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The ADA aims to remove barriers to people with disabilities in all areas of life, with websites becoming the main target for lawyers in recent years.
Websites and apps are integral to our everyday lives, and that’s precisely why the internet needs to be open and accessible to everyone, including people who suffer from visual, physical, cognitive, or auditory impairments.
But is it a legal requirement? Let’s examine it together.
Learn about ADA in detail about our comprehensive ADA compliance guide here.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or in short the ADA, consists of five sections (known as titles), each relating to a different area of public life. The titles are:
Websites, although not specifically named, are now widely considered a place of public accommodation in most court rooms.
This makes website owners liable to make their website accessible to people living with disabilities. You can read in detail about the ADA in our Definitive Guide for ADA Compliance for Websites.
The organization in charge of enforcing the ADA is the Department of Justice. How do they view web accessibility?
In 2017, the case of Magee v. Coca-Cola Refreshment USA reached the United States Supreme Court. The issue at hand? Whether or not Coca-Cola’s vending machines were to be considered a place of public accommodation. The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) reaction was telling. It stated, “The court of appeals correctly held that the beverage vending machines at issue are not ‘place[s] of public accommodation’ under Title III of the ADA.”
But what does this have to do with web technologies? The statement continues as the DOJ included that: “Questions concerning Title III’s application to nonphysical establishments—including websites or digital services—may someday warrant this Court’s attention . . . this case is not a suitable vehicle for addressing those emerging issues, however, since the petitioner encountered the respondent’s machines in person, not by telephone or over the Internet.”
Just a year later, in a letter dated September 25, 2018, the DOJ sent a letter to Congress addressing and clarifying its view on whether or not websites are included in Title III of the ADA. The DOJ confirmed its belief that websites should be considered places of public accommodation and adhere to title III of the ADA.
The web is becoming more inclusive, and eventually we will reach an accessible web.
In most cases, the guidelines and standards most broadly accepted for digital accessibility can be found in the WCAG 2.0. WCAG, or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, refers to a series of guidelines that provide information about web accessibility to individuals and businesses. The guidelines were developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and have a few versions, one of the most recent is WCAG 2.0. These guidelines give website owners instructions and information on how to meet website compliance standards.
WCAG guidelines have a compliance rating that ranges from A (the lowest) to AAA (the highest). The general standard for more websites is to meet WCAG 2.0 guidelines with AA success criteria.
To best protect yourself and your business from lawsuits, you should pursue a good-faith effort to provide your website and mobile app users with reasonable access for people with disabilities. Staying ahead of the regulatory curve, especially in the current murky waters, by developing a compliant website can help you save valuable time and resources.
A fully compliant website allows you to reach and to serve more users successfully. This can easily lead to an increase in sales, improved search engine rankings, and exposure to a wider community of users.
The majority of rulings and the accepted common standard for website accessibility is to follow WCAG 2.0 Level AA. To understand where your website currently stands, start with a free audit of your website. Enter your site address here with our free WCAG website audit, learn where your vulnerable points are and what steps to take toward compliance.
Alternatively, you can read our recommendations for the best automated tools to make your website accessible in 2021.
Any website that’s owned and run by a business and any websites that are funded by state and local governments need to comply with ADA requirements. In most instances, lawsuits are filed against business websites, but this doesn’t mean government websites are not a target.
No, all websites need to comply with the web accessibility requirements laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1)
If you are ready to start your ADA compliance journey, it’s recommended that you first audit your site. You can do this for free on Accessibility Checker. This audit will help you identify accessibility issues and help you understand how to fix them.
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