ADA Compliant Websites
Adirondack Website Design
Accessibility is about creating
a website that works
IS YOUR WEBSITE HANDICAP ACCESSIBLE?
It should be.
It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the law.
For Adirondack Website Design, ADA compliant, handicap accessible websites are not a “different” kind of website, they are the only kind of website that we develop. This page will help explain why that is so and that accessible websites can be as artistic, aesthetically pleasing and functional as websites that are not accessible.
Moreover, because an accessible website looks and works just as well as a non-accessible website (to users who don’t rely on accessibility technology) and that the ethical and legal penalties are so significant for not having one, that there is no reason a business should neglect this critical component to their web presence.
This article was written as an overview in response to the many questions we have received about websites having to comply with the ADA. We have conducted a great deal of research on this subject so if you’re interested in more detailed information please click on any of the page and article links below.
Websites Must Comply With the ADA | In-page Link
No Lawful Excuses For Failure To Comply With The ADA | In-page Link
Making Your Website Handicap Accessible | In-page Link
A Serious Risk For Non-Profits | In-Page Link
Defending ADA Website Compliant Lawsuits Is Expensive | In-page Link
If You Already Own A Website
All website owners should test their websites for accessibility and not rely on third party vendors or developers to ensure compliance. We highly recommend the Utah State University’s WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, the most recognized free website accessibility evaluation tool available today.
In order to achieve compliance all pages of your website should have a WAVE evaluation rating of zero errors and zero contrast errors. Alerts and other results need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis as some may be important while others may be cautionary.
“New York leads the country in ADA Title III lawsuits for many reasons, but there’s one sure way to avoid them all: make your website and all digital content accessible.” Equidox, Nina Overdorff, February 24, 2021
A process, not a product
At Adirondack Website Design, accessibility and compliance is a process not a product.
We all want to be welcoming and to have our websites viewable by everyone. Sometimes website accessibility for the disabled is overlooked and website owners with the best of intentions have sites that cannot be equally accessed by those with certain disabilities.
While website handicap accessibility might once have been thought of as “just a nice thing to do”, and of course it is much more than that, United States Federal courts across the country from New York to Texas, California to Florida have ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) requires website owners to make their websites accessible to those with visual and hearing impairments.
The ADA may sound familiar as it is the same set of 30 year old Federal laws that requires access ramps, doors wide enough for wheelchair access and handicap parking spaces that you see at businesses, theaters, local government buildings, parks and other public places in your neighborhood. As a Federal law the ADA applies to everyone in every state, county, city, town and village in the United States. The only lawful exceptions are for religious institutions.
While websites cannot provide physical devices for disabled access like wheelchair ramps and special parking spaces Federal courts have ruled that websites are required to provide their digital equivalents.
For example, website owners need to provide their websites with the computer code necessary for screen readers used by the blind and visually impaired to “read” the words in the site and to convey what images “show” without disabled users being able to see them. Websites are required to have colors that do not interfere with the site being clear to those suffering from color blindness and to have close captioning for videos for the deaf or hearing impaired.
There are many additional standards and guidelines to implement which require actual human interpretation of a specific website’s unique content and construction of the computer code that assistive technologies make use of.
The fact is that the overwhelming majority of websites are not handicap accessible in accordance with the law. This means most website owners can be sued for non-compliance with the ADA.
ADA website accessibility lawsuits are often filed and served on website owners without so much as a phone call or letter letting them know their website is not compliant with the law – and none is required by the ADA.
Right now thousands of Federal ADA website accessibility lawsuits continue to be filed at record rates against entities large and small and from coast-to-coast. It has been described as a “flood” and an “onslaught”. Businesses, non-profits and even small government website owners are affected. States like California, New York and Florida have seen the most of these lawsuits and not just in their big cities but in outlying and rural areas too.
In summary, the legal argument is that just as brick and mortar buildings must provide public accommodation for all visitors, websites must do the same.
There may not be laws directly addressing ADA compliance, but there are guidelines. Websites are considered ADA compliant when they adhere to all of the guidelines established by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). These are Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) Levels A and AA and they are the standard adopted by the Federal courts for measuring compliance.
According to the ADA and the courts, website owners are required to know the law and abide by it without any notification from those who may sue them.>
These lawsuits cost website owners thousands of dollars in attorney fees for defending these cases. Further, because the rulings on these ADA cases provide that most of the plaintiff’s are entitled to attorney fees, the website owner ends up paying for both lawyers.
Over 95% of entities sued for ADA website accessibility either settle their cases out of court or lose in trial.
In addition to attorney fees for the lawyers for both sides of the case, the party that settles or loses pays for court costs and they are required to repair or reconstruct their website within a short period of time or get sued again.
Taking down a non-compliant website may be a preventative measure if your organization can live without a website. Most entities that interact with the public cannot afford to be without a website in this day and age.
Law firms use programs to crawl websites for these and other missing elements. When they find them, which they inevitably do, the owner of that website is at risk for a lawsuit for non-ADA compliance.
ADA compliance is comprehensive. Even one inaccessible element will make your entire website non-ADA compliant and open you up to the possibility of being sued. That’s why there are no shortcuts to making your Wix website ADA compliant.
For entities who are being secretly investigated by law firms or are being sued for having a non-compliant website the damage is already done and taking their website down will not help. The ADA provides that damages are incurred in the past tense, for having been previously denied access, not that they may be denied access in the future.
