How To Keep Up With Website ADA Compliance Rules
In the United States, disability-based discrimination is against the law. That applies to both online and offline businesses, including websites that serve the public. ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, is the piece of legislation that governs accessibilities and prohibits any discrimination. If this law is not complied with, your business can be sued for a substantial amount of money.
A disability is a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” The Act doesn’t have a list of health conditions, but it’s implied that businesses should accommodate visitors equally no matter what impairments they may have.
ADA website compliance gets broken down into three levels: AAA for the highest, AA for medium, and A for the lowest. The regulations defining these levels are somewhat ambiguous. Moreover, they frequently get changed and updated. The Department of Justice often references the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA as an aim for website accessibility. However, that isn’t codified into law. Currently, WCAG 2.1 acts as a measure of accessibility. But despite the vague nature of this law, it is the companies' responsibility to ensure that their goods and services are accessible to the public. Failure to do so can result in a lawsuit.
ADA lawsuit threat is very real
In the past eight years, there has been a 320% increase in ADA-related lawsuits. It is almost too easy to sue a company over a non-complying website since court fees are expected to be paid by the company that owns the non-complying website. Due to that, large corporations and well-known brands have been sued, such as Netflix, Domino’s Pizza, and Amazon.
But that doesn’t mean that only large companies should worry about the rising trend of ADA lawsuits. For example, 85% of both federal and state cases involve small and medium-sized retail businesses. And since the average lawsuit settlement reaches $35,000, small companies must protect themselves and make their websites ADA-compliant as soon as possible.
What does ADA compliance involve?
In short, ADA requires that your website can be meaningfully used by anyone regardless of their disability. For example, there needs to be a high enough contrast between colors to accommodate people with visual impairments. Page fonts should be easy to read and enlarged if required. People who use a screen reader need to be able to tell what each image shows; alt text needs to be added in order to provide that information. Additionally, flashing images and animation can negatively impact the browsing experience, so there should be a way to turn it off.
Many new websites were created thanks to the boom of e-commerce in the past decade. And while it’s relatively easy to make a functioning stand-alone website with CMS like Shopify or WordPress, optimizing it to make it ADA-compliant takes a lot of finesse and know-how. Unfortunately, once the website has been made, many companies stop maintaining and upgrading them. Instead, they let various features and design elements get out of date. A lack of investment in accessibility may hurt them in more than one way.
ADA compliance can be beneficial for your business
We have established that not complying with ADA law can be very costly. However, there’s another way that non-accessible websites lose money.
20% of the world's population is disabled. If your website is non-compliant, many people simply cannot check out and spend money at your business. Fixing that issue will protect you from discrimination lawsuits and give you a chance to sell your products or services to a bigger audience.
Since the pandemic, e-commerce has become a staple in many people’s lives; some are still unwilling to go back to in-person shopping. Plus, accommodating all people regardless of their disabilities can help you elevate your brand and improve relations with your customers. Authenticity, inclusivity, and “people first” values are in right now, and companies that practice them tend to have loyal customers that can even become outspoken brand advocates.
Plus, businesses can take advantage of Disabled Access Credit fund provided to encourage businesses to comply with ADA. They cover 50% of your web accessibility-related expenses after the first $250, for up to a total of $5,000 in tax credit.
Making your website ADA-compliant
So how do you make your existing website ADA-compliant? Basically, there are three different ways to do so.
First, you can try to do it by yourself. You can get up to date on the regulations, consult a lawyer specializing in ADA, and adjust your website accordingly. If that’s too much to handle, you can hire a professional web studio to create a custom redesign for your website. This way, the redesign will be ADA-compliant in accordance with the current laws.
However, you will still need to keep an eye on the ADA legislation since these regulations tend to change over time.
The third option is also the most hands-off. You can use software developed by a company that specializes in accessibility and rely on it to keep your website up to date with ADA. accessiBe has created a widget that helps businesses accommodate many disabilities. One of the key features of this widget is that it only shows when it’s needed. It changes UI based on the user request, and all adjustments comply with WCAG 2.1 AA requirements.
Take a look at the bottom left corner of our site to see how it works!
accessWidget is not just a plugin or an add-on; it’s an accessibility solution suite. It makes websites easier to use, accommodates various impairments, and helps people navigate websites regardless of their disabilities.
Thanks to accessWidget, you won’t have to overhaul your whole website design. This widget is a session-based tool, and it won’t interfere with the browsing experience of most users.
The widget utilizes AI, such as machine learning technology, contextual understanding, and computer vision, to address the complex accessibility requirements and improve its functionality with time. It currently works with the most common features; more unique design elements and written-from-scratch functionalities may not yet be covered. However, since most lawsuits are filed against small and medium-sized businesses that tend to have simpler websites, it will still make a huge difference in protecting your business from a lawsuit and the potential financial devastation it can cause. And if you need a hand figuring the widget out, Studio Umbrella can help install accessWidget and ensure that it functions properly.
Over 150,000 companies use it for ADA compliance, and that’s both small businesses and industry leaders alike. The company utilizes a volume pricing policy so that a business with just a few products and pages won’t have to pay as much as a well-established enterprise. Also, accesiBe has a free testing tool that highlights your website features that are not accessible and a seven-day risk-free free trial that gives you a taste of what it’s like to not worry about ADA.