GO BACKTechnical AccessibilityWhat needs to be accessible?Find out if your website is compliant
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We hope it didn’t take a lawsuit to land you here.
Whatever the case, we’re here to help you learn about ADA compliance for websites and how to make your website ADA compliant.
In this comprehensive guide, we cover:
Let’s dive in.
ADA compliance is the responsibility businesses must take to better serve customers and employees who have disabilities.
This means making “reasonable modifications” for customers to access their premises and accommodating disabled employees so they can perform their jobs without design limitations.
The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability.
The ADA gives similar protection to the differently-abled community that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave to people of different races, genders, and religions.
Title III of the ADA deals with how businesses help differently-abled visitors access their places of public accommodation.
That’s why you see wheelchair ramps in movie theatres and brail on elevator buttons.
Understanding how building design can help or hinder access to ‘physical sites’ is pretty straightforward. But what about websites?
Does the law consider them as places of public accommodation?
In this chapter, we answer a big concern website owners have – Are websites also covered under Title 3 of the ADA?
Spoiler alert: Yes, they are.
We also examine the ADA requirements for websites, the wave of ADA / web accessibility-related lawsuits, and how ambulance-chasing lawyers found a niche that is very profitable for them but problematic for you.
“A public accommodation is a private entity that owns, operates, leases, or leases to, a place of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation include a wide range of entities, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, amusement parks, private schools, and day care centers. Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from the ADA’s title III requirements for public accommodations.”
Nothing about websites there…
The United States Department of Justice—the DOJ—is a federal executive department of the United States government tasked with enforcing federal law and administering justice in the United States.
In short—they enforce the ADA.
The following is a letter the DOJ sent to Congress dated September 25, 2018, addressing and clarifying the organization’s views on whether or not websites are included in Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The Department first articulated its interpretation that the ADA applies to public accommodations’ websites over 20 years ago. This interpretation is consistent with the ADA’s…requirement that the goods, services, privileges, or activities provided by places of public accommodation be equally accessible to people with disabilities.”
Verdict: Despite the lack of clear regulations, this letter supports the DOJ’s stance—that websites should be considered places of public accommodation.
ADA compliance cases roll in daily, but let’s look at some famous examples.
One of the most well-known cases, Robles v. Domino’s Pizza Inc., in 2019, found the pizza chain giant subject to the regulations under Title III regarding their website and mobile applications.
This landmark case set a larger trend for other lawsuits regarding web technologies.
Other companies like Netflix, Amazon and even superstar Beyonce have all spent millions of dollars fighting digital accessibility suits.
The more these big-name companies experience suits, the more media attention they get—leading to more discourse and attention for accessibility lawsuits.
In 2013, 2,722 Title III lawsuits were filed in federal courts. By 2021, that number had increased to 11,452.
This significant rise in cases is due to the influx of lawsuits regarding digital accessibility.
No industry is particularly safe. According to a report from Usable Net, a wide variety of industries were targeted in ADA web and application lawsuits in 2021. However, E-commerce websites are particularly vulnerable:
– E-commerce – 74%
– Other industries – 26%
Websites that fail to comply with the ADA website accessibility guidelines are perfect candidates for ambulance-chasing law firms that make a lot of money suing website owners.
The average settlement cost following a website accessibility demand letter is $5000, with some companies reporting lawsuits that result in up to $20,000 in settlement costs.
Are you an easy target for these lawsuits?
Scan your website for accessibility related issues for free
Now that you have a basic understanding of ADA website accessibility, it’s time to get technical.
What does it actually mean to make our website accessible? And to whom exactly?
This chapter covers all of that.. and then some.
Historically, the places the ADA names as “places of public accommodation” are all physical places: Theaters, museums, restaurants, etc.
When a restaurant or theater owner designs their building, they need to consider adding accessible ramps, as in the picture below.
And an accessible toilet:
But interacting with the internet is different.
A person who needs a wheelchair can often use the internet just like a non-disabled person does.
Think about how you interact with the internet.
