Why Your Website MUST be ADA Compliant
In light of the recent surge of lawsuits regarding ADA compliance, many online businesses have questions. What is ADA compliance and who does it affect? Not to worry, in this article we are going to cover ADA compliance standards, who needs to follow them, and the potential repercussions of noncompliance.
What is ADA Compliance?
Firstly, ADA compliance refers to Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design. This set of standards ensures that all elements and electronic data on a website are accessible to those with disabilities.
Although ADA is often confused with the 508 compliance, it differs in that it is a civil law that mandates the inclusion of everyone, with an emphasis on the disabled. This ensures that everyone has access to online tools through basic areas of life, from transportation to work. So while ADA and 508 have many of the same goals, ADA is a civil law and 508 entails federal procurements.
ADA also works alongside the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, to accommodate disabled persons in various public sectors.
Who needs to follow ADA standards?
Since ADA compliance involves all public spheres, that means it encompasses all electronic information on the internet. In other words, every business that owns a website must comply with ADA standards. To be more specific, this includes:
- State and local governments
- Private organizations with 15 or more employees
- Places of business considered a place of public accommodation under Title III
- Any organization that works for the public’s benefit
So, regardless if ADA standards directly apply to your business or employees, your website still must be in compliance. This is to ensure that anyone can use your website at any time.
What happens if you aren’t ADA compliant?
Any organization whose website is not accessible under the ADA standards is liable. Non-compliant websites may face lawsuits and/or be forced to pay hefty fines until their website meets ADA standards. The majority of the time, businesses that fail to comply with ADA standards do not intentionally do so. In fact, many companies are unaware of ADA compliance and what it entails.
However, intention does not matter when your website is not accessible to everyone. In 2021 alone, over 11,400 people filed an ADA Title III lawsuit. And this number isn’t projected to decline anytime soon.
In addition to a possible lawsuit, your business could be subject to:
- Legal fees
- Potential settlements
- Damaged reputation
- Incurred costs of rebuilding your website to become ADA compliant
ADA Compliance Standards
In order to gain ADA compliance, businesses should start by following the WCAG 2.1 guidelines. If you’re wondering why not follow the ADA standards directly– the U.S. Department of Justice has not officially released the ADA compliance guidelines. Therefore, organizations are often directed to WCAG, as they have the same common goal.
The 4 WCAG Principles
The WCAG has four core principles, including:
Users need to have the ability to perceive all of the information a website offers, including:
Any of these elements that are not accessible to disabled persons must have an alternative.
Users must be able to navigate a website to its entirety, as well as operate all of its features. All tools and interactive elements must be accessible, such as:
- Site navigation tools
- Lead collection forms
All content contained within a website must be understandable to the user. For example, interactive elements, such as a video or game, should have navigation instructions.
Finally, websites should be robust enough to give everyone the same user experience, regardless of the use of assistive technologies. For example, someone reading an article versus someone using a reader tool should experience the same content, regardless of how it is delivered to them.
The 3 WCAG Tiers
The WCAG separates websites into three categories, based on their accessibility:
- Level A- Build a website accessible by some users.
- Level AA- Build a website accessible by most users.
- Level AAA- Build a website accessible by all users.
Typically, it is sufficient to meet level AA compliance standards. However, the ultimate goal is to reach tier AAA.
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