10 Reasons Why Websites Need to be ADA Compliant
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Creating a website for your business is a big feat that starts at small steps. One of those steps is making sure your web content is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While the ADA was designed before the advent of the World Wide Web, the broad language and its ability to evolve with the times means that web accessibility falls under its jurisdiction. The ADA applies to any public domain, so it especially applies to your business and web content.
In the broadest sense, the ADA encompasses all ‘places of public accommodation,’ which here can be taken to mean websites need to be ADA compliant. Being on the internet means your content is available to any user online, making it public use, meaning that website accessibility should be one of your top priorities when you put your business online.
There are several reasons for you to prioritize ADA website compliance. The list of the guidelines set down the WCAG 2.0 and later 2.1 clearly lays down rules for your web design to follow for functional website accessibility. Let’s go through some reasons why having an ADA compliant website should be common sense.
The truth is that one of the biggest reasons to put web accessibility at the forefront of your web design is that it keeps you safe from any legal recourse. Accessibility lawsuits can come in at any time if your website compliance falls behind the levels specified in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1). For example, we can examine the 2017 case of Juan Carlos Gil, a visually impaired man, vs. the Winn-Dixie regional grocery chain in the Southeast United States, also known as the Gil v Winn-Dixie case.
The suit was filed on the basis that Winn-Dixie did not operate an ADA compliant website, specifically, one that did not allow Gil’s screen readers assistive technology to function properly. The text on the website was not readable by his text to speech reader, which was a massive oversight. Without an ADA compliant site, Winn-Dixie fell short of ensuring that their website- a service or place of public accommodations, as the court later ruled it- was accessible to all its users, even people with disabilities. Title III of the ADA explicitly prohibits discrimination by the owner of a place of public accommodation based on disability. Because of how clearly Title III lays it out, there is no excuse for non-compliance- especially with a major web element like text. Since their website was a service offered to the public, Gil’s visual impairment fell under the criteria of physical disabilities, and the chain was pushed by the courts to make their website accessible. The suit created an opportunity to hire a professional to assess their web accessibility by measuring it against the WCAG. All in all, bringing the site into updated compliance cost the chain around $37,000. Legal requirements that dictate that your website must be accessible to people with disabilities like the ADA requires should shape the direction of your website design moving forward.
ADA compliance can do more for your business than help you avoid keen-eyed lawyers and potential lawsuits. Communities are full of diversity in modern America. In that wide pool of potential customers, you should know that nearly one out of five people in the United States are disabled. This huge number by itself a strong reason for making your website ADA compliant. Widening the range of potential users for your website is easiest achieved by making sure that your content complies with the ADA.
Following the law and conforming to the Americans with Disabilities Act isn’t just good practice; it’s good business. By creating a website accessible to all users, you associate yourself with a good reputable presence on the internet. This means that you can tie your business and your content to the notion of website accessibility, and by proxy, prioritizing individuals with disabilities as much as the rest of your customer base.
Every business should have the goal of becoming a positive influence in their industry. What you or other businesses may not realize that website accessibility and ADA compliance is an important step towards this goal. On the other side of the coin, keeping your company from running into legal trouble and out of the courts is a good way to keep your business’ reputation squeaky clean. Remember that your website needs to prioritize equal access, especially for disabled users, and the name of your business becomes known for being pioneer inaccessibility.
Being familiar with the best business practices can help you meet the standards set by ADA. At the heart of good website design should be user-friendliness and following the regulations set by the WCAG. Like the previous point, having a website that is readily accessible to a variety of users helps to promote the same practices across your competitors and your industry. Not just you can benefit from the simple choice to comply with the ADA.
Remember that by prioritizing ADA compliance, you are saving yourself a headache- and possibly, even a ton of money- down the line. Despite how complex the ADA and WCAG can seem, understanding them can become easier with a professional’s help. There are many services offered online for this exact service: website compliance audits can help you a lot and break down the more difficult to explain standards and regulations.
Having an eye-catching or unique design is the easiest way to get eyes on your web content. Marketing and advertising are now for much more than stores with physical locations: internet advertising and social media by proxy are the hottest new places to promote your business. Word of mouth is now carried through social media, and social media loves to feature businesses that care about their communities. By following the law and placing individuals with disabilities at the forefront of your design, you put yourself in the spotlight and carried through organic advertising once people start noticing.
More than anything, the ADA is in place to protect communities and create legal requirements for websites to follow. By adhering to the ADA’s standards, you reinforce the notion of inclusion for all users. Because 1 in 5 Americans live with disabilities, putting those same individuals in a place of importance as you design your site has immediate positive effects on not only your business but your community as well.
Having a website with accessibility at the forefront can edge you ahead of the competition. Nowadays, search engines prioritize and increase the rankings of sites designed with web accessibility and the ADA guidelines in mind. Websites that adhere to the ADA are pushed to the more visible pages in search engines when a potential customer searches the relevant terms to your business. Simply put, web accessibility can help push your site towards the first page of a user’s search results.
The ADA, above all else, prohibits discrimination, so having a website that does not comply not only implies that your business does not care about a good chunk of your potential or current customers, it also opens you up to lawsuits from individuals with disabilities and users that feel your that your website is not accessible. That oversight can cost you time, money, and energy in the future. A disgruntled user can drag you to court, causing a chain of problems f0r you that can start at court proceedings and end in a WCAG audit, both of which can burn a hole in your pocket. By keeping your website accessible from the get-go, you close this loophole and let yourself prioritize more about your business without the nagging worry of not having an accessible website.
Do websites have to be ADA compliant? Considering the entirety of the act and all the reasons that creating a site that complies with ADA, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’
Keeping websites accessible and compliant to the ADA and the long list of guidelines set by the WCAG can be an intimidating or downright arduous process. You want to think about your content or business’s other facets without getting bogged down in the technical details.
We at ADA Compliance Pros can help you with that. You can work with experienced, certified professionals who can identify all the liability risks on your website and provide cost-effective solutions for meeting all ADA requirements.
Visit our website at adacompliancepros.com today to find out what we can do for your web content.