Does Your Website Need to be ADA Compliant?
Most business people are familiar with the ADA (American Disability Act) and its rules that govern their workplace’s physical accommodations like restrooms, parking lots, and elevators. What many of you may not know is that there are ADA guidelines for websites as well. These rules are meant to make websites more usable for visually and physically impaired individuals. They are called WCAG which stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
ADA compliance for websites is a hot topic right now because of the number of lawsuits that are increasingly being filed. In a nutshell, lawyers (on behalf of disabled individuals) are filing “drive-by” or “click-by” by lawsuits against businesses who have websites that are difficult for the visually or physically disabled to use. This started in California, especially with hotels, restaurants and e-commerce sites a few years ago and has become more common across the country. It is especially relevant to small businesses in Colorado, recently making the news in Denver.
Challenges for Business Websites
The challenge here is three-fold:
- Very few websites are indeed WCAG compliant.
- It is difficult to make a website 100% WCAG compliant.
- These lawsuits can be predatory, seemingly pushing businesses into quick cash settlements.
One thing is certainly true: every business should be aware of these challenges and have a plan. The real problem is that even if you make your website WCAG compliant, or mostly compliant, there is a lot of gray area.
4 Options To Consider:
- Do Nothing. It is expensive to make your website 100% compliant, and even if you do, you can still be the victim of a predatory lawsuit. Ultimately, it may be more cost effective to do nothing and settle a lawsuit if one happens.
- Do a Little to Reduce Risk. Do some mitigation work on the website to make it partially ADA compliant (reduce the red flags!). Create benchmarks, policies, and a paper trail showing a serious attempt to address the issue. Add some accessible-friendly features to the website. Do this knowing it cannot achieve 100% compliance but it reduces the odds of a lawsuit and increases the chance of winning in the event of one.
- Invest in Protection. We recommend Accessibe which provides a great level of protection for approximately $500 a year. Not only do they help make your site increasingly ADA compliant, they provide excellent support to help you fight the lawsuit if it happens. You can see Accessibe in action, on the All Mountain Technologies website:
- Make Your Website Fully Compliant. It is potentially expensive to make your website compliant. While a webmaster like myself can do #2 or #3 for you with a few hours of work, full compliance requires a lot of work and ongoing vigilance. It may mean changing your entire website! It probably means training your entire web-marketing team in new best practices. It certainly means consulting with a lawyer and 3rd party auditors. However, this is the only way to completely remove your risk.
TIP: To see where you stand and get recommendations to improve your website’s accessibility, take action now and try the free Accessibe audit, just enter your domain at the bottom of this page) Also, read more about the standards at w3.org
Whichever path you choose, know that a lawyer can threaten you at any time for any reason and it is expensive to fight. Some industries are at higher risk because they need to accommodate all people (hotels, restaurants, real estate, e-commerce for instance) or are just softer targets and more likely to settle. Ultimately, consulting with your legal counsel is highly recommended if you want to make the best decision for your business.
About The Author:
Trent Blizzard is the owner or Blizzard Press, a website company located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado that is dedicated to creating beautiful, easy to manage websites.
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