Websites 2020 – Being ADA Compliant
Being ADA Compliant and what does that mean for my website?
Okay first, I know what you’re thinking, “What!? I haven’t even heard of this. How can I make my website ADA Compliant?” When most people think of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they associated it with a physical location. A physical location accommodation may include wheelchair accessibility, access to service animals, the use of Braille, etc. However, accessibility now extends to the digital world, requiring content and features on websites to be accessible to all users.
What I’ve learned about being ADA Compliant:
- Content on websites should be accessible to the blind, deaf, those who must navigate by voice, screen readers or other assistive technologies.
- Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act is now being interpreted to include websites as “places of public accommodation.”
- If a website has significant inaccessible components (one example: not adding closed captions to your videos), this can be seen as discriminatory against persons with disabilities, which would be in violation of Title III of the ADA.
- There are no clear regulations defining website accessibility for private entities but the WCAG 2.0 AA is frequently referenced by the courts. We’ll get to that in just a moment.
- Numerous authoritative sources state you have flexibility in how you approach accessibility.
- There are no magic or instant solutions (for example: using plugins, widgets, or toolbars) for website accessibility, which means you’ll have to spend some time to make your website accessible to everyone.
- Plaintiff’s lawyers out there will continue to file ADA lawsuits as fast as they can in the coming year.
- Truth be known, the ADA is a strict liability law so you can’t have excuses like ‘I didn’t know,’ or ‘my website developer is working on it,’ etc. Your website has to be accessible to all people or you can be open to lawsuits.
An ADA compliant website
What does an ADA compliant website look like? Well, that’s just it; there are no clear ADA regulations that spell out exactly what an ADA compliant website looks like. But we do have some guidelines we can follow – the same guidelines the courts use, The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA.
To be clear, there is a difference between ADA website compliance vs. website accessibility. The American with Disabilities Act governs accessibility. Even though it does not mention websites anywhere, Title III of the ADA has been interpreted by U.S. Courts to apply to websites.
For websites to be ADA compliant, they need to be accessible. A simpler way of understanding this is the ADA is the legal side and accessibility is the technical or developmental side. Can persons with disabilities access my website? Keep it simple, all you’re doing is making your website accessible to everyone, that’s it.
The WCAG 2.0 AA
Okay, let’s talk about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, (WCAG) 2.0 AA. U.S., courts and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have, in the cases presented in court, referenced the WCAG 2.0 Level AA success criteria as the standard to gauge whether websites are accessible. The WCAG 2.0 AA success criteria has 38 requirements individually referred to as success criterion. If your website meets all the success criteria, then you’re good to go. BUT, even if you don’t you still can be accessible. So, no need to panic. The WCAG is not a legal document but a guideline and should be used as a check list when making your website accessible.
Reading through the WCAG can be intimidating because it is very technical and at times difficult to understand. You may find yourself not knowing exactly how to apply certain success criteria to your website. I have given you a simple outline of the WCAG at the end of this blog.
Here the good news, private entities have a flexibility when it comes to web accessibility. Assistant Attorney General, Stephen E. Boyd, stated in a letter of Congress and of the Senate, that entities (individuals, businesses, companies, organizations, etc.) have flexibility in how to comply with web accessibility. You can read the letters yourself addressed to Congressman Ted Budd from North Carolina and to Senator Charles E. Grassley from Iowa. Also, the Section508.gov in their blog says the same thing; “Until the DOJ adopts specific technical requirements for web accessibility in a final rule, if you’re subject to the ADA, you have more flexibility in determining how to make your website compliant with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication.” Additionally, the famous case that started the panic was Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, where a blind person sued Domino’s because he could not order off the website. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals observed, in March of 2019, ‘that websites have “maximum flexibility in meeting the statute’s requirements.”’
I hope this gives you some encouragement. Remember though, you are still required to make your website accessible to all persons. According to the Ninth Circuit, websites need to provide “effective communication and full and equal enjoyment of its products and services.”
How can I make my website accessible?
Here are some very simple suggestions you can do right now.
- One of most common complaints in demand letters and lawsuits are alt text and tags, which is an easy fix. Alt tags are text applied to every photo you upload to your website. Example: <img src=”https://www.puremediamarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Websites-must-be-responsive.jpg” alt=”websites need to be responsive across all screens” width=”355″ height= “205” /> The alt text gives a very brief description of the purpose of the image. You can do this or get help from your web master or designer.
- Make sure your content is structured correctly with headings (e.g. h1, h2, etc.) that are properly nested in order. For example, you cannot use an h2 before an h1. I suggest to always start with an h1 as the title of your content.
- Buttons are to have anchor text for links. No more using “click here” or “learn more”. Anchor links must be written so a person can know what the linked page is about. For example: “sign up for my awesome newsletter” or “learn more about my website services”.
- Make sure your forms are programed or coded so the field labels can be read by screen readers. A website designer should know how to program this.
- Any videos that you upload to your website must have accurate closed captioning. YouTube is already set up for closed captioning. When you upload your video to YouTube follow the props for making your video closed captioned accessible.
These are the most commons fixes you can do right away.
Most important thing you can do is:
- Have your website scanned for accessibility errors. If you have a WordPress website, we at Pure Media Marketing can do this for you. Remember, it is only a scan, if you would like us to fix the errors, we will negotiate the price. If you don’t have a WordPress website, we can still do a scan and give you a report. Also, let me give you a link that plaintiff lawyers use to scan your website. It is call WAVE and it’s a free tool but does not fix anything.
- Have Website Maintenance. I cannot implore, express, communicate enough the importance of Website Maintenance. Not only will it keep ADA in check, but also your theme, plugins, servers, and your SEO. We offer Website Maintenance at an affordable price.
I cannot end this blog without referencing Kris Rivenburgh, he is an Attorney but one of the good ones. Kris has created a skeleton outline the WCAG 2.0 AA Guide that is very simple to understand. Furthermore, you can receive a Full WCAG Guide which Kris explains in plain English.
In conclusion, all websites must be ADA compliant. Private entities do have flexibility when it comes to web accessibility. Don’t ignore this or put it off. I highly suggest getting your website accessible as soon as possible. To be compliant is to be accessible to all persons. What’s very important to note is Google and search does not favor websites that are not accessible. Which means you will not position well in search no matter how awesome your SEO strategy is. People with disabilities are humans with disposable income and if your website is accessible chances are, he or she will become a customer