This article continues to provide key bullet points for quick reference, including links to sources which provide greater detail and depth, and will then explain the issues in more detail to help you understand what website accessibility is, why it should be important to you and your business and of some of the various requirements to make your website ADA compliant and handicap accessible. You can always contact us to get a quote to create a website for you or to reconfigure your existing website for handicap accessibility.
“Bottom line: If your website or app is not ADA compliant, you’re tempting fate and ultimately delaying the inevitable. The risk of being sued is real, as the number of lawsuits filed for inaccessible websites keeps growing.” DBS Interactive | Cyndi Masters | 02-20-2019
Websites Must Comply With the ADA
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) clarified that the Office of the Attorney General believes that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to websites.
Federal courts have determined that the ADA Title III applies to websites because website barriers that prevent accessibility to visually impaired, deaf and hard of hearing individuals is a discriminatory act in violation of the ADA.
The United States Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal and thereby let stand a case requiring Dominos Pizza being forced to reconstruct it’s website to become ADA Title III compliant.
No Lawful Excuses For Failure To Comply With The ADA
The ADA “… is a “strict liability” law—if the business is noncompliant, the plaintiff wins regardless of the defendant’s intent or even knowledge.” There are no legally acceptable excuses for lack of ADA Title III website accessibility compliance (e.g. ignorance, web developer is working on it, etc).
Ignorance Is No Excuse. If Your Website Isn’t Compliant, You Can Be Sued!.
The United States Department of Justice provides that failure to specify regulations does not excuse a company from creating an accessible website and app..
Lawsuits Can Be Filed With No Notice or Chance to Fix Your Website
ADA Website Compliance Lawsuits Against Municipalities Growing Fast
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. The nondiscrimination requirements of the law apply to employers and organizations, including local governments and municipalities, whether or not they receive financial assistance from any Federal department or agency.
An emerging trend in ADA website compliant lawsuits is the targeting of municipalities and universities.
While some city and county governments have moved quickly to enhance their digital offerings to meet WCAG 2.0 A and AA guidelines, too many others, however, have not and are facing increasing fines as a result.
A Serious Risk For Non-Profits
Federal courts have ruled that nonprofit websites must comply with Title III of the ADA.
According to Wired Impact, in their article Why Should My Nonprofit Care About Website Accessibility Standards?, it’s not a valid excuse that a non-profit doesn’t serve people with disabilities.
Not having an ADA compliant website can be costly to non-profits.
Defending ADA Website Compliant Lawsuits Is Expensive
Companies sued for lack of an ADA compliant website pay “anywhere from $10,000 to over $90,000 to resolve the claims”.
Settling an ADA website compliant lawsuit quickly can help, but “a company that settles such a suit quickly will typically pay about $20,000. If the business fights the case, costs can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars”.
As an indication of the strength of ADA website compliance cases an astounding 55% of ADA website compliant lawsuits settle within 60 days and 93% of 2018 cases have settled within 1 year.
Plaintiff’s are commonly seeking damages, attorney fees, and website modifications to make businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The only way to protect yourself completely is to bring your website into reasonable compliance with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Speak to your website provider or IT specialist to determine what is involved and what it will cost and then implement a plan to make the website accessible.” Practice Guide: ADA Website Accessibility Litigation, Yankwitt, LLP, Attorneys-at-Law, White Plains, NY
Making Your Website Handicap Accessible
The best way to ensure your website ADA compliant is to either have your website developed with accessibility baked in from the beginning or to have an in-depth, page-by-page website accessibility audit completed by Adirondack Website Design. We’re up to date on the latest guidelines and can develop your website in full compliance or we can identify all non-compliant elements in your current website (as long as it’s not made with a DIY editor like Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, Weebly, GoDaddy, etc.) and correct them.
If you think you’re not vulnerable to a lawsuit because you run a small company or your business doesn’t have a physical address, you’re mistaken. Defendants across a broad spectrum of sectors have been targeted by ADA non-compliance lawsuits. The list includes everything from major corporations to well-known universities, celebrities, charities, and yes, small businesses.
Besides, being ADA compliant has its benefits. It makes good business sense, you add value to your brand, open your website up to a whole new set of visitors and you don’t have the constant financial threat of a possible lawsuit hanging over you. Further, as the population ages, the number of visitors will continue to grow.
There are currently four website accessibility standards;
There are also many guidelines, technical specifications and checklists;
- Techniques for WCAG 2.0, Techniques and Failures for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0
… and many more
As you can see, making a website handicap accessible involves a great deal of work and cannot be achieved by any one solution. As stated by renowned ADA accessibility consultant Edward Wald:
“… true accessibility goes much deeper than basic design or supplementary apps.”, “You cannot simply address accessibility on top of existing application code and expect the issues to be fixed,” he says. “It starts with the wireframe and extends to how the site or app is coded. Accessibility incorporates everything from how the copy is written and the site designed to how it is tested for various users’ experiences”.
We hope this article has been informative and provided some guidance into the complexities of website handicap accessibility. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to us and we will be glad to answer them.
Disclaimer: We are not attorneys and this article is not legal advice.
Revised: November 25, 2021
Why choose us?
Because of our commitment to provide you with the best ADA compliant website in your business sector, giving you substantial competitive advantage over your competition in the Adirondack region ~ and beyond.
We combine an unmatched depth of experience, compelling designs and technical expertise to produce results that will not only make your business look great but can get you the customers you need to grow.