Did you know that your website is subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? If you’re not knee deep in website development, you may be unaware of this legal requirement of Website ADA Compliance, which, if ignored, could cause you significant financial grief.
You can learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act, which passed in 1990, here: ADA Regulations
People with disabilities rely on specialized accessibility tools – including particular browser settings, media players, alternate keyboards, text-to-speech screen readers and voice recognition software – to navigate a website. However, in order to be able to fully access all aspects of a website, the site needs to be programmed in a way that functions properly with those specialized tools.
Until recently, website accessibility hasn’t been on the radar of most companies. But ADA compliance is about to become imperative. That’s because in just a few months (April 2016), the U.S. Department of Justice will roll out specific compliance guidelines (WCAG Level AA Compliance) for the visually impaired. The initial rulings will cover state and local governments. (There are rumblings that the rules for private sector sites won’t be formalized until 2017 or 2018.)
While the Department of Justice hasn’t given us specific rules for ADA website compliance—yet, various lawsuits have already hit the courts. Plaintiffs have filed class action lawsuits against companies allegedly in violation, i.e. online grocer Peapod, Carnival Cruise Lines, Scribd.com, Monster.com, Priceline.com, the NCAA, the NBA and others. Retailer Target settled a class action suit for $6 million in 2008.
Currently, four different types of website compliance are mandated, including:
- Perceivable – Information and page functionality must be presented in ways that can be readily perceived. For example, using alt tags to describe a photo or tell the user what a button does.
- Operable – User interface elements and navigation must be operable using a keyboard and a mouse.
- Understandable – Information must be conveyed in a way that is easily understood. For example, instead of saying “invalid information,” it should say “this information must be in this specific format,” with instructions for formatting.
- Robust – Website content must be easily interpreted by a wide range of browsers, as well as the tools that are used by the disabled community.
So what can you do NOW to avoid potential repercussions? Consult with your web developer and immediately start the process of adding ADA compliant functionality to your website. Paying attention to the new rulings as they are released can help ensure that your company doesn’t become the target of future litigation.