include websites as “places of public accommodation”.
Many courts are ruling in favor of the plaintiff in web compliance cases and websites with significant inaccessible components to the disabled are being treated as discriminatory and punishable offences.
The time has come for accessibility to be taken online!
Increased Litigation = Increased Costs
Recently, Compass, a real estate firm was sued by a plaintiff who claimed that their website had barriers for blind users. Further lawsuits have also been filed against cityealty.com, Zillow and Move Inc citing that their websites were not easily accessible to visually impaired users.
The ADA has been going hammer and tongs after the real estate industry but it is not the only casualty from the wave of anti-discriminatory lawsuits. Healthcare service providers, car dealerships and educational institutions have also been slapped with hefty lawsuits due to their inaccessible websites. Here are some prominent examples:
In 2015, a plaintiff raised a lawsuit against MIT – Harvard, claiming the school’s online teaching platforms did not provide the right amount of accessibility to those with deafness. Harvard eventually altered its platform via an eventual settlement agreement.
E-commerce websites have also been targeted prominent companies like New Balance, Urban Outfitters, Nike and H&M facing lawsuits. Even fashion and beauty companies like Glossier, Coach, Versace, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton have been hit.
ADA website compliance related settlements also don’t come cheap. They typically range anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 and being a strict liability law there are no excuses for non-compliance.
Preventing is better than curing!
Here are some simple ways you can make your website more accessible:
Interested in getting your website compliant quickly, easily and robustly with full coverage? Then you’re in luck! There are already an exorbitant number of plugins designed to make your site compliant within a few easy clicks. And while there are a few free options available, many of the plugins are premium subscription services that provide extensive and ongoing compliance solutions for your website.
Here are a few:
- Alt Text
Most of the complaints are against inaccessibility by the visually impaired. Adding “alt text” to images, removes this problem. It is the written copy that appears in your HTML code and helps screen readers to describe the image to the impaired visitor thus improving their experience.
- Make the website keyboard-only friendly
A user should be able to navigate through your website without having to use the mouse.
- Code in labels for form fields
Ensure form field labels are readable by text reading software
- Use descriptive anchor texts and structuring headings
Avoid using words like “learn more” or “click here” when creating links but ensure that they are descriptive
- Follow industry wide best practices
Follow the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines. The WCAG 2.0 AA success criteria are comprised of 38 requirements, individually referred to as success criterion. They provide a qualitative guide on how to approach website accessibility from a standardized point of view.
If your business website isn’t already accessible and is a sitting duck for litigation, we hope you’re now better informed to get started right away on making your website more accessible, and if it feels like a lot or maybe too much work…
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