While ADA compliance is possibly one of the least interesting considerations about a website, this is certainly one of the most important. After all, the cost of good web design is nothing compared to the potential fines in an ADA non-compliance lawsuit. In case you might be asking yourself, this is also quite a common thing to happen and record numbers of lawsuits have been filed in recent years.
But how and why do companies get sued for not being website ADA compliant and more importantly, how can you avoid this from happening?
In this article, I wanted to outline some of the most common mistakes associated with ADA compliance and how you can get your house in order to avoid any such problems.
How Not to Get Fined for ADA Non-Compliance
ADA compliance refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 which states that all people, including people with disabilities, have sufficient access to public areas. As you might have guessed, this also applies to the online world and simply indicates that organizations should make every effort to ensure the accessibility of their web properties.
At the same time, it must be said that improving a website for the purpose of ADA compliance can only benefit the organization. In other words, when a website is more accessible and user-friendly to people with disability, this will obviously have a positive impact on other users.
Now, in case you might be thinking this approach is somewhat over-cautious, you should know that the number of ADA non-compliance lawsuits increased by more than 1,000 cases last year and many of these instances were website-related.
With this in mind, there was a time when a lack of guidelines or understanding meant that website owners were unaffected by website ADA compliance. However, times have certainly changed and any website can now be sued on the basis of ADA non-compliance.
For this reason, I would like to say that functionality is the most important reason to focus on ADA compliance but the truth is, bad things happen and there is such thing as a nefarious attorney. That is to say, certain attorneys have been known to use ADA compliance to file lawsuits against companies.
When ADA Non-Compliance Becomes a Problem
As you may know, ADA non-compliance is a very common occurrence throughout the United States.
I remember reading a news article in which a small business in California was forced to close down due to an inaccessible bathroom. In that instance, the middle aged-owners were unable to afford the necessary upgrades and unaware of ADA compliance in general.
What’s more, this article went on to explain how most buildings that were constructed pre-1990 were likely to violate this same law. While this may not seem as significant as say ADA compliance for healthcare websites, it still shows that there is no hiding from ADA compliance.
Anyway, it seems ironic that at a time when so many organizations fail to understand the implications of website ADA non-compliance, they will soon be inflicted with similar problems.
That being said, these problems already exist and certain organizations have already realized the full weight of these implications.
For example, Netflix was successfully sued for ADA non-compliance in 2011 when the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) claimed that the lack of closed captioning on the platform was discriminatory against deaf people. Meanwhile, Nike was sued just a couple of years ago when a legally blind customer complained that they were unable to navigate on more than 30 Nike websites.
And that’s just part of the story….
Amazon was recently subjected to an ADA compliance lawsuit and even world-famous singer Beyonce was embroiled in a lawsuit for having non-ADA-compliant website.
Top 5 Mistakes That Leave Websites Vulnerable to ADA Non-Compliance
Although each of the above websites was non-compliant for a different reason, the mistakes that these organizations make is most often the same. You see, ADA compliance focuses around the same pillars or foundations of a website and the most common problems are usually one of the following:
1. Keyboard Access
People who are blind or unable to use their hands do not have the sufficient control when navigating a website with a mount. For this reason, ADA compliance states that every task on a website should be controlled via the keyboard.
2. Alt Descriptions
Alternative text (Alt Text) refers to the meta tag that you assign to each image on the website. Simple put, this take is a description or explanation of the image. You can change and update these tags through the content management system (CMS) or via the html code on the website. If you do not use a CMS, this may be a reason to contact a professional company to take care of the matter.
3. Website Forms
When it comes to the contact page, sign-up forms or any other form, the text and content must be easy-to-read. Likewise, the error messages on these forms should be clear, while any fields should be labeled with a brief instruction.
HTML code is quite a complex and confusing thing for most people. However, professional SEO and development experts are able to create concise code which is fully ADA compliant. With this in mind, correct headings, sub-headings and structure should be given to every page.
Websites should be easily translated by screen readers but you must keep in mind that these readers do not know what language to use unless this is included in the code. Once again, your developer should be able to take care of this matter and ensure the language is always communicated to screen readers.
ADA compliance is increasingly important for websites and while this effort will certainly improve the functionality and appearance of the website, the main objective is to protect the organization.
At the same time, making the necessary changes is not just a case of avoiding the above mistakes and almost every part of a website is potentially vulnerable to ADA non-compliance. Either way, you should fix as much as possible but for peace-of-mind and reliable results, you should always contact a professional.