The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. To ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities, companies must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities and ensure that public facilities are accessible to people with disabilities. As many businesses have been finding out recently, accessibility requirements can also apply to websites.
The Importance of Accessible Websites
Over the last two decades, the internet has gone from a fun novelty to an absolute necessity. Unfortunately, some disabilities, especially those involving vision or hearing impairment, can make using the internet more difficult. Although technologies exist to help people with disabilities access the internet, the usefulness of these systems often depends on the design of the website.
In the past, most businesses operated in physical stores that needed to be ADA compliant. Today, many stores have both a physical and online presence. As the internet has taken on more and more importance in a wide range of activities, advocates of ADA compliance have begun to look at the accessibility of websites.
The Legal Risks of Websites That Aren’t Accessible
Lawsuits against companies that fail to make their physical stores accessible have been common for a while, but lawsuits against companies that fail to make their websites accessible are a relatively recent development. However, there is reason to expect them to become more common soon.
A case against Winn-Dixie may set precedence. A visually impaired man sued Winn-Dixie over claims that its website violated the ADA. In June 2017, a Florida federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Juan Carlos Gil.
There is still some uncertainty over exactly which websites must be accessible and what accessibility entails. However, in light of this court ruling and the increasing risk of lawsuits, many companies may feel the need to make their websites as accessible as possible.
Making your Website ADA Compliant
The ADA Best Practices Tool Kit provides information on website accessibility under title II of the ADA. Although the information is designed for local and state governments, private companies may also find it useful and relevant.
Based on the advice provided, organizations should assess their websites with attention to the following issues:
- Every image should have a text equivalent. This can help visually impaired individuals use supportive technologies. For the same reason, text-based alternatives to PDF documents should be made available.
- Color and font sizes should be adaptable. Your desire to have the website appear exactly as you want it can come into conflict with a person’s need to make the site more readable.
- Videos should be accessible. Videos can present challenges for both the visually and hearing impaired.
Other issues can arise, as well. In general, website designers should include image descriptions, descriptive HTML tags and video captioning. Websites should be user-friendly and easy to navigate.