If you’re running a web design agency, then I’m guessing that you’ve been getting quite a lot of inquiries from your clients about making sure that their websites comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
If you aren’t, then you’re bound to get some in the coming weeks or months. (You’d do better preparing for the inquiries as early as now.)
Here’s the thing, the ADA has become such a hot topic because of the sheer number of website owners that are getting sued by persons with disabilities (PWDs). It’s the reason why businesses are looking for accessibility companies to help them resolve these issues.
At one point in 2019, about 80 ADA-related cases were filed per week.
That’s how alarming the number has become.
That is why in this guide, we’ll cover four things your agency should know about ADA compliance to help you prepare for it.
But first, let’s take a look at the regulation to understand it better.
A look at ADA
ADA is a law that protects the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs) from discrimination, exclusion, or denial of public benefits and services. The services pertaining to those given by both public and private establishments for anyone.
The national government enacted the ADA to ensure that PWDs enjoy the same opportunities as everybody else.
The law grants civil rights protections to disabled individuals similar to those given to other persons based on their color, sex, race, age, religion, and national origin.
ADA assures PWDs of equal privileges, specifically in these aspects of public life: employment, telecommunications, state and local government services, transportation, and public accommodation.
That leads us to the first point about the ADA compliance that digital agencies should absolutely know.
1. “Public accommodation” includes websites.
Places of public accommodation refer to establishments open for public use, such as restaurants, public comfort rooms, hospitals, doctors’ clinics, schools, and more.
When the ADA was created in 1990, that statement more easily referred to physical places. The Internet was still a rare medium then.
But now, multitudes of brick and mortar locations sell products and open their services for the general public to access online.
Blogs and social media sites have also risen for communication, networking, information and content sharing, and more.
People can now shop and transact, set doctor’s appointments, register for classes, and get discounts and coupons (and more), over the Internet.
Because of that, the Department of Justice, which ADA delegated to administer existing facilities for PWD access, has taken the stance to include websites now in public accommodation.
These websites cover those from sectors like the media and entertainment, government agencies, business, healthcare, and many others.
2. ADA requires reasonable modifications to enhance accessibility.
The ADA requires places of public accommodation to have facilities that make their services usable for disabled individuals anytime and anywhere.
It also directs establishments to create “reasonable modifications” to their usual manner of operations so they can better serve PWDs.
In physical stores, that requirement translates to having assistive technologies for PWDs like aisles and ramps for wheelchairs, providing auxiliary aids, and others.
In cyberspace, that can mean implementing any measures or technologies that redesign the way websites are developed.
Site owners, web developers, and digital agencies, for instance, often take the manual approach, installing several plugins and modifying a website’s coding.
Manual redesigning, though, entails tons of time, work, and resources. It can cost thousands of dollars and take around six to ten months, depending on the website’s sophistication.
Plus, when the site updates, all that rigorously-made coding can be gone, and you face inaccessibility issues all over again.
An alternative your agency can explore is the use of automated web accessibility technologies (an example of which we’ll find in the next point).
3. Redesigning for accessibility covers many site elements.
Millions of websites still remain non-compliant with the standards for web accessibility.
For instance, some websites don’t let PWDs use the Tab key to move from one menu to another, Esc to close pop-ups, Enter and arrow keys for dropdown menus, and more.
Navigation is just one aspect. ADA also requires links, buttons, forms, and others to contain aria-labels, images to have Alt attributes, and several more.
As mentioned previously, manually redesigning a website to meet the accessibility guidelines is burdensome, let alone costly.
Website owners also can’t rely on using accessibility plugins since those can slow a website down.
What’s more, both the manual accessibility option and the accessibility plugins do such poor jobs at keeping a website fully compliant to the ADA.
What your agency can employ, instead, is an all-in-one, automated web accessibility platform like accessiBe.
accessiBe has functionalities that let users adjust various aspects of the website interface, like color, display, and content readability, which constitute about 30 percent of the ADA requirements.
accessiBe also has artificial intelligence (AI) running in the backend and optimizing a website’s level of accessibility every 24 hours.
This results in the fulfillment of the remaining 70 percent of the ADA specifications.
Specifically, the AI optimizes screen readers by providing meaningful data using the ARIA set of attributes and image-object descriptions as ALT Text.
That enables screen readers to relay significant information about the site’s content to blind users.
Users can also press Alt+1 to access the Quick Navigation panel and content-skip menus.
accessiBe offers an airtight and comprehensive web accessibility solution for website owners. Plus, using this one platform alone, instead of several inefficient plugins, saves up on your client’s site space and resources.
4. ADA lawsuits are on the rise.
Non-compliance with the ADA is no laughing matter, especially in the legal scene.
Over the years, the number of filed violation lawsuits and pre-litigation demand letters steadily increased, reaching over 2,000 for the former and thousands for the latter in 2018.
Even famous brands were not able to escape the lawsuits filed against them in court and penalties reaching 150,000 dollars, depending on the gravity of the violation.
These known figures include Beyoncé, Domino’s Pizza, the University of California in Berkeley, Winn-Dixie, Kylie Jenner’s cosmetics company, CVS Pharmacy, Fox News Network, and more.
If your clients have not dealt with complaints about ADA violations, that’s great — for now.
Resolving their accessibility needs as soon as possible can save them (and perhaps, you) from the same repercussions suffered by the mentioned brands.
ADA ensures no one gets left behind.
While ADA compliance may sound additionally taxing, it offers you and your client several benefits.
ADA compliance boosts website performance, competitive edge, customer choice, and brand reputation, among others.
By following ADA requirements, you help PWDs enjoy their rights to access online services. Web accessibility benefits everyone, even temporarily disabled users.
In this way, you help ensure that no one gets left behind in the online and offline privileges granted to all individuals.