The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990, requiring all businesses and public places to make accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Since then, the world of eCommerce has bloomed, creating a gray area for online business. Do websites fall under the ADA laws? And do websites need to uphold these laws when designing an online storefront? Here’s an overview of the recent changes in the laws and why you should consider creating an ADA compliant website for your business.
Recent Changes in the Law
Recently, some changes were made in the laws regarding ADA compliance and websites. On December 26, 2017, the Department of Justice made an announcement stating that it withdrew the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking suggested back in 2010. This bill intended to change the language in Title III of the ADA laws, making them also applicable to websites and online eCommerce.
In February 2018, Congress also passed the ADA Education and Reform Act. This bill makes it much harder for Americans with differing abilities to sue companies and businesses for ADA discrimination. Because of this act, many businesses now find there is no reason to comply with ADA guidelines, leaving tons of customers with no options.
Do Websites Have to be ADA Compliant?
There is currently no law stating that a website must be ADA compliant. However, there have been over 1,000 lawsuits filed in 2018 claiming online websites are not following ADA laws. Some courts are ruling that only websites tied to physical storefronts must comply with ADA laws. They are arguing that the brick-and-mortar storefront makes them public, and therefore they must be accessible to everyone. Other courts are ruling that if the website offers goods or services, it is a public business and must comply with ADA rules and regulations. Because of the lack of one clear law regarding this topic, there is a lot of gray area.
How Can I Make My Website ADA Compliant?
As the courts argue about the rulings, they all seem to point back to one clear resource in the matter of these cases. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has created Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). In a lawsuit in 2016, a student sued the University of California Berkeley for unfair access to its YouTube channel. The videos on the channel did not include captions for hearing-impaired students, therefore violating ADA laws. In this case, the DOJ used the WCAG for the case, and directed the university to use these guidelines to create an accessible website for all students.
As a direct result of this case, most people who want to know more about ADA laws for their own websites have turned to the WCAG for guidance. A ruling in 2018 about following these guidelines was on the calendar, but because of the recent changes in the laws we mentioned, no one is sure what is going to happen at this time.
What Are the WCAG Guidelines?
The WCAG guidelines are 12 guides under four categories. These categories are:
Let’s break down these categories for a better understanding of how they affect websites and a user’s web experience.
The Perceivable category covers how people view the website. It covers guidelines about how to present content that everyone can access without losing the meaning or the intent of the website. It goes over things like adding captions to video content, keeping the page intact when using magnification software, and making sure the contrast is at an appropriate level to make text and images appear different on the page. Perceivable guidelines suggest how to make these changes by including captions and alt text for images to help accessibility software know how to read the page.
The Operable category covers keeping your website functional for all users. Most of the time when you think about navigating a website, you think about using either a mouse or your finger to scroll a mobile device. If you can’t use either one of these options, there needs to be another way to navigate the content. Customers can use the keyboard, or other assistive devices to get to where they need to go on your page. Making accommodations for that helps to ensure your website is following these guidelines.
Web designers must also consider the amount of time it takes to navigate around a website. If there are pieces of timed media, there needs to be alternate ways to access them. Users must have enough time to read or listen to the content displayed on the screen before moving to the next element. The content on the page must also not cause seizures or other negative health effects among readers.
While a website may seem like it makes accommodations, it might be very hard to navigate or understand through a nontraditional point of access. The guidelines in the Understandable category make sure that all users can comprehend the intent of your website. By using the proper programming language, accessibility software can read the content of the site and help customers understand how to use it. Items on the page, like fillable forms, can be especially difficult to explain, but with the help of these guidelines, a business can help customers get where they need to go on the page.
The Robust category is the smallest of all the standards but outlines a lot of the technical aspects required to make all this work. The code needs proper implementation to help the assistive devices. It talks about accessing the content using the right programming tags and lines. The goal is to make it so as many people as possible can access the content you are offering.
Building an ADA compliant Website
The best way to protect your business is by building an ADA compliant website. Put Forix in charge of your design to avoid a costly and time-consuming lawsuit. Forix uses the WCAG guidelines as an ADA compliance website checklist. By sticking with these guidelines for your site, you will provide users with an equal opportunity for access. Forix will build your site for you, leaving you to relax and handle the other parts of your business.
Disclaimer: The content provided on this website is for commercial and educational purposes and is not legal advice or opinion and should not be relied upon as such. Forix does not make any claims to guarantee the accuracy or completeness of information contained on this site as all laws including ADA Compliance laws may change without notice at any given time. It is your responsibility to understand all laws and regulations applicable to you in regards to this.