In today’s digital age, websites play a pivotal role in how we access information, communicate, and engage with businesses and services. However, not all websites are created equal when it comes to accessibility.
For individuals with disabilities, navigating the online world can often be a challenging and frustrating experience due to barriers that hinder their ability to fully interact with and benefit from web content.
This is where ADA website compliance comes into play, ensuring that websites are accessible to all individuals, regardless of their disabilities.
The Importance of ADA Compliance for Websites
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment, education, transportation, and public accommodations.
While the ADA initially focused on physical spaces, such as buildings and facilities, its scope has since expanded to include digital accessibility, recognizing the importance of ensuring equal access to online information and services.
ADA website compliance refers to the adherence to standards and guidelines set forth by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
These guidelines provide a framework for creating web content that is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for all users, including those with disabilities.
By following these guidelines, website owners and developers can ensure that their sites are accessible to individuals with various disabilities, including visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments.
California’s New Laws Around ADA Compliance for Websites
California is in the process of passing legislation on Assembly Bill (AB-1757), Accessibility: Internet Websites.
This new law would impose legal liability upon a person or entity that denies or incites discrimination or distinction contrary to rights afforded by law to any website based upon the inaccessibility under these provisions.
This new bill would supplement California’s Unruh Act (California Civil Code Section 51), a landmark civil rights bill, allowing plaintiffs to sue businesses that discriminate against the public based on race, gender, ethnicity, disability status, and other characteristics.
What this means for anyone doing business in the state of California is that your website must comply with both Federal and California-State imposed ADA compliance laws.
This law would also impose new requirements for mobile applications. Businesses that fail to meet these heightened standards will face stricter legal penalties, including fines, attorney fees, and possible punitive damages.
If passed in its current state, AB-1757 would also require websites to be professionally reviewed and certified in compliance of WCAG 2.1 Level AA and re-certified annually each year that the website is revised.
Moreover, ADA website compliance is not just a legal requirement; it is also a moral and ethical obligation.
Ensuring accessibility is about upholding basic human rights and treating all individuals with dignity and respect.
By neglecting to make websites accessible, we perpetuate systemic discrimination and exclusion, denying individuals with disabilities the same opportunities and privileges enjoyed by others.
What This Means for Businesses
From a business standpoint, ADA compliance for websites also makes good sense with over 1-5 Americans being classified as having a disability.
In addition to expanding your potential audience and customer base, accessible websites can improve user experience, increase customer satisfaction, and enhance brand reputation.
Eighty-two percent of customers are also willing to pay more for the same product and service from a website that is more accessible.
Marketing your website? Being ADA compliant will also improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) ranking.
Furthermore, failing to comply with ADA requirements can expose businesses to legal risks, including lawsuits, fines, and repetitional damage.
A Surge in Lawsuits
In recent years, there has been a surge in ADA-related lawsuits targeting businesses and organizations with inaccessible websites.
In 2020 $6.625 billion was spent on ADA compliance settlements, with 77.6% of these lawsuits targeted against online retailers.
The lawsuits are primarily attacking small businesses due to their lack of ADA compliance knowledge, however even large corporations have fallen to massive settlements including American Express, Domino’s Pizza, and Carnival Cruise.
These lawsuits underscore the growing awareness and importance of digital accessibility, as well as the need for initiative-taking measures to address accessibility issues.
While some may view ADA compliance for websites as a burdensome task, it ultimately benefits both businesses and society by promoting fairness, equality, and social responsibility.
Making Sure Your Compliant
Achieving ADA compliance for websites requires a concerted effort and ongoing commitment from website owners, developers, designers, and content creators.
It involves conducting accessibility audits, implementing design best practices, providing alternative text for images and multimedia, ensuring keyboard navigation, and testing websites with assistive technologies.
Fortunately, there are numerous resources and tools available to assist organizations in achieving ADA compliance. From free online automated accessibility testing tools to consulting services and training programs.
Businesses have access to a wealth of resources to help them navigate the complexities of digital accessibility and ensure that their websites are inclusive and accessible to all.
In most cases, ADA compliance does not change the design or appearance of a website and implementing inclusive standards can be inexpensive.
Wrapping Up the Importance of ADA Compliance for Websites
ADA website compliance is not just a legal requirement; it is a fundamental principle of inclusivity and equal access.
By making websites accessible to individuals with disabilities, we uphold the values of fairness, equality, and dignity for all. Moreover, ADA compliance is not just about meeting legal obligations; it is about creating a more inclusive and welcoming online environment for everyone.
As we continue to embrace the digital age, let us strive to ensure that the internet remains a place where all individuals, regardless of their abilities, can participate fully and equally.
Bureau of Internet Accessibility (2023, July 14). California AB 1757 May Lead to New Web Accessibility Lawsuits. Retrieved January 28, 2024, from https://www.boia.org/blog/california-ab-1757-may-lead-to-new-web-accessibility-lawsuits
California Legislative Information (2023, August 15). AB-1757 Accessibility: Internet websites. Retrieved January 28, 2024, from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240AB1757
Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) (2024, January 28). Unruh Civil Rights Act. Retrieved January 28, 2024, from https://www.dor.ca.gov/Home/UnruhCivilRightsAct#:~:text=The%20Unruh%20Civil%20Rights%20Act,religion%2C%20sex%20and%20sexual%20orientation.