ADA compliance isn’t the most talked-about subject in the small and medium-sized business community, but interest in the topic is gaining attention. The reason? Because failure to comply with ADA requirements could prove costly to a significant number of businesses operating and publishing online.
The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that companies provide equal access to people with disabilities. The law not only applies to physical locations, but accessibility is also a requirement for digital entities. Anyone who manages a website must be aware of the conditions and how it impacts their online presence.
Website Owners are Responsible for ADA Compliance
Ultimately, anyone who owns or operates a website needs to ensure the site complies with ADA regulations. The US Department of Justice is the body responsible for enforcing ADA compliance. The rules for website governance have been on their books for a long time, but it’s only recently that the department has become more active in taking enforcement actions.
ADA Lawsuits Pose a Website Risk
Being sued for ADA noncompliance is a new risk for anyone operating a website. Naturally, few businesses have money earmarked for litigation involving ADA, and this is why this new risk is making waves in the digital world. Failure to follow ADA guidelines could result in complicated lawsuits and significant financial losses.
Businesses can avoid potential legal losses by ensuring their websites are ADA compliant. The ADA gives rights to people with disabilities to file a lawsuit in Federal court. Once they do, the court orders the offending website to stop the violations. If a website owner or business loses such a suit, they have to pay damages and the other party’s legal fees.
Accessibility is a Best Practice
Meeting ADA compliance is a reliable indicator that your company follows industry-wide best practices. Getting ahead of the issue before it turns into a significant problem is a shrewd business move. Implementing ADA compliance improves the user experience across the board.
It shows you care about meeting the needs of all website visitors. It’s a smart digital upgrade that keeps your business in good standing in the digital community. Companies that are already impacted by ADA compliance requirements in their physical locations can easily extend access to their digital assets.
Understanding the Requirements of ADA
ADA compliance introduces some new terms that business owners do well to understand. It’s worth a review of a few of the main concepts for staying compliant, as well as gaining general knowledge of the terms related to the rules. For the most part, there are three areas of significant concern for all businesses with websites.
- All of the content requires particular encoding for audio translation, so it’s readable by screen-reader software.
- All pages must include on-screen captions in videos, so screen-reader software can easily read to any blind or vision impaired viewers, while also providing descriptions to deaf visitors.
- All business websites must include accessible drop-down menus so that visitors may use a keyboard as alternative navigation for a mouse.
Working on improving these issues should be a top priority. Not only will doing so create a better website, but it reduces the chance of a lawsuit from an angry visitor. More importantly, if you meet requirements and your competitors don’t, your site is likely to have preferential treatment in search results.
ADA-Compliance Testing Requires Specialization
Investigating whether your site is ADA compliant requires using specialized testing tools. If technical details aren’t your strong point, hiring a third-party professional who’s well-versed in the subject helps to streamline your compliance initiative.
For businesses running on low-cost or mass-marketed templates and designs, ensuring compliance may be more complicated. Getting aligned for ADA compliance could involve changes to the core site architecture and a majority of the pages, videos, and images. Unless someone has a comprehensive understanding of how to accomplish the fixes, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to address all the individual issues thoroughly and accurately.
Future Proof Your Website
It’s worth considering a future where Google and other major search engines enforce ADA compliance at the search level. To make search better for everyone, sites that don’t accommodate disabled viewers could get left behind as part of a higher quality push that enforces all technical requirements get met. While this isn’t happening right now, imagining a future where sites that don’t meet compliance issues get left behind isn’t out of the question going forward.
That’s why it pays to address future concerns now. It may take extra effort and reasonable investment to meet ADA compliance, but it eliminates a weak link that could put everything you’ve worked for at risk. Business is about mitigating risks, and this particular regulation carries a significant degree.
Consider Your Options
As usual, business owners and website operators have two choices when it comes to complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
You can always do it yourself. If your IT department has the necessary skills and sufficient time to complete the undertaking, you may be able to achieve ADA compliance in-house.
The drawback is it’s time-consuming and takes your staff away from doing more essential activities. Not only that, there’s a chance they don’t fully understand the issue and all the steps needed to handle the task.
Or, the second option is to leave the technical work to third party professionals who specialize in handling website compliance issues. Once they complete the assessment and make needed changes, you can rest easy knowing your site is in solid legal standing.
ADA compliance is a challenge, but it’s the type of issue that’s best solved quickly. The number of lawsuits in the U.S. rose to over 2,200 last year, with many of them happening in New York and Florida. Expect that figure to increase this year substantially. Now’s the time to solve this issue forever.
If you have questions about meeting ADA compliance, contact Interactive Palette. Our knowledgable staff helps businesses of all sizes and industries with website design, SEO, and ADA compliance issues. Industry changes will never catch you off guard when we’re around to help!