What is ADA?
In 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into a law. This law is designed to prevent discrimination against individuals because of their disabilities. About 57 million Americans live with disabilities, including vision or hearing impairment, difficulty lifting or grasping things, or a mental or emotional impairment.
In the past 27 years, the internet has changed the way people use media, access and purchase goods and services, and gather information. This has introduced new challenges for people with disabilities, and many are often unable to fully participate in online activities as either a consumer or employee. ADA seeks to open doors for more than half of these people who currently use the internet.
How does ADA affect business?
In January 2017, the United States Access Board published a rule regarding information and communications technologies (ICTs). This rule addresses accessibility standards specifically in areas developed, procured, maintained, or used by federal agencies, such as how physical technology works with existing assistive technologies like JAWS, NVDA, braille keyboards, or voice-overs. These changes take effect in January 2018.
Though this rule directly refers only to standards for federal agencies, the private sector is being hit by “drive-by” lawsuits. Individuals are surfing the web with the intent of finding accessibility violations on websites. Lawsuits are filed, sometimes without warning or complaint.
Though there is not yet an official standard for website accessibility, courts have referenced Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Many courts are interpreting website accessibility as part of the currently existing standards for physical structures.
For example, in the recent South Florida ruling of Gill v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., a visually impaired man sued a chain grocery store. The judge considered Winn-Dixie’s website a connection to the physical stores because the website offered coupons, location information, and prescription refills.
What is WCAG and how does it help?
Created to help guide web content creators and designers as they make their sites more accessible, WCAG is a set of standards directly linked to ADA compliance.
WCAG 2.0 offers 12 guidelines in the following four categories: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. Each guideline contains testable “success criteria” which can be used to measure the usability of your website.
4 Steps To ADA Compliance
- Determine your website’s compliance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines. While Level AAA is considered the most accessible, meeting all of these criteria isn’t always possible.
- Conduct an internal audit. A number of free tools include: AChecker, WAVE, and Functional Accessibility Evaluator (F.A.E.). Currently, there is no officially approved audit tool.
- If auditing your own site is not your area of expertise, look for help from a third party. At Aqua Vita, we can help you upgrade to an ADA-compliant, user-friendly site that attracts this new customer base.
- Have your web development team correct any violations discovered in the audit.
Why should I make my website ADA compliant?
These legal requirements are looming on the horizon. Creating a more usable and accessible website:
- Saves money and hassle now by protecting your business from costly, drive-by lawsuits.
- Builds a larger customer base.
- Provides PR with your local and web communities by letting them know you care for and serve those in need.
Though the accessibility guidelines require technical work, you can adapt while increasing your customer base and providing better services for your communities.