Small business owners must be constantly vigilant to ensure that their business is in compliance with state and federal regulations. One common issue for small businesses is ensuring that their websites are ADA-compliant.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 to prohibit discrimination against accommodations for people with physical or mental disabilities. The ADA also extends to the digital realm, requiring businesses to ensure web content is accessible to all users. In addition to the federal law (the ADA), California businesses also must have compliant websites under state law (the Unruh Act).
When it comes to ADA website compliance, the water is murky.
There are no clear cut rules for website accessibility, making compliance complicated. These unknowns create potential exposure for businesses, particularly small businesses, who often have fewer resources to navigate legal grey areas.
Regulators have stated that “effective communication” must be provided to those with disabilities but there’s no clear definition of what, exactly, that means. This vague guidance is further complicated by the fact that “effective communication” can mean a very different thing to each individual, as each individual’s needs and experience with their disability can be very different from others’ needs and experiences. These varied needs can make compliance even more difficult.
Beyond working with your attorney to ensure that your website is ADA-compliant, the best resource for ADA website compliance is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) 2.0. This site provides businesses and web designers with standards for making web content more accessible. The guidelines are published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, the main international standards organization for the Internet.
Accessibility involves a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning and neurological disabilities. Each of those needs to be accounted for when designing—or redesigning—a website. For example, those with a visual impairment will need software that enables them to magnify the content of a web page, reads the content to them, or enables use of a braille reader.
Here are some common functionalities that can help with compliance:
Videos with Audio
- Provide captions.
- Provide full text transcript of the video or a version of the video with a text description.
- Include a mechanism to stop, pause, mute, or adjust volume for audio that automatically plays on a page for more than 3 seconds.
- Add a text alternative to all of your images.
- Add a text alternative to your audio and video (a succinct description of the topic).
- Add a name to all of your controls (such as “Search” or “Submit”).
- Break up content with subheadings for new sections.
- Add a “Skip to Content” link.
- Label elements and give instructions.
- Clearly identify input errors.
- Avoid elements that flash more than 3 times per second.
- Ensure that each page of the website has a language assigned.
- Use more than color to communicate instructions.
- Use more than color to communicate other critical information (charts, graphs, etc.).
- Distinguish text links from surrounding text with a clear contrast between the link and the surrounding text that uses at least a ratio of 3:1, then add another differentiator.
Third-party Vendors On Your Website
- Ensure any portion of your website that is operated by a third-party vendor is also compliant
Failure to comply
Failure to create an ADA-compliant website could open a business to lawsuits, financial liabilities, and brand reputation damage.
ADA website lawsuits are on the rise in California, and every business with a website is subject to these potential lawsuits. However, beyond regulatory consequences, a non-ADA-compliant website could result in missing sales opportunities. Among other factors, ADA compliance makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your website, pushing it up in the rankings and getting your web content in front of more users.
ADA website compliance can be confusing. Seeking consultation with an experienced legal team is essential to ensure that you get a more navigable and legally-compliant website. Contact Chase Law Group, P.C., at (310) 545-7700 to schedule a consultation.