The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a 1990 law. The ADA is a civil rights law. It prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. This includes schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
In 1990, modern communications technologies such as the Internet were still in their infancy. The past few decades gave rise to new channels like websites and mobile applications. This raises questions about the ADA’s original mission to make U.S. society more accessible to people with disabilities.
ADA Title II and Title III are the two sections most relevant for questions about web accessibility:
- Title II prohibits disability-based discrimination on the part of state and local governments.
- Title III prohibits disability-based discrimination for “places of public accommodations”. Places of public accommodation generally include private businesses that are open to the public, such as restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, museums, and doctor’s offices.
U.S. Federal Courts and the U.S. Department of Justice hold that while the ADA does not specifically address web accessibility, its language is still broad enough to include websites as part of business operations. The legal consensus is that if Title II or Title III apply to your organization, then they also apply to your website because it is a place of public accommodation. Title III specifically applies to your website.
Lawsuits Are on the Rise
For a website to be accessible to the disabled, the content must be compatible with screen-reader software that converts words into audio. Website videos must include descriptions for the deaf.
To meet this need, it's our practice to use both closed captions and provide a downloadable transcript for publicly accessible videos on this site. Also, all interface actions must be operable through keyboard commands for people who can’t use a mouse.
According to an analysis by Seyfarth Shaw, a law firm that specializes in defending ADA lawsuits, nearly 5,000 cases were filed in federal court for alleged website violations in the first six months of 2018. The firm predicted that the number of lawsuits would climb to nearly 10,000 by the end of the year, a 30% increase from 2017.
The government has not provided formal standards for private businesses to ensure ADA compliance. However, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has created guidelines, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), to make websites more accessible to disabled people.
Government websites already follow these guidelines, but private business websites are typically loaded with images and videos. Experts say they're more difficult to overhaul to meet the guidelines. Estimates for bringing these sites into compliance can run from a few thousand dollars to a million or more.
ADA lawsuits filed in federal and state courts target the websites of retailers, supermarkets (including Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.), restaurants (including Domino’s Pizza Inc.) and universities (including Harvard and MIT). In December 2018, Inside Higher Ed reports that 50 colleges were sued in the previous month by a single blind person for ADA non-compliance. Could your site be next? Why even take the risk?
Get an Audit Done!
You can conduct your own cursory evaluation of your site's pages for ADA compliance with the web accessibility evaluation tool. The tool reveals a number of compliance errors and alerts that should be evaluated and repaired.
If you discover errors on your site, we recommended that a more through evaluation of the entire site be conducted to reduce your compliance risk and minimize the chances of non-compliance legal actions.
Of course, you can ask any of your web support resources to conduct an ADA compliance audit for you, if they have the resources to do so. But, we would love to earn your business. If you would like us to do the audit for you, order it from here: https://victorfont.com/shop/accessibility-compliance-audit/.