People that have sight and hearing difficulties get turned off by many websites because they can’t access their full features. They often require the help of technology to help them get the most out of a website.
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law to give people with disabilities equal opportunities.
However, there are still plenty of businesses that are not ADA compliant, leaving them open to an inevitable lawsuit. In 2018 alone, there were more than 2,000 lawsuits filed in federal court under Title III of the ADA.
To be ADA compliant, websites must be coded to allow screen-reading software to convert the on-screen content to audio. Any videos on a website must also include descriptions so the deaf can understand what’s being said. Furthermore, all interactions encouraged on the website must be operable via a keyboard in case the user can’t use a mouse or trackpad.
While there are no formal standards to enforce the ADA, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) exist to make websites more accessible.
It can be an expensive job to make websites ADA compliant. Some firms can charge thousands of dollars to make wholesale changes to a website. The more complex the existing website coding, the more it will cost to fix for ADA compliance.
According to Digital Authority Partners, failing to be ADA complaint risks fines of up to $75,000 for the first offence alone.
Recent ADA Lawsuits
In 2018, Amazon was sued based on claims that the visually impaired could not access all of the site’s features. Specifically, it claimed there were no text alternatives for non-text content, preventing screen-reading software from reading the information aloud.
Damages we sought on behalf of the claimant and everyone else that found it difficult to access this content. After coming to a settlement agreement, the case was dismissed.
Burger King was also subject to an ADA lawsuit in 2018. Similar to the Amazon case, the claimant sued the fast food giant for failing to provide full access to the site’s features for the visually impaired. They also claimed their screen-reading software couldn’t make sense of the empty links on the website.
Just as the first case, the case was later dismissed after both parties reached a settlement agreement.
Why Do Businesses Need To Be ADA Compliant?
While it’s not clear if the rules apply to specific businesses, it’s always better to be on the safe side. In the US, several states are implementing their own website accessibility laws.
19% of the US population has a form of disability. This works out to around 56.7 million people. That’s an awful lot of people that businesses could be turning away because their website doesn’t cater to their needs.
This could result in leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table. Depending on the industry, it could even prevent the business from growing and expanding into other areas. In other words, it’s not a cost-effective decision.
Modern consumers like to be associated with brands that value their business. Companies doing all they can to meet the needs of the disabled goes a long way to enhancing their reputation.
Website visitors are much more likely to stay loyal. If they interact with another company in the same industry that is not ADA compliant, they are certain to choose the one that caters to them. This will lead to word spreading about their experience with the organization.
Finally, by ignoring ADA guidelines, companies also run the risk of losing new business from government entities. Businesses that secure government contracts or funding must have total accessibility. Failing to comply could result in losing the contract or investment.
How To Avoid An ADA Lawsuit
Without shelling out on a brand new website, there are a few tweaks that can be made to a website to make them more accessible, helping to avoid a lawsuit.
Firstly, ensure that it uses headings and subheadings. It gives the content structure and makes it far easier for all users to follow. Headings also help screen-readers to break up the content and feed it back to the disabled user.
Secondly, ensure that the website can be fully navigated through a keyboard. The blind or those that can’t control their muscles well can find it tough to use a mouse. They should be able to scroll through a page, click menus and dropdowns, click on links and fill out any forms that may be present on the page. Even features such as live chat must be accessible via a keyboard.
Next, assign metadata to all website images, graphics and videos. They must describe what’s going on in the visual content. This is because screen-readers rely on the metadata to describe the image to a visually impaired user. It will read aloud the entire description so it should be detailed and precise.
All websites must also clearly show labels or error messages in the page, no matter if it’s via filling out a form or completing an order using technology. Again, this allows visually impaired users to enjoy the full experience as a screen-reader can feedback the content, allowing for the correct information to be inserted.
Finally, all website call to actions must be descriptive. They must clearly explain to the user what happens after they interact with it. A common call to action is ‘Read more’. Using an herbal tea blog post as an example, the call to action this would be replaced with ‘Read more about the benefits of drinking herbal tea.’ This clearly informs the user that by interacting with the call to action, they can find out about the benefits of herbal tea.
More and more companies are sued for website ADA compliance. They are not providing full access to those that have difficulty browsing the web. Whether it’s adding more descriptions or introducing metadata, there are certainly ways to avoid being sued and paying out thousands of dollars on a fine.