What Are the Best Practices for Website ADA Compliance?

  • 15.07.2020

For over a decade we’ve protected businesses and property owners from ADA lawsuits, but never before have we seen such dramatic changes as what we witnessing in 2020.  From New York to California, ADA lawsuit volume spiked 30%.  The regular serial litigants ramped up “productivity” and many new ones got into “the game.”  In all, they blasted out thousands of lawsuits and made millions of dollars suing business and property owners for not following the web content accessibility guidelines, also known as WCAG. Previously WCAG 2.0 was the standard, but new success criteria are now in place for WCAG 2.1.

The threat is real and only getting worse for businesses that do not have compliant website accessibility.  Just as commercial property can be sued for not being accessible, so can a commercial website.  A website is legally viewed as a public accommodation and under Title III, any public accommodation must be fully compliant, as stipulated by the Department of Justice and their enforceable Disabilities Act.  Serial litigants are now targeting websites for ADA lawsuits, and from Dominos Pizza to the mom and pop by-the-slice around the corner, every commercial website is at risk of getting hit for issues that impede people with disabilities from accessing them

Compounding the challenges of ADA website compliance is the unfortunate fact that the Department of Justice has not made a definitive ruling on what exactly is required for businesses to do to ensure that their website is indeed ADA compliant.  Obviously, striving to meet the requirements is recommended, and most businesses should aim for AA level compliance, but there is still much left to interpretation on what exactly makes a website ADA compliant and just what sort of exposure a commercial website might have.  This instability has left business owners pulling out their hair, confused with what to do as the Department of Justice has yet to make diminutive rulings on what specifically must be done to ensure website accessibility.  It really is similar to the Wild West before definitive laws were put into place — that is why we are here to provide as much information as possible.

ADA WEBSITE AUDIT: automated testing vs. live audit

As the exposure for an ADA website lawsuit grows, the market has been flooded by every sort of company imaginable, all touting various types of solutions, many looking for a quick buck by promising ADA compliance for websites.   Many of these companies, while experienced in web development have very little first-hand experience with actual disabilities compliance, but nevertheless are offering various types of ADA website compliance checker software.   ADA guidelines are incredibly strict and precise and when dealing with an area that is as highly litigious as ADA requirements are, it is crucial that a business puts their website in the hands of an expert who has been navigating Title III of the Disabilities Act for years as was created by the Department of Justice.

Unfortunately, many start-ups and web development companies, with little to no experience in interpreting the disabilities act, offer automated computer testing.  While fast and affordable, these automated software programs, which scan a website for accessibility do not offer adequate reliability, which can give unrealistic results and leave one unwittingly exposed for an ADA lawsuit, when reliable information is required.

In order to get an accurate audit, you must get a live audit.  What this means is an actual person, with years of training is manually inspecting every nook and cranny of your website.  They are looking for accessibility issues that could be a barrier for every specific type of disability.  That means making sure the contrast rate is sufficient for people who are color blind, to making sure the website is compatible with industry-standard readers for people who are sight-impaired.  It is impossible for a computer program to conduct an automated scan to provide that same level of detail.  When the risk of an ADA lawsuit is as high as it is, make sure you make an informed decision to best protect yourself and ensure your website is accessible for all.

SCREEN READERS: What they do and how they work

Twenty percent of Americans have some sort of disability.  That is millions of people who in some way or another might not be able to access your website!  The good news is that technology has rapidly expanding to assist people with disabilities in surfing the web and gaining access to all the information they need.  One area that has grown is with screen readers.  Over seven million people in America rely on screen readers to access the web.

In its most basic terms, a screen reader is a software that lets visually impaired people use a computer.  Opposed to viewing a website page, for example, the screen reader will actually read all the content to the person.  The screen reader literally translates the content into text-to-speech (TTS) which can be perceived to a user audibly.  And as more and more of our daily lives are conducted online, this sort of technology is only becoming increasingly vital to people who are visually impaired.

However, screen readers can only perceive a webpage in a linear way and will ignore information on the page that would be easily viewed and comprehended visually.  Not only will crucial elements of a webpage be missed, but they could be misinterpreted as well.  And this is where a commercial website can not only limit its access to a possible customer but could expose the business to an ADA lawsuit.

Take images for example.  An ADA compliant website must incorporate alternative texts, also known as “alt attributes.”  What that means is all non-textual content, such as images must have their descriptive alt attributes in HTML tags.  In simplest terms: if your website has an image, you must include a description of that image so a reader can convey it to a user.  If your webpage shows a photograph of a slice of pizza, you need to describe that pizza so the screen reader will be able to explain it to the user.  While there are many other ways that a website must ensure it is accessible to all, getting your website to be fully compatible with popular screen reading software, such as JAWS and NVDA is absolutely crucial.


We want to make sure we are here to help in any way we can. There is a lot of information to process to ensure your website has access to all. Should you wish to discuss this process, or how we can assist you in auditing a website and supporting your client base, please don’t hesitate to reach out.