When people consider the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, it is often thought of in terms of physical space. Are there enough handicap parking spaces? Does the building have access ramps? Do stairs and platforms have proper railing? There are many physical regulations a business must follow, but the ADA also has to rules related to general operations and presence in digital spaces. And with a sharp rise in lawsuits concerning digital ADA compliance, it is important for businesses to be aware of their obligations.
Between 2017 and 2018, there was a 177% increase in Title III ADA lawsuits filed, a large number of them class action. While specific regulations on this topic are considered vague, the conclusion is that businesses must provide a website that is accessible to those with disabilities. This arises with websites when concerned with individuals with eye impairment or blindness. If a site cannot function in unison with screen readers, voice narration, or other assistive technologies, it is not considered ADA compliant. There are many accessibility features that can be included in websites and should be reviewed with a web developer during the design process.
How do you know if your company needs to have an ADA compliant website? There are two designations of companies that will require fulfilment: Title I and Title III. Title I businesses are defined by operating more than 20 weeks in a given year and having at least 15 employees. Title III companies fall under the ‘public accommodation’ category, like banks, public transportation, hotels, restaurants, or theaters. Title III businesses are the most commonly hit with ADA compliance law suits.
While it can feel like a massive hurdle to climb, achieving compliance can be achieved with some basic framework. Alternate tags for media files, transcripts for video and audio material, easily identifiable language, and organized layouts are all simple ways to insure easy navigation of a website. An ADA certified designer can work with you to make sure that these issues are addressed throughout the process and a problem does not arise later.
As so much business is done online, it is as important that we follow important regulations digitally the same way we do in the corporeal sense.