You use your eyes for viewing the screen. People who have visual impairments need assistance accessing your website. These include:
People who are color blind:
People who are totally blind:
People who have other visual impairments:
Central loss vision:
You use your ears to hear videos and audio. People with auditory impairments need assistance accessing your website. These include:
People who are hard of hearing:
You use your fingers to type. People with physical impairments need assistance accessing your website. These include:
People who are differently-abled and use different devices to type:
You use your cognitive processes to understand the information that is displayed on the screen. People with cognitive impairments need assistance accessing your website. These include:
People who have seizures, ADHD and other forms of cognitive disabilities:
The DOJ has frequently referenced the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 level AA as the web accessibility standard to follow to become ADA compliant.
It’s unlikely that a WCAG 2.0 level AA compliant site would be sued for lack of accessibility.
The WCAG is a series of guidelines that provide information about web accessibility.
The guidelines (reaching a staggering 80+ page count) give site owners clear instructions toward making their website accessible to people with disabilities.
It’s not a legal requirement to follow the WCAG guidelines, but they heavily influence ADA requirements.
WCAG’s guidelines can be complicated at first glance. When broken down and put very simply, the requirements are solved by performing a few basic actions.
Let’s take a closer look.
An accessibility interface allows visitors to adjust the website’s design and user interface elements to fit their individual needs or disability. Example use cases of an accessibility interface include:
The easiest way to add an accessibility interface to your website is to purchase a ready-made solution such as accessiBe. Using one line of code, you can apply a custom interface to your site and start complying with ADA Title III regulations.
Visually impaired users use screen readers to better understand the content on a site. For screen readers to work on your site, adding text alternatives to non-text elements is important.
This is because images and other media help tell a story on your site.
For example, some images might explain places and things, display your product, or contribute to your website content’s overall contextualization and understanding.
Adding alt tags to your images and text transcripts to video files makes those elements easier to understand.
Clearly labeling your forms and any input fields works hand-in-hand with screen readers.
For example, the alternative text for the above image should say something along these lines: A woman holding a blue bag with bird and flower patches served as ornaments. The bag is on sale, 30% discount.
Since not every user who comes to your website has full motor function, it’s essential to evaluate your site’s layout and navigation functionality.
Those with motor impairments deserve equal access to navigating the internet, including your website. Certain navigational tools can be implemented to allow for ease of movement. These include:
Other steps that you can take to make your site easier to use are:
Learn where your business is vulnerable and what you will need to change to meet ADA Title III regulations.
If it turns out that your website has accessibility issues, the good news is now you know about it! Our checker also tells you exactly how to fix each problem.
Scan your website for accessibility related issues for free
We hope you enjoyed our guide.
Now, one question remains about website accessibility and compliance: Where does your business stand?
Thanks to technological advancements and semi-automated solutions, achieving ADA Title 3 compliance has never been easier.
Thankfully, your business’s compliance journey will protect you legally and open your business to an entirely new world of users, innovative practices, opportunities, and more.
So what are you waiting for?
To be ADA compliant means your website meets the requirements and standards laid out in Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Americans with Disabilities Act aims to ensure that anyone can access and enjoy online content, products, and services regardless of ability.
An ADA disability is any type of physical or mental impairment that limits day-to-day activities. This includes, but is not limited to:
• Intellectual disabilities
• Missing limbs
• Mobility impairments
• Cerebral palsy
• Muscular dystrophy
Signed into law in 1990 by former President George Bush, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has officially been around for over 30 years. The act aims to increase access and opportunities for people living with disabilities across their personal and professional lives.
To apply for ADA protection, you need to prove that you have an impairment that would limit or restrict you from performing day-to-day activities. In terms of job discrimination, employees need to be qualified to perform specific duties or functions to benefit from ADA protection.
ADA accommodations refer to any changes that are made to the hiring process, working environment, or job performance requirements that allow a qualified person living with disabilities to perform essential duties associated with their position. An accommodation is considered reasonable if it does not disrupt or threaten a disabled employee’s job.
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