Back in 1990, a law was passed called the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). At that time, it was only intended to deal with physical businesses and the goal was to make them accessible to people with various types of handicaps. It did not deal with business websites.
Sometime later, this law was approved by the court to include business websites. It was approved because of the wording of section Title III of the Act, which referred to “places of public accommodation.” The extension to websites occurred because the website of a business was viewed as being the public’s way to access the business.
A Lack of “Accessibility” May Lead to Lawsuits
Lawsuits started occurring quickly after the law was passed to ensure that businesses were accessible by the handicapped. Now, many lawsuits are aimed at businesses because their website is not accessible for the handicapped. When they cannot access your business website, it is considered discrimination.
Because the ADA applies to every physical business without exception, case law has made it also apply to every business website. This is because people anywhere can access your business website and use it – if it is handicap accessible. If not, it is considered discrimination.
What ADA Compliance Demands
In 1999, a standard was established as to how to make a website compliant for handicapped people. It was written by the World Wide Web Consortium and called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG). Courts now accept these guidelines as the standard.
When considering what kind of handicaps your website needs to accommodate, there are several. They include:
- The blind
- Those with limited movement
- The deaf
- People with neurological limits such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s
- Those with learning difficulties.
The Advantage of Being ADA Compliant
Even though making the necessary changes to your website may sound like a lot of trouble, there is an advantage worth considering. While it may not apply to every type of website, it will generally mean a wider customer reach than you would have without it. This ultimately means more profit – and, as a business owner, you definitely should be happy about that.
Without the website modifications, you will never know how the changes increase your visitors. If a handicapped person visits your website and does not find it accessible, you can be sure that they will not stay. They will go to your competitor and do business with them. Once you make the changes, you will likely see more traffic as handicapped people can start being able to use your website and order from you.
The Changes You Need
There are several changes you will need to make to your website to become ADA compliant. The changes need to be made to each page because in a lawsuit you could be charged for problems on each page. Those changes include:
- Including Alt Text for all images
- Easy to read fonts
- Text colors easily distinguishable from background colors
- Graphics that do not flash more than 3 times per second (more than this could cause seizures)
- Site should be laid out in a predictable way
- Must use standard HTML tags
- Have a text transcript easily available as a substitute for video and audio files
- Enable text resizing
- Enable keyboard use only – without a mouse
- And more.
In most cases, your web site manager and designer can help bring your website into full compliance. The WCAG document is modified from time to time, so it becomes necessary to ensure that you have someone on your team that keeps up with the changes and implements them.