The American Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that businesses be accessible to people with disabilities including visual impairment, hearing impairment, and physical impairment.
This act used to focus more on the physical accessibility of brick and mortar businesses. However, it has extended to cover the websites and apps of businesses as well.
With so much business and research being done online now, it’s imperative that websites are accessible to all.
What Is ADA?
According to Digital Authority Partners, the ADA requires that all individuals should have equal access to goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations in all public places. Title III of this act specifically requires that websites meet these requirements.
This means that websites should be formatted so that screen readers can decipher them, they can be navigated without the use of a mouse, and videos and other non-text material are properly captioned and tagged.
There are other requirements under the ADA, but these are the most commonly cited issues in lawsuits.
History Of ADA
The ADA has a long history. Here is just a brief summary of how it came to be what it is today:
ADA was first introduced in 1989 and was ratified and signed into law by former president George H.W. Bush in 1990.
In 1998, former president Bill Clinton signed an amendment that required the electronic information published by the U.S. Government to be accessible to everyone.
In 2010, the ADA was expanded to include required captioning for online videos.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) created a standard for ADA compliance in 2016. Adherence to WCAG then became a legal requirement in 2018.
ADA lawsuits have been dramatically increasing in recent years. No business is immune. Companies large and small of all industries have been hit with expensive fines up to $75,000 for the first offense.
Here are just a few well-known cases:
1. WellPoint, Inc.
WellPoint, Inc. was a reputable health insurance company that was sued for non-compliance. Their website was not formatted for screenreaders and visually impaired people were not able to use the site.
This is especially serious because disabled people did not have access to the health care information that they needed. The lawsuit took place in 2014. Immediately upon being sued, WellPoint, Inc. settled quickly and put a plan into place for becoming compliant.
Amazon was sued in 2018 because the blind and visually impaired could not navigate the website. It didn’t work with screen readers, didn’t have alternative text or tags to describe images or other non-text material, and it was not formatted for easy navigation.
At the time of writing this article, it does not seem that Amazon has made any changes to meet the needs of visually impaired users.
3. Avanti Hotel
Avanti Hotel was a boutique hotel that faced an ADA lawsuit because their website wasn’t compliant. The boutique says it would cost $3,000 to update the site.
They would also be responsible for damages between $8,000 and $13,000. They estimate that they will have to pay $25,000 in total if they lose the lawsuit.
Domino’s was hit with a lawsuit in January of this year. Neither their website nor their mobile app was up to WCAG standards. The restaurant tried to dispute the fact that they should be held to these standards, but the dispute was rejected.
They could face a fine of $75,000 not including legal fees and damages.
Why Everyone Should Care About ADA?
1. Prevent Lawsuits
The above examples show us that lawsuits for non-compliance can happen to anyone and can be expensive. Many businesses are not even aware that their website needs to meet these standards.
It’s best to get ahead of the issue and make sure that you’re compliant before anything happens.
Even though updating your site may be expensive, being ADA compliant will save money on legal fees, damages, and fines. It may seem too expensive now, but it will be significantly cheaper than a lawsuit and the recovery thereafter.
2. Draw A Larger Audience
Did you know that almost 20% of the U.S. population either have visual or hearing impairment? If your website is not formatted to be accessible to everyone, you can say goodbye to that 20%.
Showing customers that you care about their needs is not only the right thing to do, but it is better for your business. Can you really afford to turn away 1 in 5 customers?
3. Better Search Ranking
Having an ADA compliant website will help you rank better in search results. If Google can recognize that your website is formatted for accessibility, it will show that you are a trustworthy business.
Your ADA compliance will make you stand out from competitors and climb in the rankings. Search engine rankings are so important to the marketability of your website and your business.
A large majority of people searching don’t go past the top three links in search results, and they hardly ever go further than the first page.
Prioritizing ADA compliance will benefit you just as much as it benefits your customers.
4. Good Brand Image
When businesses face a lawsuit for non-compliance, there is a lot of negative publicity. It tells your audience that you’re either not informed about the requirements for your site or you’re not willing to spend the time and money to meet those requirements.
Coming back from that negative brand image can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. But, going out of your way to make your website accessible to everyone shows that you care about your customers and are willing to do whatever it takes to meet their needs. It will get you a brand image for your business as well.
Creating an accessible website is important for businesses of all sizes–from restaurants to retail stores, to health insurance companies, and on. If your business is not ADA compliant, you are risking serious financial repercussions.
Not only that, but you’re alienating a significant portion of your audience. Protect yourself from lawsuits, and make sure that your websites and apps are accessible for everyone.