The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination based on disability ensuring that everyone has reasonable access to all areas of public life, including the internet. Although the ADA doesn’t explicitly mention the internet, building accessible features into websites is a good business practice.
Currently, ADA website compliance is only mandatory for government-managed websites. The absence of laws enforcing ADA compliance for websites of public accommodations hasn’t prevented people from filing lawsuits against companies that don’t meet the suggested guidelines. Here are 10 tips for ensuring your website is easily accessible to all visitors:
- To all links, add a text description that can be read by a screen reader
- Add HTML tags with text equivalents to all material being visually conveyed, including photographs. maps, graphics, and other images.
- If your website has online forms, HTML tags should describe all of the controls people can use to complete and submit the forms (e.g. checkboxes, drop-down lists, and buttons.)
- Offer all documents on your website in an alternative text-based format, such as HTML or RTF (rich text format) in addition to PDF.
- If there are data charts or tables on one of your web pages, use HTML to associate all data cells with column and row identifiers.
- Add audio descriptions to all video files to provide access for people who are visually impaired.
- Add written captions of spoken communications to video and audio files to provide access to people who are hard of hearing.
- Design the color and font of all web pages so they can be viewed using any visitor’s web browser or operating system.
- Post your website accessibility policy in a place where it can be easily located on your website.
- Feature an easily locatable telephone number and email address on your homepage so visitors can report any problems with website accessibility and request accessible services and information.
Businesses in healthcare, government and education have been the most common targets of these lawsuits. Attorneys looking for easy money typically target small businesses’ websites by offering a low settlement fee. If your business is targeted by an ADA website compliance grievance, consider taking the following steps in response:
- Review the grievance for credibility. A lawsuit may likely begin by citing “violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title 42 U.S.C. 12101 and 12181.” It may also include an inexpensive settlement option—a prime indicator that the lawsuit has no legs to stand on and is likely a scam.
- Consult a lawyer. Doing so will help determine the credibility of the threat and stop future threats to your business.
- Respond to the plaintiff. Ask your attorney to draft something explaining that you’ve reviewed their grievance and consulted a lawyer. Realizing that you’ve sought legal help may scare away anyone trying to file a lawsuit.
- Update your website. Do this regardless of whether there is a legal need. If your site is easily accessible by people with disabilities, you may see beneficial returns from those users.
Contact RJ Vanner if you have any questions about your website compliance for the ADA.