Have you asked yourself: is my website ADA compliant? If you have, then you are not alone. Let us walk you through as to what an ADA compliant website should look like and the functionality it must have in order to reach all of your potential users, avoid any possible lawsuits and minimize reputation risk.
This article covers who should be compliant, at what level of compliance you should be how to get there.
The current article includes ADA website compliance checklist and lists all WCAG 2.0 Accessibility Guidelines including an infographic to save and share with others who might be affected by the current standings.
What Is ADA Compliance?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (also known as ADA) is a comprehensive civil rights law that was enacted to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination.
The law has a wide scope. It applies to:
- State and local government.
- Public and private spaces.
- Building codes.
Title III of the ADA mandates that all “places of public accommodation” (all business open to the public) are legally required to remove any “access barriers” that would hinder a disabled person’s access to that business’s goods or services.
When the ADA was enacted in 1990 (while the internet was still in its infancy), “access barriers” was widely understood to mean literal barriers, like stairs that would hinder a customer in a wheelchair from accessing a business, for example.
But then in 2010, the US Department of Justice issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking indicating that they intended to amend the language in Title III of the ADA to ensure it would also apply to website accessibility.
Since 2010, various courts have heard parts of the DOJ’s argument. The results have been mixed.
Some courts have ruled that only websites with goods or services tied to a physical location, like a retailer that also sells its products in an online store, are considered “places of public accommodation” and would, therefore, be covered by the ADA.
However, other courts have more broadly argued that any website offering goods or services online should be considered “places of public accommodation”, even if they don’t have a physical store presence.
A final ruling is expected to be announced sometime in 2018. This will set the official standard for website accessibility for businesses.
This set of guidelines will outline precisely which websites will be eligible, and what those website owners will need to do in order to be ADA compliant.
Who Needs To Be Compliant?
The ADA requires that businesses and corporations provide all of their clients with access to the same services, including websites, apps, and electronic media. Most businesses should try and aim for level AAA compliance, however, maintaining AA should be acceptable for most small business owners.
After the Gil v. Winn-Dixie case, more litigation has come forward against businesses not accommodating their disabled customers. This result is notable for a few reasons. First, plaintiffs’ attorneys now have legal precedent, although not binding, that websites constitute places of public accommodation under the ADA and therefore must be accessible to the disabled.
Schools, hospitals, and publicly funded institutions need to maintain AAA compliance to fully protect themselves for litigation and protect their reputation.
From a practicality standpoint, your business benefits from being accessible to all potential clients and customers. Therefor, alienating those with disabilities can drive those potential clients away.
The brass tax is, all businesses who operate at any level online need to maintain at least AA conformance.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [W3C]
In an August 2016 case involving the University of California Berkeley, the DOJ ruled that the public university was in violation of ADA Title II (similar to Title III but it instead applies to government organizations) because their YouTube channel’s videos didn’t include captions for hearing impaired visitors. The DOJ found this to violate the ADA as deaf users did not have equal access to the online content.
So where did the DOJ point UC Berkeley for guidance?
The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 AA).
The Department of Justice ruled that UC Berkeley should use the WCAG as their guidelines for accessibility, leading many to believe that the upcoming 2018 ruling may use the same set of standards as the benchmark.
What Is WCAG 2.0?
The WCAG 1.0 was superseded by WCAG 2.0 in 2008, which is the new recommended standard for website accessibility. The outline consists of four principles of accessible design.
websites must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. The principles are divided into general guidelines which in part consist of testable criteria. The Web Consortium also maintains a considerable list of techniques and common failure cases in website accessibility. WCAG 2.0 also has three levels of conformance (A, AA, AAA), but defines them differently from the 1.0 version.
We have created an infographic covering the entirety of what makes a website compliant and at what level.
we've also included a downloadable and printable pdf to keep for your records or to send to your in-house website operator. We ask you share this page with those who might not have their website up to ADA compliance.