ADA Compliance: Your Website Could be at Risk
Did you know over 10,000 companies were sued for not having ADA compliant websites last year? Imagine checking your email with your screen off or listening to your favorite podcast without sound. Impossible, right?
As the world wide web is becoming more of a necessity to everyday life, it is becoming increasingly important to build websites that are accessible to all.
Why Does My Website Need to be ADA Compliant?
According to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, all “places of public accommodation” are required by law to remove any “access barriers” that would inhibit a person with disabilities from accessing the business’ goods or services. Two things to highlight here: There are technically no laws specifically pertaining to websites or mobile apps, however, the Department Of Justice has consistently sided with the plaintiffs stating that “the absence of a specific regulation does not serve as a basis for noncompliance with a statute’s requirements.” In other words, the DOJ has declared that regardless of the fact that websites are not mentioned, they must comply under Title III of the ADA.
“Public accommodation” could apply to most things depending on who is making the interpretation. Generally, this would refer to B2C, retail, any business, or service (like hospitals or universities) the general public should be able to use, understand and access easily.
In 2016, 25.5 million Americans (18+) experienced vision loss. This number does not even include the 48 million Americans who have reported some degree of hearing loss. That is a combined 73.5 million people with seeing or hearing disabilities. This is not just a matter of avoiding a lawsuit, but a matter of ethics.
Additional Benefits to Being ADA Compliant:
- 73,500,000 people is a lot of potential customers your company is missing out on.
- It can increase Google ranking.
- Increases brand credibility.
- Small businesses may take an annual tax credit for making their businesses accessible to persons with disabilities. Section 44 of the U.S. IRS tax code gives qualifying small businesses a 50% tax rebate for expenses incurred while making their businesses more ADA Compliant. Use IRS Form 8826.
- Brands with ADA compliant websites can avoid lawsuits. The minimum average costs associated with these lawsuits is around $50,000. However, most companies decide to fix their website, which can vary greatly in cost depending on the website.
Which Websites Have Been Affected by ADA Compliance?
It is not just big brands that are being sued. Lawyers are filing lawsuits against small businesses, like the Avanti Hotel and local New York wineries. It is much better to make your website compliant rather than face the time, expenses, and damaged brand reputation of being sued. The number of ADA Title III lawsuits filed in federal court in 2018 hit a record high of at least 10,163 – up 34% from 2017 according to this survey from Seyfarth Shaw.
Big brands that have been sued for non-ADA compliant websites:
- Burger King
- Bank of America
- Five Guys Burgers
- Winn-Dixie Grocery
- A host of universities, including Vanderbilt
- Beyoncé's management company
- And many more
Most of these brands reached settlements and the cases were dismissed on the agreement that the companies would update their sites to be ADA compliant.
How do I Become ADA Compliant?
A good first step in making sure your website is ADA compliant is to review the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 and this quick reference guide. There are also several online tests that audit your website for ADA compliance like AChecker and Color Oracle. Or, contact us to discuss your website compliance needs.