What Is ADA Compliance? Why Should Your Website Be ADA Compliant?
Why Should Your Website Be ADA Compliant, And What Does That Even Mean?
ADA Compliance May Be Mandatory for Your Business
A recent Supreme Court ruling has determined that business websites may be considered as a “place of public accommodations,” meaning that they must be made reasonably accessible to all, including those with disabilities. Business owners who comply with accessibility standards will not only find that they are less likely to be sued, but they are also more likely to expand their audiences to include communities that are commonly marginalized.
In October of 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on a case involving Domino’s Pizza. The core principle of the case was that a blind man was unable to access the Domino’s Pizza website using a screen reader application. His attorneys argued that this barrier violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which is supposed to guarantee that people with a disability have, “full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services … of any place of public accommodations.”
The full legal impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling has yet to be determined. It can be assumed that any website used to access a business’s goods and services could count as a “place of public accommodations.” This potentially includes deregulated energy websites that allow customers to sign up for service, view their invoices, or pay their bills online.
However, business owners who do not provide access to goods and services through their website should have a motivation to make their website accessible. Doing so does not require an extensive investment, and it removes barriers to access that could otherwise prevent a customer from reaching out to them. At the same time, it allows the website owner to participate in an effort to make the web more inclusive to all.
What Is the ADA?
ADA is the ‘’Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990’’. Its purpose is to guarantee that individuals with disabilities have the exact same opportunities to enjoy access to public places as other individuals.
The exact language of the ADA can be complicated. Its enforcement has also been shaped by court rulings handed down over the past few decades.
Yet, the gist of the act is simple: any organization that serves the public must ensure that their services or goods are equally available to individuals with disabilities. This encompasses nearly all disabilities, but the main test is whether it would be “reasonable” for the accommodations to be made.
Since many countless businesses and other public places have demonstrated that accessibility is an achievable goal, businesses will have a high burden of proof if they want to claim that allowing a mode of access is an “unreasonable” change for them to make. Furthermore, certain forms of access, such as wheelchair ramps, have been standardized and implemented into building code to become an automatic part of modern public building design.
How Can Online Businesses Be ADA Compliant?
Businesses with physical locations have a number of guidelines they can follow to ensure ADA compliance.
Over the past few years, the idea has spread that certain websites and online services should be ADA compliant, as well. The argument was tested many times, most recently in the aforementioned Supreme Court case involving Domino’s and a plaintiff who was blind.
Fundamentally, any website that provides access similar to a “place of public accommodations” should ensure that there are no “access hindrances” that would impede an individual with disabilities.
Most federal, state and local governments have already made changes to their online platforms necessary to allow access to all individuals. This access not only allows anyone to look up information 24/7, but it also provides them with the means to perform essential functions online.
These essential functions include:
- Submissions of Job Applications
- Applying for Permits or Funding
- Documenting Tax Returns
- Registering in Programs
- Renewing Licenses
- Paying Bills
Private businesses should consider all of these activities as they evaluate what they can do to make their online services more accessible to all. Tasks like submitting job applications, applying for specific licensing or permissions, requesting documentation, registering for a program, or viewing/paying bills should be considered especially sensitive and likely to require ADA compliance.
Currently, there is no government-issued standard or rules that would make online platforms ADA-compliant. However, there is a common standard many defer to, which is called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG is regularly updated, and it lists accommodations for individuals with blindness, difficulty hearing, or who use alternative interface devices, among others. It is fairly simple to implement, and many of its changes involve simple revisions to back-end code to allow for the use of specific interfacing tools.
Overall, WCAG should be seen as the “gold standard” that all businesses should strive to achieve, regardless of whether or not they think they might be a target for an ADA-related discrimination lawsuit.
Just Because “No One’s Complained” Doesn’t Mean There’s Not an Accessibility Problem
“No one’s ever complained before,” is a common refrain among business owners. They may say it trying to justify why they haven’t made certain changes, or they may say it as a form of self-defense when they get hit with an unexpected accusation of discrimination.
Even if no one’s ever complained, that doesn’t mean someone hasn’t been denied access. Any time someone is denied access, it can have an impact on your business.
According to U.S. Government research, 71% of web users with a disability will leave a website that denies them access and never return. Since there are an estimated 48.9 million people living with disabilities in America, the potential for business loss is enormous.
Furthermore, individuals who have a bad experience can share it with others, spreading negative sentiment that can have an impact on your business image as well as your bottom line.
Reach a Greater Part of Your Target Audience Through ADA Compliance
If your website doesn’t comply with ADA, you are potentially deterring millions of potential customers who aren’t able to use your website.
Many may have purchase intent; however, once they land at your website, they won’t have the capability to explore or purchase anything or even get in touch with you, all on the grounds that your website is just available to a select range of individuals. Afterward, they may drift towards your competitors.
For example, you may have a video that shows the advantages of your services but it lacks closed captioning. At that point, individuals who have hearing problems won’t have the possibility to discover how extraordinary your value proposition is. The equivalent applies to when you have pictures without alternate text available, putting up a barrier to blind individuals using a screen reader.
Likewise, if your website is completely inaccessible without a mouse, it may act as a barrier to those who use alternative interface methods to navigate the web.
Improve User Experience by Means of Accessible Design
From the website designers’ perspective, when considering high-quality web UI, they should ask, “Would I be able to navigate this website without any difficulty?”
To make websites accessible to everyone, you should focus on best practices such as:
- Responsive design that allows for viewing on mobile and other portable internet-enabled devices
- Position your logo on the top left of every page, with a link it to the home page
- Use left-aligned text for body copy
- Implement schema markup for screen readers and alternative interface devices
- Use alt text for all images
- Ensure all page’s load quickly
Should website designers take all these aspects into account? Indeed! And that is the point. Your website plays a vital role when it comes to connecting with your customers/users through information, tools, or services they require.
Best of all, most of these adjustments can effectively improve the user experience for all audiences while improving SEO goals. For instance, alt text and schema markup can make your website easier to index, improving its chances of getting a page one Google result.
Best practices are considered “best” for a reason. Therefore, it’s an advantageous way to comply with them if you want to succeed in your business goals. As a result, you will provide a quality user experience for all while improving your site’s index-ability for search engines.
As the discussion of website accessibility grows in importance, complying these basic is a significant first move towards better serving the enormous potential target market of individuals with all range of abilities. Contact us to find out how we can get your website ADA compliant so everyone can access your website and be ADA compliant.