If you’re not familiar with the term, ADA stands for the Americans with Disability Act. It became a civil rights law in 1990 and since then has enforced penalties for discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. What many don’t realize is that the Web is considered a public space, meaning it must also comply with these regulations. ADA Website Compliance is a real issue that has real consequences when not followed. That’s where we come in.
In order to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, it’s important to make sure you have an ADA Compliant Website. Those with disabilities use assistive technology to help them read computer screens. These devices include separate computer programs (such as screen readers), text enlargement software, and technology that allows you to control the computer with your voice. Besides that, assistive technology can be built into the computer itself. Basic Accessibility features in computer operating systems allow those with low vision to read computer displays by adjusting font size, contrast settings and color schemes. However, these devices can only work if your website is designed properly on the back end. ADA Website Compliance ensures that web developers work with their clients to make these assistive tools compatible with the business’ website.
Images without Text Equivalents
Those with visual impairment primarily use screen readers and refreshable Braille displays to decipher images and text on the screen. A screen reader speaks the text that’s on the computer display and a refreshable Braille display translates text into Braille characters that can be read by touch. Since both technologies only read text, it’s up to the website developer to ensure images come with text equivalents. Useful information is often displayed in image format, such as maps and infographics, so it is essential that all users are able to access this information. The solution for this problem is to add a line of HTML code to provide text for the images that appear on your website. These tags can be longer or shorter depending on the importance and intricacy of the image. This can be a time-consuming process if you run a small business, so we offer an ADA Website Compliance service that creates a specialized tag description for every image on your site.
Other issues that those with disabilities face is that documents on websites may not be posted in an accessible format. If the documents on your website are in Portable Document Format (PDF), they are technically image-based and will not be accessible to blind people using screen readers or those with low vision using text enlargement programs. To solve this, we can go through the documents on your website and convert them to HTM or RTF, thereby allowing access to everyone who might need that information and following ADA Website Compliance.
Color and Font Size Manipulation
Many webpage designers specify colors and font sizes to fit with the overall aesthetic theme of the website. However, many with low vision can’t view your webpage the same as other people. Some can only see a small portion of the computer display at a time, some have difficulty reading small print, and others need high contrast between the text color and background color for the words to be legible. This hardship can be fixed by allowing users to manipulate color and font settings in their web browser. Chances are, your website is designed so that these changes are impossible to make. We can help make your website accessible to 100% of your audience by adding slight adjustments that won’t ruin the aesthetics.
Multimedia and Videos
ADA Website Compliance is meant to help your business just as much as it helps the people accessing your business. Media-rich features, such as videos, can be the biggest selling tool for your product or service. There are plenty of benefits to adding videos to your website, including increased Google ranking, greater trust from customers, and more engagement from your audience. Without accessible features though, deaf and blind people cannot fully understand the message of your video. To follow ADA Website Compliance, you can incorporate audio descriptions of images and text captions synchronized with the video images. Being as specific as possible allows those with disabilities to experience your video the way you want it to be experienced. With this service, we can go in and add subtitles and audio descriptions to the videos posted on your website.
Being Conscious of Disabilities
Besides these major accessibility add-ons, you should also try to make your website easy to use. For example, you can minimize blinking and flashing features that may be a distraction from your page content. Online forms should include a descriptive HTML tag that provides those with disabilities the information they need to complete the form. It can sometimes take a long time for a screen reader to decipher a page’s content, so you should try to provide a second, static copy of pages that require a timed response (such as ticket purchases or checkouts). Or better yet, give users the option to pause or stop auto-updating objects. For maximum efficiency, you can include a ‘skip navigation’ link at the top of webpages. This allows those with screen readers to ignore navigation links and go directly to the webpage content. These considerations may seem extensive, but our ADA Website Compliance service is solely devoted to checking off every one of these boxes.
It’s the Law
If accessibility isn’t incentive enough, several companies around the country have recently been faced with lawsuits concerning their website’s failure to meet ADA regulations. Now more than ever, ADA Website Compliance is being enforced to the fullest extent. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled ‘Disability Lawsuits Against Small Businesses Soar’ discusses this topic in reference to architectural regulations. Another with the headline ‘Companies Face Lawsuits over Website Accessibility for Blind Users’ warns of an emerging threat that many businesses don’t even think about.
There have been 240 businesses sued so far, but we predict that several others have been threatened with demand letters. There have been 3,435 lawsuits filed in federal court as of September 2016, which is up 63% from last year’s mid-year number. These suits normally cost between $10,000 and $70,000 on average, most of which goes toward plaintiff legal fees. Add on expenses for legal defense fees, audit and remediation and subsequent periodic audits and remediation and you have a hefty sum that could have easily been avoided if you had taken ADA Website Compliance seriously.
The National Ski Area Association trade group has dealt with plenty of ADA lawsuits after a number of resorts were faced with demand letters and lawsuits. A small business in Vermont that sells snow shoes and winter equipment was recently faced with a claim that their website discriminated against disabled people. The law groups pursuing these cases are everywhere; in the case of the business in Vermont, the Law Group was actually based out of Florida. Their letter to this small business read: “In lieu of formal litigation, we propose that the parties engage in settlement negotiations on an expedited basis, with the goal of achieving an enforceable settlement agreement providing for injunctive relief, and reasonable attorney’s fee and costs”. The letter goes on to suggest that they “first contact us directly to explore a far more cost-effective and pragmatic approach to resolving these issue”. Rather than consult an outside expert, the firm suggested a settlement. The strangest part of the situation is that no one filed the claim, meaning the firm pursued the case without actually receiving a complaint from a disabled person. That’s what makes these suits so terrifying—they can happen to anyone, even if your company’s website has never been accessed by a disabled person with a legitimate reason to be upset. When it comes to ADA Website Compliance, it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially with so many law firms catching on to this growing trend.
ADA Website Compliance isn’t just a one-time fix though. You need to make sure that every plug-in, image, video, document, etc. that is added to your website meets these regulations. Diligent upkeep ensures that your website isn’t just a billboard. It’s a living marketing tool that is constantly changing to accommodate the needs of its audience. At Ontarget Interactive, we want to ensure that your business is reaching the greatest amount of customers possible and is safe from potential lawsuits.
Is This A Real Issue?
Many believe that ADA Website Compliance is going to be the next big thing, and several companies have popped up around the country that are solely dedicated to checking websites for compliance. The Braille Institute website is an example of an organization that has already taken the proper steps to meet these regulations. If you’re still not convinced, check out these articles: